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Virginia Criminal Indictments

The following is information on indictments in Virginia criminal cases including what you can expect from the indictment process and how the circumstance of your case impacts when you are indicted. To learn more or discuss the specifics of your case, call and schedule a consultation with a Virginia criminal lawyer today.

Indictments Process in Virginia

There are a variety of different circumstances that would be in play into the indictment procedure regarding a criminal case in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Indictments in Virginia occur at the circuit court level, but many cases—even serious felony cases—begin at the general district court level.

Many incidents that occur in the presence of an officer lead to a warrant of arrest and a preliminary hearing in the general district court. A general district court cannot find someone guilty of a felony offense; it can only certify that a felony offense has occurred and that the person charged is the correct person, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. If the general district court finds probable cause to certify the case, then it is sent to the circuit court for further adjudication.

Another way a case can be dealt with in Virginia is through direct indictment, which is presented before a grand jury. During the indictment procedure, the Commonwealth presents an indictment to five grand jurors, and they hear from a limited number of witnesses.

After hearing evidence in a closed session, the grand jury returns an indictment as a true bill or not a true bill. By practice in Virginia, a very high number of indictments are returned as true bills. If your indictment is returned as a true bill, you will then be notified by law enforcement and served with the indictment in open court, or arrested if you fail to appear in court. This warrant for your arrest after criminal indictment is known as a capias.  These are the two ways that an indictment can begin in a Virginia criminal proceeding.

Types of Indictments

Depending on the circumstances of your case, if you are subject to direct indictment, you may not receive notice of the indictment ahead of time. In Virginia, direct indictments can occur without a prior arrest, and sometimes without even the person being notified that they are under investigation. Although this is rare, it still does happen and you may find an officer at your home or place of business with a bench warrant for your arrest based upon an indictment.

When this happens, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. The attorney can explain the legal processes and tell you what you need to know going forward. However, if you are subject to an indictment that you are aware of, you may arrange with local authorities, depending on local practices, to turn yourself in at that time. It is generally in your best interest to surrender yourself as soon as possible after an indictment so that there is the least amount of inconvenience.

You can also use cooperation with the indictment process in the service of the indictment to your advantage when the magistrate is considering what sort of bond is appropriate in your case.

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