Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
A defendant in a criminal case has legal rights from the moment that they are arrested until far after trial. If you are facing criminal charges in Fairfax, an experienced attorney could protect your rights from arrest to appeal. A lawyer could also explain the nuances of the criminal justice process, including booking after an arrest, how Fairfax’s courthouses work, how to behave in court, and what the steps are to file an appeal following a verdict.
In addition, a Fairfax attorney could take special care if you possess a certain security clearance for your employment. Criminal convictions could seriously harm employment in security clearance positions, so it may be essential to have knowledgeable legal representation. If you are facing charges, reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
After a person is arrested in Fairfax, they are transported to a police precinct for the booking process. Booking allows law enforcement to take a mug shot of the arrestee, record the circumstances of the arrest, and possibly question the arrestee about the alleged offense.
The booking process following an arrest differs depending on the type of charge and the situation under which the arrestee was taken into custody. Generally speaking, if they are accused of a violent crime, their booking process will be more restrictive. Otherwise, the booking process itself is fairly straightforward. The arrestee their pictures taken, get their fingerprints stamped, and their personal information reported. Next, they will await the next step in the process, either being released on their own or held for bond or arraignment.
Even if a defendant is in jail, their attorney can represent their interests by visiting them, filing motions on their behalf, signing motions to try to get them out, and gathering mitigating evidence. Incarceration always makes defense more complicated, but an experienced criminal attorney may be comfortable working with defendants behind bars.
For minor offenses, a criminal defendant may be allowed to leave on their own accord following the end of the booking process. In most cases, however, an arrestee will only be released on bond, meaning that they must post bail. Posting bail is intended to ensure that a defendant will return to court and not flee the state or country.
Generally speaking, an individual has a right to obtain a reasonable bond in their case. There are certain exceptions, however. For some charges, there is a presumption against bond due to the severity of the alleged offense. Similarly, individuals who have no ties to the community or are considered dangerous to the community, whether because of mental illness or violence, or the nature of the charge itself, may be denied bond.
For example, in a situation in which there is kind of some kind of aggravated violent offense, like assault, an individual is almost never going to be led out on bond, even with no criminal background. There is too much of a risk to the community based on the nature of the offense being charged, and few judges would take the risk of allowing that person to return to their community.
Bond restrictions may seem unfair for people with no criminal background or those who may be falsely accused, but Fairfax judges constantly weigh the safety of the community against the ability of an individual to be free pending their court date. It is the defense attorney’s job to try to show that there are conditions or a combination of conditions that can overcome the judge’s inclination.
For example, if somebody is not a US citizen, a defense attorney could show their ties to community, that they have been living there for 10 years, are very involved in their church, have a job that they would be returning to, have an address where they live, or they would wear an ankle bracelet. All of these variables may suggest that the defendant is not a flight risk and should be eligible for bail.
Criminal cases are heard at a number of different courthouses in Fairfax County, depending on the location of the arrest, the severity of the charge, and the age of the defendant.
The main courthouse in Fairfax, the largest, is at the corner of Judicial Drive and Chain Bridge Road. That building is where the Circuit Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court sit, as well as General District courts for certain subsections of Fairfax County. In Virginia, there are large counties, and within the counties, there are smaller towns or cities that have their own court systems to help expedite the process of cases and help split up the caseload.
For example, Fairfax City has its own in the city governments building off Chain Bridge Road, and there are the towns of Vienna and Herndon in Fairfax County, each with their own courthouse located in their City Halls. All of those locations have their own courts on certain days of the week where General District Court cases are heard. The judges take turns traveling to the smaller jurisdictions to hear cases.
Before beginning the actual trial process, it is important that criminal defendants understand the court system in Virginia and the important actors involved.
The Virginia court system consists of two distinct levels. The first level includes General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. That is the level at which all misdemeanor offenses are heard and all felony offenses begin. If a person is charged with a misdemeanor offense, their trial, their motion, and their case will be resolved one way or the other at that first level.
If the defendant is facing a felony offense, they will have their probable cause determination in the form of a preliminary hearing at that first level, and then their case will ultimately be certified up to the Circuit Court where information is presented to a grand jury. The Circuit Court is where felony trials and misdemeanor appeals are heard. At the Circuit Court level, defendants have the right to a jury trial, or they can have a bench trial in front of the judge.
Once a defendant’s case is resolved in Circuit Court, they can potentially appeal the verdict. They do not have an absolute right to appeal, however. All appeals must relate to some kind of mistake that the Circuit Court made in its interpretation of the law or in the actual trial process. If a case goes to the Court of Appeals and is denied, the defendant has the right to petition to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which will decide whether the Court of Appeals made a mistake in the law.
Sometimes, if an individual wins an appeal, all they win is their right to a new trial in Circuit Court. Other times, they win the right to have their case completely overturned, in which case the prosecution has to decide whether to start from scratch and prosecute the case again.
Because so many prosecutors, judges, and officers work within the jurisdiction, the Fairfax court system can be somewhat chaotic. It is very difficult to predict what will happen with a case. Every single case requires the people involved to pay attention to the detail and who the players are. A defendant stands to benefit significantly from hiring an experienced Fairfax defense attorney.
