Q. I think I might be charged with a crime soon. What should I do?
A. Stay quiet! Make no statement to anybody, especially to any law enforcement officers. Contact an attorney immediately for advice.
Q. I was served with a summons charging a crime. What is this and what should I do?
A. A summons is usually issued directly by a law enforcement officer who has accused you of committing a misdemeanor crime or an infraction like speeding. You are not arrested with a summons, but you are ordered to appear in court on the date written on the summons. A summons is not used for felonies. If you are issued a summons, you should appear in court on the date listed and you should seek legal advice from an experienced attorney.
Q. I was arrested and served with a warrant. What is this and what should I do?
A. A warrant is issued by a judge or a magistrate, usually at the request of a law enforcement officer, and it is a document that accuses you of a crime and directs a law enforcement officer to arrest you. When you are arrested, the officer should advise you of your right to counsel and your right to remain silent. EXERCISE BOTH OF THESE RIGHTS. DO NOT MAKE ANY STATEMENTS, AND DEMAND TO SEE A LAWYER. Communicating with law enforcement after arrest is always a bad idea - when the officer tells you that anything you say will be used against you, that is exactly what he or she means. STAY QUIET AND TALK TO AN ATTORNEY. Once you are arrested, the officer should take you to a magistrate, where you will be booked, fingerprinted and released on bond (in most cases). DO NOT TALK TO THE MAGISTRATE, TO THE POLICE OR TO ANYONE BUT A LAWYER.
Q. I have been arrested and served with a capias. What is this and what should I do?
A. A capias is like a warrant, except that a judge issues it on his or her own. Capiases are usually issued for accusations of contempt of court (like failure to appear) or accusations of probation violations. If you have been arrested on a capias, the samerules apply as to warrants - STAY QUIET AND DEMAND AN ATTORNEY.
Q. I have been arrested and served with an Indictment. What is this and what should I do?
A. An indictment is accusation that you committed one or more crimes and it is issued by a grand jury instead of a judge or magistrate. The same rules apply if you are arrested on an indictment - STAY QUIET AND DEMAND AN ATTORNEY.
Q. What is the difference between an infraction, a misdemeanor and a felony?
A. An infraction is not really a criminal charge - though it is an accusation that you violated a law. Infractions usually involve allegations of violating traffic laws like speeding or running a stop sign. You can't go to jail or prison if you are convicted of an infraction, but you can be fined and earn DMV demerit points that can result in license suspension and insurance rate increases or cancellation.
A misdemeanor is crime that can result in 12 months of jail or less and/or a fine of $2500 or less. Misdemeanors come in classes - Class 1 and Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by jail, while Class 3 and Class 4 misdemeanors are punishable by fines. Misdemeanor convictions are recorded on your criminal record.
A felony is crime that can result in a punishment of death or one year or more of incarceration in the Department of Corrections. Most felonies come in classes, from Class 1 to Class 6, with Class 1 being the most serious felony and punishable by death and Class 6 being the least serious felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $2500.
Q. How does my case get handled by the courts?
A. Your case will be handled according to the Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure. Most of these rules can be found in the Code of Virginia, but the courts also have their own rules.
If you charged by summons or warrant with a crime that could result in a jail sentence, you will usually first appear in General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to be advised of your right to an attorney and informed of the charge. If you can't afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you if you request one. After this advisement, if your case is a misdemeanor, it will be set for trial in one of the district courts. If it is felony, it will be set for a preliminary hearing .
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor in the district courts, you have the right to appeal your case to the Circuit Court.
If you are charged by indictment with a crime, you will appear in Circuit Court to be advised of your right to an attorney. Your case will heard in the Circuit Court.
Q. Can your firm handle my criminal case?
A. Absolutely! We have handled many hundreds of criminal and traffic cases, from simple speeding tickets to first-class murder cases. We have experience in defending clients accused of drug crimes, sex crimes, theft crimes, property crimes, gun crimes, assault and battery, malicious wounding, traffic crimes and more. If you need aggressive representation, call us now!