A Criminal Defense Attorney Fairfax, Va on Virginia Law
Being charged with a crime is stressful and confusing and a criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va can help. Those normally in a position of trust — the police and prosecutors — are suddenly “on the other side.” Worse, Virginia’s procedures seem tilted against the defendant. Sure, there are platitudes such as “presumption of innocence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, in Virginia, there is also jury recommended sentencing without context and limited discovery. Whatever the cause, it is a fact that some people are wrongfully convicted of crimes. A top criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va is needed to work to avoid this.
Note: Our lawyers practice in Fairfax, and all other counties of Virginia. We have offices in Fairfax, Arlington, and Staunton. We reference Fairfax, Va. in this article because it is the largest jurisdiction in Virginia with the most rigid procedures. Work done to Fairfax standards meets or exceeds the standards in every other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth, so it is common to use it as a benchmark.
What are the general principles of Virginia criminal law?
In Virginia, a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. All crimes can be decided by a jury and the jury must be unanimous to convict the person. The accused has the right to remain silent and require the prosecutor to prove his guilt, if possible. Thus, one can sit through a full jury trial doing and saying nothing and, at the end, ask the judge, “can I go home now?” If the prosecutor failed to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, the answer will be “yes!” (Naturally, success at trial is usually not that easy — hence the need for a top criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va, such as one from Virginia Crime and Traffic Law Firm).
What makes Virginia criminal law unique?
There are many things that make Virginia unique. The two most controversial ones are limited discovery and jury sentencing. Unlike in many states, the prosecutor is not required to turn over very much information about your case to you. Remarkably, your lawyer does not even get to see the police report! Some prosecutors, recognizing how unfair this is and truly wishing to avoid erroneous convictions on their watch, adopt an “open file” discovery policy. This permits the defense attorney to see the police report and other important information. However, most prosecutors only turn over the mandatory minimum.
Jury sentencing is the relatively unique Virginia procedure whereupon our juries have two functions. First, they determine whether a defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty.” This is what juries do in all states. However, second, if they find the defendant “guilty,” they deliberate a second time and recommend the sentence — how much prison or jail time. Despite the existence of Sentencing Guidelines that would give context to sentencing, jurors do not get to see them and, thus, make sentencing recommendations in the absence of this important context.
Can I get in trouble if I didn’t do anything wrong but was just “there?”
A person need not commit a crime to be criminally liable. One could be an “accomplice” who helped another commit the crime — such as a “lookout.” Or, one could help another who committed the crime as an accessory before or after the fact — such as one who hides the person. A criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va, in such cases, will try to dissuade prosecution or argue for a better disposition due to the minor role in the alleged offense serving as a mitigating factor.
What are common criminal law defenses?
A criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va will often work from the back of a case forward. He or she will review the alleged crime – often using pattern jury instructions – and list the “elements.” Elements are the several things that the government must prove to win a conviction. Can each element be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?
Seeing that Constitutional rights have been protected are also common defenses. For example, if the police violate the Constitution by illegally searching one’s home, the penalty is that they can’t use any evidence obtained during that search. Defenses are different based on each case. For example, an alibi defense necessarily requires some proof that the accused was not at the crime scene.
What is the procedure for the prosecution of a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanor prosecutions commence on a Summons or Warrant of Arrest. The accused is given a court date for an “arraignment” wherein he is formally read the charges and told to get a criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va. The accused is given a second date for the trial. Motions may be heard on the day of trial or sometime in advance, depending on the court and issue. Misdemeanor trials are before a single judge in the General District Court. If convicted in that court, the accused can appeal to the Circuit Court for a new trial before a jury. In some instances, a misdemeanor trial begins in the Circuit Court.
What is the procedure for the prosecution of a felony?
Felony prosecutions commence on a Warrant of Arrest or an Indictment. In most cases, the accused is called before the General District Court for a Preliminary Hearing. This is a truncated trial on the issue of whether the government can prove that there is “sufficient cause” to prosecute him. If the case proceeds, it goes to the Circuit Court for an arraignment, motions, and trial.
Why should I choose a criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va from Virginia Crime and Traffic Law Firm to defend me?
We have been defending criminal law cases in Virginia for over 21 years. We feature former prosecutors, we regularly teach criminal law to Virginia judges and to other lawyers. We have received almost every award the media and other lawyer rating organizations bestow. Each criminal defense attorney Fairfax, Va at our firm is proud of our work and think that the accolades we have received in the media and from our clients really set us apart.