Once a case reaches trial, there are certain standards of etiquette and decency that a defendant should be prepared to display. Generally, that means that they should dress nicely, be quiet and not be on their phone. Individuals who shout things, are rude to the judge, or wear inappropriate outfits do not help themselves in court. The judge is in a position to significantly influence their case, and if a person is being disrespectful, they will be less likely to receive a fortunate break.
A defense attorney with experience working in Fairfax could explain proper courtroom behavior to a defendant, and even predict how certain judges will react to certain conduct at trial. Defendants should closely follow any instructions given by their attorney. A lawyer who regularly works in Fairfax courts may have a better understanding of what kind of conduct is appropriate or inappropriate.
There are two types of appeals in Fairfax County that defendants should be aware of. For misdemeanor offenses in Virginia, an individual has the right to a de novo appeal, which is an appeal to Circuit Court of a case resolved in either General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. The defendant can appeal their case for any reason, without needing a legal basis.
Following a de novo appeal, the prosecution must present all the evidence again, and cannot rely on the evidence that was presented in the original trial or on previous testimony.
In addition to a de novo appeal, a defendant could also appeal decisions that the court has made on motions to suppress or decisions the court has made on other evidentiary issues to Circuit Court. Defendants do not usually take that route because they also have a right to a de novo appeal.
A defendant has ten days from the date of the final order of the conviction to appeal from General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court up to Circuit Court. Sometimes, that deadline can be confusing because a case has a plea agreement and the conviction is not officially entered until a month later. Whenever that guilty finding is signed by the judge, that will be the final order marking the beginning of a possible appeal window.
An attorney or the client can file an appeal by walking to the clerk’s office, asking for the appeal paperwork, and signing it.
It may be tempting to appeal any verdict that is disadvantageous to the defendants but filing for appeal is not always the best tactic, depending on a defendant’s circumstances. Defendants should consider several key factors before deciding to file for appeal. The cost of an appeal will certainly prevent some people from appealing their case, for example. To appeal, a defendant must pay additional court costs if they lose the case before a jury in Circuit Court, and the expense is significant.
Some defendants might want to note their appeal to reserve their right to do so, and later change their mind. They must do so within 10 days of filing the appeal, before the case is entered by the Circuit Court judge.
If somebody is filing outside of the appeal deadline, their appeal will almost certainly be denied. Other than that, they have the absolute right to appeal from in the General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court up to Circuit Court
Due to its proximity to many of the federal government’s most important security installations, including the Pentagon, the White House, and the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Fairfax is home to many employees who rely on a security clearance for their employment. With that in mind, a Fairfax lawyer could take particular care to keep a defendant’s long-term interests in mind while defending a particular case.
A criminal charge and conviction will almost always lead to a review of a person’s security-clearance determination, should they have one. Depending on the type of security clearance, an individual may be required to contact certain superiors and let them know what they have been charged with. That notification must be made within 24 hours for some clearances, 48 hours for others, and go through the internal process for review.
After being charged defendants should check their reporting requirements and consider hiring a defense attorney that specializes in clearances and litigating clearance issues to help them preserve their employment. Their defense attorney may then advise them to get a letter from their human resources department stating what will happen or what could happen in the event of a conviction. They may also inquire about certain hypotheticals should they be convicted, should the case not be stopped or should they enter into certain deals.
A security clearance also affects the way that defense attorney approaches the case as far as negotiating outcomes. It is important for prosecutors to know that if a security clearance is in place. While a regular person with a job might not be affected a certain penalty, somebody with a security clearance may lose the security of their employment should they be convicted.
Defendants with security clearances are not necessarily held to a higher or lower standard. Rather, the nature of security clearances is such that people are in a position of trust or a position to have access to sensitive information. If they are charged with a crime that involves serious substance issues, that may suggest to an employer that they are a security risk.
Charges that could be particularly worrisome to someone with a security clearance vary depending on the type of security clearance. Across the board, all felonies will negatively affect a security clearance, as well as anything involving substance abuse, possession, distribution of drugs or alcohol. Similarly, DUIs are a problem because of the relation to substance abuse. In addition, crimes involving moral turpitude, such as lying, cheating, stealing, are inherently problems for people with positions of trust or security clearances.
Certain types of convictions, even for relatively mundane offenses like reckless driving, could prevent a member of the military from being promoted. A criminal defense attorney could work to maintain an active-duty member of the armed forces’ rank and privileges during a criminal investigation.
There a certain police officers in Fairfax County with military experience who are willing to advocate on behalf of a military defendant during trial. A defense attorney could also produce letters from a client’s employer stating exactly what will happen in the case of a conviction and explain those consequences to the prosecutor.
From the initial arrest, to the booking process, to the courtroom trial, and all the way through a potential appeals process, an experienced criminal defense attorney could protect a defendant’s rights every step of the way. If you are facing charges, you may be overwhelmed by the process ahead of you and unsure of what steps to take. Let a knowledgeable lawyer advocate for you.
Call a Fairfax criminal defense attorney today for a confidential consultation. An attorney could negotiate with prosecutors, interview witnesses, and build the best possible defense for the circumstances of your case.