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What to Expect If Charged With a Criminal Offense in Virginia

Being charged for a crime can be a confusing and intimidating process, especially if you don’t know what to expect. For this reason, the following is some basic information on the types of criminal charges and what you can expect at two preliminary stages during your case. To learn more specifics or discuss what you can do to help your situation, call and schedule a consultation with a Virginia criminal defense lawyer today.

Types of Offenses in Virginia

Felonies and misdemeanors are two different categories of criminal offenses in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Misdemeanors are the lower offenses. A misdemeanor crime is punishable by a maximum of 12 months in jail, up to a $2500 fine or a combination thereof. In Virginia, misdemeanors are never punishable by prison time.

To face prison time in the Virginia Department of Corrections, you must be charged with a felony offense. Just like misdemeanors, felonies fall into different categories, and the most serious felony offenses in Virginia are capital offenses punishable by death. Most felony offenses, however, are punishable by certain periods of incarceration within the Department of Corrections. In addition, there may be a possibility of a jail sentence to be served locally and/or a fine.

In the Commonwealth, common felony offenses are burglary, robbery, malicious wounding, manslaughter and murder, all punishable by very serious consequences—sometimes even a death sentence.

Misdemeanor Charges

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will either be given a Virginia Uniform Summons with the date on which you must appear in court or you will be placed under arrest and the magistrate will give you warrant of arrest. That warrant of arrest will include a date on which you must appear in court regarding the charges. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may be a trial date or may be an arraignment or advisement date. The arraignment or advisement date means that it is not a trial date, but it is the date on which you will learn more about the charges and your rights to counsel.

Felony Charges

Felony is a more serious offense than a misdemeanor offense. There are two different ways from which a felony offense may start in Virginia. You may be issued a warrant of arrest very similar to a misdemeanor offense. The difference will be the warrant of arrest will have an arraignment date and a preliminary hearing date. At that preliminary hearing you cannot be found guilty of a felony offense, because the district courts in Virginia do not have that power. However, they may certify that offense to the circuit court. Circuit courts in Virginia do have the  power to find guilt or innocence in a felony charge, and you have right to jury trial. In addition, your case may originate in the circuit court and skip district court procedures entirely. Felony cases that begin in district court do so on what are called direct indictments.

Direct indictment means that without being previously arrested, the case is submitted to a grand jury of your peers and that grand jury returns a true bill. A true bill indicates that there was probable cause for the offense as alleged, and that you were the person that committed it. After the indictment is returned, a bench warrant will be placed for your arrest or you will be served with a direct indictment in person if you were given notice of that indictment.

What To Expect After Charges Are Filed

This depends solely on the type of offense for which you have been charged and the jurisdiction in which you have been charged. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor offense, for example, you may simply be given a date to appear in court. If you are charged with a felony offense, there may be more specific procedural things that will happen and they will have an impact based upon certain things.

What To Expect in Court

This depends solely on what you have been charged with and in what jurisdiction. You should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are charged with a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense as well as what you are charged with and in what jurisdiction. This will allow them to give you accurate information on what to expect on your first court date.

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