What Can I Expect From Criminal Charges in Arlington?

Facing felony charges can be confusing, particularly if it is your first major encounter with the criminal justice system. Below, we outline the basic steps or timeline that a felony case will follow in Arlington, Virginia. This is just general information, and you have specific questions about a case involving yourself or a loved one, contact an Arlington criminal defense attorney.

Arraignments

After charges are filed you will be arraigned on those charges, which means that you will go in front of a judge and they will select a trial or preliminary hearing date and determine whether you will hire your own attorney or whether you will ask for a court-appointed attorney.  That is not the time to litigate your case so you shouldn’t speak to the judge about your case other than to answer the direct questions he or she asks. If you already have an attorney by that time and you let the judge know that.

If you are in custody after you are arraigned, you’ll have a bond motion. A bond motion will be filed by your attorney in an attempt to lower your bond so that you can get out of jail and face your charges from outside of jail and not just sit in jail until your court date.

If the charges are extremely serious or your criminal record is so bad and reflects that you might not return to court for your court date, the judge may hold you without bond until the trial date. If that happens, your bond motion will be denied but you do have a right to appeal that decision to Circuit Court.

Filing a Motion For Discovery

In the meantime, in between your preliminary hearing date or your trial date that’s usually about six to eight weeks after you’re arrested, your attorney can a file motion for discovery–meaning a motion to force the Commonwealth to turn over information about your case. Your attorney will review the file, they may speak with witnesses, they will attempt to get a sense of the case and evidence the Commonwealth will use against you.

Your attorney will also review the file to discover any Constitutional problems with the police conduct and file any motions to suppress evidence or to dismiss the case based upon those motions.

After that,  if it is a misdemeanor in general district court, the next court date will be for trial or plea. In Arlington, most cases go to trial in the first trial date. That will be a bench trial-meaning a judge and not a jury will hear your case. If you lose the trial you have an automatic right to appeal that and have a jury hear your case in the Circuit Court if you so desire. If you are charged with a felony in Arlington, your first actual hearing will be a preliminary hearing where the judge will hear evidence and make a determination of whether there’s probable cause to believe you committed the offense(s) with which you have been charged.

Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing is also not the time to argue your case per se, but more a time to hear from the Commonwealth’s witnesses, understand what the case is going to be against you, to lock down the witnesses’ testimony and  to make sure the Commonwealth has at least the bare minimum amount of evidence to show probable cause that you committed the offense.

Indictment

If you’re charged with a felony and you have a preliminary hearing, the next step is that your case will go to the grand jury, the grand jury will either indict you or choose not to. I would say most likely you will be indicted, most cases are. And after that, it will go up to circuit court where it will be placed on the docket to select a trial date or disposition date. A disposition date will be set if you have a plea agreement already worked with the prosecutor.

Trial Date

A trial date is obviously for trial. Typically trials happen about six weeks after the case starts in Circuit Court. So that means that it will usually take about 3-6 months from the time of the arrest until the time of your trial in Circuit Court.

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