What to do with a Criminal Charge in Virgina?

“I was charged with a criminal offense in Virginia Beach,  I bonded out of jail, but I’m new to this whole thing. What should I do?”

virginia-criminal-attorneyBeing charged with a crime (or issued a summons) in Virginia Beach, Newport News, or anywhere in Hampton Roads can be confusing, devastating, infuriating, and stressful. If you’ve been accused of a crime, you might experience a huge range of complicated emotions and worries, and all of them are normal.  The criminal system can be complex and overwhelming, but a local attorney can walk you through it every step of the way.  One of the benefits of a good local attorney is having someone on your side who can let you know what will happen next, and how best to extricate yourself from the criminal system.

Criminal Charges Take Time to Deal With

Many people, especially if they feel they have been falsely arrested or falsely accused, think that since it’s all a big mistake they should be able to make their criminal offense go away pretty quickly. But that’s almost never the case. A great criminal defense attorney can walk you through dealing with the criminal charge, no matter whether you are guilty or innocent, but either way the same steps must be followed. It takes months to fully dispose of minor criminal charges, and can take years to fully dispose of more serious criminal charges, even when you are definitely innocent.  A good Virginia Lawyer can take steps to move the process forward as quickly as possible, but you should settle in for the long haul — do not expect that your criminal charge can go away 7 days after your were arrested.  That is almost never possible.

Step 1:  Criminal Arraignment

In Virginia, after you are arrested or summoned for most criminal misdemeanors and felonies, the first time you see a judge will be your arraignment. At this hearing, the judge will simply inform you what crimes you are charged with. There is no point in declaring your innocence or guilt at this point, the judge will not do anything about that.  Rather, he will simply tell you what  you are accused of, and ask what you want to do about a lawyer.  If you meet income qualifications and have a criminal charge that carries a possibility of jail time, the judge will be willing to appoint a public defender to represent you.  You can also inform the judge that you wish to hire your own Virginia Attorney to represent you.  And finally, while the judge will inform you that you have the right to represent yourself, you should never choose this option.

Step 2:  Bond Hearing

If you are in custody (jail) at the time of your arraignment, some judges will allow you to waive counsel and have a bond hearing right away to see if you can be released from jail pending your trial. However, unless you already have a lawyer present, you should not have a bond hearing at your arraignment. You can simply tell the judge you wish to hire an Attorney to do a bond hearing for you.  After that, you can have a friend or loved one contact us to arrange a bond hearing, and try to get you released from jail before your trial.

So it’s best to have your arraignment first, then contact your attorney to discuss the case, and then have that attorney schedule your bond hearing for you.  In most cases, you get one bond hearing and if the judge does not release you, you can appeal that decision one time. That second decision is final.  This is why you don’t want to “waste” a bond hearing at arraignment without an Attorney.  You only get two chances to be released on bond before your trial.

Step 3: Preparation and Negotiations

During this time, your Attorney will be working behind-the-scenes on your behalf to help deal with your criminal charges, and to prepare for trial. We simultaneously talk with the prosecutor about the case to see if it can be resolved without trial, while also preparing the case for trial. If you are charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense, this period of negotiation and preparation by your Virginia Defense Attorney might last 20 – 90 days.  If it is a serious felony criminal offense, this time period may be closer to a year. And on the most serious of the felony crimes, it can be 2 years or more before trial. During this time, other hearings may be scheduled for the judge to decide pretrial issues of evidence and procedure.

Step 4: Criminal Trial

Your Attorney will help you decide whether this will be a trial with only a judge or a trial with a jury. Many factors go into this critically important decision, which your lawyer will discuss with you so that you can make a well-informed decision considering your case and considering which court will be hearing the case.

There is no shortcut to dealing with criminal charges, but a skilled and caring Virginia Attorney can walk you through it and guide you toward the best possible outcome.  Give us a call for your free consultation.  We look forward to hearing from you.