If you were charged with a criminal offense, it is important to be aware of your rights and options. While the ensuing legal process is often complex, a knowledgeable lawyer familiar with the state-specific laws could help to explain each step.
For example, Loudoun County treats a first court date in the general district court as arraignments or advisements, instead of as a trial date. Furthermore, they have their own specific set of procedures for conducting elements such as discovery with a commonwealth attorney’s office, or filing motions. Understanding these nuances and how they differ from other counties is essential to the proceeding case.
Furthermore, understanding the benefits of a Loudoun County criminal attorney is also essential. By working with a seasoned legal professional, you could have an ally who could work tirelessly to protect your rights and get you the best possible outcome, given the circumstances.
When a person is approached by an officer, their legal rights depend on a number of circumstances. Primarily, it matters where a person is—such as on the street, in their home, or in their vehicle.
If an officer knocks a person’s door to ask questions, that person has the legal right not to talk to them in Loudoun County. In fact, an individual does not even have to open their door, as they are not obligated to cooperate with any aspect of a police investigation.
If they do choose to talk to the police, they are obligated to not give knowingly false information or otherwise actively obstruct an investigation. Some of the best advice an attorney could give anyone under investigation is to simply be courteous towards law enforcement officers, but refuse to answer questions that might be detrimental in the long run.
However, officers are skilled at getting individuals to cooperate, often against their own interests. Therefore, if a police officer comes to a person’s house, they should contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to discuss their rights and how to best exercise them.
Similar to questioning, individuals should feel free to decline an officer’s request to enter their home or search for anything without the presence of a warrant. Entrance into someone’s home is a protected status, and, therefore, officers need either a search warrant or exigent circumstances to enter their home.
So, if an officer comes to a person’s door and asks if they can step inside, the person should feel free to politely decline. They can even step outside, close the door behind them, and have the conversation with the officer outside of the home.
If the officer has a search warrant, then the person is legally obligated to comply with it. If there are certain circumstances—such as someone being in danger or a crime being in progress—officers may enter the home with force. Under these circumstances, the person should comply with the officer’s commands, then contact a defense attorney immediately thereafter.
If officers ask for permission to search a person’s vehicle, the person may decline consent. There are different ways in which an officer may still be permitted to search their vehicle, however. For example, if an officer has probable cause or if they believe the incident will lead to an arrest, they may search the vehicle. Even when this is the case, however, officers often ask permission to search a vehicle. This is because getting direct consent to a search will often trump a claim of probable cause.
If this happens, a person should feel free to decline consent if they are not comfortable. However, if an officer has probable cause and a person declines to give consent, this might be an aggravating factor during prosecution of the case if something is found in the vehicle. A dedicated attorney might argue, on the other hand, that a person is simply exercising their constitutional rights by declining a search and should not, therefore, have charges elevated as a result.
If someone is walking down a street in Loudoun County, they have fewer rights than they do in their home or in their car. If an officer engages them and asks them for identification, they are legally obligated to provide this information. This is part of the case Terry versus Ohio, otherwise known as a Terry stop.
Essentially, the officer in this scenario can pat the outside of the person’s clothing for inspection. However, the person is not required to answer any further questions—such as where they are going, where they are coming from, or any other questions about their business except for their identification.
The easiest way to avoid further interaction with an officer is simply to inform them that they have somewhere to be and need to leave. If an officer then detains them after they have asked to be free to leave, certain rights would kick in. This is the easiest way to figure out whether or not the person is actually being detained and is the subject of the investigation, or if an officer is just curious about the person.
There are numerous ways that authorities in Loudoun County continue to investigate a case after an arrest is made. First of all, an arrest is often just the starting point. For example, when a crime is in commission and is stopped—such as a robbery, breaking and entering, assault, or other serious offense—the officer knows something about the case, but does not necessarily know the full scope of it. Because of this, they want to continue an investigation.
When a case is incomplete, officers may have all sorts of information to sort through. During this time, the Commonwealth has an obligation to turn over any exculpatory evidence—meaning any evidence that might disprove guilt and prove innocence. Because of this, it is important for any under investigation to have a well-versed attorney on their side working to ensure their rights are protected.
The first thing a person should do when they are charged with a crime in Loudoun County is to find a well-practiced criminal defense attorney. In deciding which lawyer is right for them, they should consider geographic location, familiarity with the area of law, and familiarity with the type of charge with which they have been accused of.
The attorney’s rates and how they collect their fees is an important consideration, as well as their personality. This is because a person will be spending a lot of time with their attorney—sharing information and, on the other side, taking important advice—which means it is important that their personality is a fit.
Criminal lawyers, like law enforcement officers, want to find out facts for themselves. A lawyer familiar with criminal defense will have certain resources available to them, including:
Through these means, a proactive attorney can conduct further research, including the use of on-staff or paid private investigators, the power of subpoena to get documents or witnesses, relevant video footage, social media posts, and additional strategies unique to each case.
Furthermore, if someone is being investigated but has not been charged yet, a lawyer could help them understand how an investigation works, how long it might take, and what it might entail. They could then help the person know what to do and what not to do during an investigation, as well as to begin crafting their defense before charges are even brought.
If someone is found guilty of an offense in Loudoun County General District Court or the Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, they have the absolute right to appeal that decision de novo to the Loudoun County Circuit Court. Essentially, a de novo appeal means the case starts over. The only exception to the right of an appeal is if a person has waived it through a plea agreement in the district court.
In Virginia, an appeal can be filed within 10 days of the district court’s ruling. If someone fails to exercise their right within this time, it may be dismissed. If an appeal is timely made, on the other hand, it cannot be waived before being heard. Even when an appeal is valid, however, it may still be denied if it fails to meet the requisite burden. In appellate courts, there must be a showing of error, such as a trial court mistake in making an evidentiary ruling. If it is determined that there was, in fact, no error made, then the appeal would be denied and the judgment of the lower court would stand.
During this process, an attorney could help in numerous ways. For example, a persistent lawyer could note the appeal through each step of the required legal process, working tirelessly to protect it during filing. However, it is important to understand certain elements of an appeal—such as the fact that if an appeal is denied, there might be increased costs for being found guilty again. Furthermore, the circuit court has the ability to issue a new sentence if the person is found guilty. This means that if the person refused a guilty finding with a relatively favorable punishment in a lower court, the appellate court may give them a harsher punishment.
If you were charged with a serious criminal offense, it is vital to understand the benefits of a Loudoun County criminal attorney. Having a legal professional who is familiar with the local practices may prove to be invaluable, including familiarity with judges, prosecutors, and even the law enforcement officers themselves.
Furthermore, a steadfast lawyer could help a person to understand their options, what might happen under certain scenarios, and which course of action is best for them under the circumstances. To discuss your legal rights and options, call today.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law