If you are charged with a crime in Virginia, the first thing that you should do is figure out what you are charged with. You can do this by looking at your warrant or at the copy of the summons that has been given to you. That way you will have a better understanding of what level of charges you are facing.
The next step that you should take if you are charged with an offense in Virginia is to reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At the very least you can have a free consultation with an attorney to determine whether you need an attorney.
This is crucially important because not being a lawyer you may not have an understanding of how serious the charges against you are. You should also not say anything to the police at that point because anything that you say can be used against you. You should begin to prepare your defense by getting any evidence you have to ensure that you didn’t commit the offense.
The first thing that an individual can do is speak to an attorney. Attorneys can advise them on certain steps that they can take depending on the charges they have. Every case is different, so every case is going to have its own set of steps that can help the case. Speaking to an attorney is a good way to get that understanding.
In general, an individual can collect any evidence they may have that shows that they are not guilty of the offense. There are certain things that they can do to mitigate their standing or put themselves in a better position by possibly doing some things before court. An attorney will have the best understanding of what will work in what courtroom and for what charges.
In some cases a defense attorney investigations is necessary to obtain the evidence that will help their client be in the best possible position. It differs on a case by case basis, but a defense attorney will want to have all the possible evidence that helps the client. This is done either through their own work or if their firm has a private investigator, that person can help get to the bottom of the issues, speak to the witnesses, gather video tape evidences, gather other evidence that shows that their client didn’t commit the crime, or at least that the police cannot prove that they committed the offense.
Every state is different and Virginia has its own unique laws that are specific to Virginia. Every state has different ethics, different evidentiary rules, slightly different punishments for crimes and slightly different laws. Defending a case in Virginia is different than defending one in Maryland or Washington, DC.
Virginia also has a two tier court system– General District Court and a Circuit Court.
Additionally, Virginia is unique in that it has a bifurcated jury trial system. This means that the sentencing in the jury trial is put in the guilt phase. That means the jury will first determine whether the person is guilty or innocent. They will then go to the sentencing phase to sentence the defendant based upon the unanimous verdict. This process is unique to Virginia.
An experienced lawyer can help their client’s case because they know the process, where to go, who the judges are, who the prosecutors are, what arguments have worked in the past, what the possible sentences are and what defenses can be beneficial. They can make an informed decision on whether to go to a trial or whether to take a plea. If it should go to trial, they also know what arguments and defenses may work. Experience is completely invaluable and helpful to be in the best possible position.
An attorney can help someone who is being investigated, but has not been charged, by making sure that they do not say certain things that can put them in a worse position when they get to trial or for the hearings. If they work with an attorney, the attorney might be able to prevent them from being charged in the first place.
An attorney knows what the police are trying to do, they know the ways and methods that they investigate crimes, and they can help make sure that the individual does not do anything that can put them in a worse position.
A law firm has the benefit of having different attorneys that can work on the case that can pool resources. Having more resources can definitely help a case because there are different people contributing. Instead of having just one person who has experience, there are numerous people in the office that might have been in the same position.
Additionally, law firms have better resources. They also have the benefit of allowing their attorneys to be attorneys more than running a business. A solo practitioner often has to worry about things, like paying the bills, that a law firm doesn’t have to worry about which means they can focus on the case more and give more direct service.