A Criminal Defense Lawyer Fairfax, VA Explains Virginia Criminal Law
A criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA knows that being charged with a crime is stressful and confusing. 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 (Virginia is the only state where the jury decides both guilt and the amount of punishment) and limited discovery (In Virginia the information that a Prosecutor or Police have to hand over to the Defendant is very limited). Whatever the cause, it is a fact that some people are wrongfully convicted of crimes. A criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA works hard 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.
There are many things that make Virginia unique and a good criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA knows these peculiarities quite well. The two most controversial ones are limited discovery and jury sentencing. Unlike in many states, in Virginia the prosecutor is not required to turn over very much information about your case to you. Remarkably, your criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, Va 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 criminal defense attorney to see the police report and other important information. However, most prosecutors only turn over the mandatory minimum and prefer that the criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA know as little as possible.
As to jury sentencing in Virginia our juries have two functions and a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA understands both. First, a Virginia jury determines whether a defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty.” This is what juries do in all states. However, if a Virginia jury finds the defendant “guilty,” their second function is to deliberate a second time and recommend the sentence for that defendant — how much prison or jail time. Despite the existence of Sentencing Guidelines that would give context to sentencing, Virginia jurors do not get to see them and, thus, make sentencing recommendations in the absence of this important context. A skilled criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA is familiar with these dynamics and well prepared to argue a case in front of a jury.
When it comes to defending a client against charges, a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA usually works backwards. He or she will review the alleged crime 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 that a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA might employ. 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 the case. For example, an alibi defense necessarily requires some proof that the accused was not at the crime scene. A skilled criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA knows what defenses best fit what fact patterns and uses that knowledge to best protect the defendant.
In Virginia, prosecutions for misdemeanors and felonies proceed somewhat differently and a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA is comfortable with both processes. Virginia 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 lawyer. 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 so that his or her criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, Va can argue a new trial before a jury.
Felony prosecutions in Virginia commence on a Warrant of Arrest or an Indictment and a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA can help right away. 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. At this stage the Prosecutor only must show that there is at least some evidence that the Defendant committed the crime. He does not have to prove the case. This was put in place by our Founding Fathers to make sure that truly innocent people are not subjected to the expense and stress of a criminal prosecution. If the case proceeds, it goes to the Circuit Court for an arraignment, motions, and trial. During this process, a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA represents his or her client at all phases of the matter. Learn about Should I testify in my own defense?
Having a good criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA is vitally important to protect your liberty. If you are charged with a crime, a good criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA can give you a better chance of a favorable result through plea negotiations or at a trial. Learn about What do You Need to Know About a DWI Arrest.
What Should I Do if My Teen Is Arrested?
Teenagers are known to make mistakes. It’s how they learn and grow. However, some of these mistakes can result in criminal charges. Depending on the severity of the charges, your teen could end up with a serious criminal record and end up incarcerated. If your teen has been charged with a crime, it’s important to speak with a Fairfax, VA criminal defense lawyer from Dave Albo – Attorney immediately.
Steps to Take
If your teen has been arrested, the first thing everyone should do is to try to remain calm. Although it may seem like the end of the world, the truth is that right now, your child has only been arrested, not convicted. Let your child know right away that they have rights just like an adult, including the right to refuse to answer any questions by police without a criminal defense lawyer present. However, you also want to remind your teen to remain respectful in all their dealings with law enforcement.
Not only does your child have the right to call you after their arrest and the right to remain silent and not incriminate himself or herself, but it is also important to know that you have parental rights in these situations, too.
You have the right to be notified by law enforcement if your teen has been arrested and charged with a crime. Your teen has the right to have you present during any interrogation by police. A point here to remember, however, is that you do not have an automatic right to be present during any questioning by police. Your child has to specifically request you be there.
Since your teen is a minor, they cannot post their own bail. They also cannot enter into a contract with a Virginia criminal defense lawyer. These are actions you must do form them.
When retaining a criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax, VA, you want to make sure you hire a criminal defense attorney who is well versed and experienced in juvenile law. The juvenile criminal justice system is different from the adult criminal justice system. Whereas the adult system focuses on punishing the offender, the juvenile system is focused on rehabilitation.
There are also different results in the juvenile system than in the adult. For example, in the adult criminal justice system, when a person is found guilty or pleads guilty, this is referred to as a conviction. In the juvenile system, when a minor is found guilty or pleads guilty, it is referred to as an adjudication. A criminal defense lawyer can explain these types of differences to you so you will be aware and educated as to each step of the process your teen is going through.
Another thing to consider when choosing a criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax, VA for your child is that an attorney who is not experienced in juvenile law could end up making a procedural error that could result in hurting your child’s case.
When the Chain of Evidence Custody Breaks Down
Our criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax, VA understands the importance of maintaining the chain of custody for evidence from a crime. This is because what might seem on the surface like an airtight case against one of our clients, may not be at all, particularly when the evidence is in question. The evidence can come into question when the law enforcement officers in charge of the evidence break the chain of custody. What that means, and how it can affect your case, is explained below. If you or someone you care about was arrested for a crime, give us a call. Our Fairfax, VA criminal defense lawyer can review your case at no charge and provide you guidance for making decisions on choosing legal representation. Dave Albo – Attorney focuses on representing their community members who have been accused of a crime and wish to protect their rights.
Understanding the Chain of Custody
In legal terms, the chain of custody refers to retaining control of evidence associated with a legal proceeding. The control is crucial to assure that the evidence is not tampered with, substituted, or removed as any of those scenarios might bar the truth from coming to light and justice being served. The chain of custody is deemed unbroken if it is collected, handled, and documented from the moment it is discovered by law enforcement until the court case is concluded. Even after the court case is over, the law enforcement agency in charge of it might retain custody of the evidence. This is done in the event that there is an appeal or other legal actions that require examination and presentation of the evidence.
Examples of Evidence and the Chain of Custody
Nearly anything can be considered evidence, depending on the nature of the criminal charge. As a result, maintaining the chain of custody can be easier with some forms of evidence as compared to others. For instance, if the scene of the crime is on an active cruise ship, holding that ship in a law enforcement facility is obviously not practical. However, other forms of evidence must be carefully controlled, such as with these examples:
- Blood and other types of bodily fluids
- Photographs and other documents
- Murder weapons
Information That is Included in the Chain of Custody Documentation
Depending on the nature of the evidence and the circumstances of the crime, the information included in the documentation will vary. There is also some degree of variation among law enforcement agencies and areas of the country. However, the following information is commonly collected, and when it is not it can be damaging to the prosecutor’s case:
- The date and time the evidence was collected.
- The name, rank, and agency associated with the law enforcement officer who collected that piece of evidence.
- The exact location where the evidence was collected.
- How the evidence was collected.
- A physical description of the item as detailed as appropriate, including its serial number if it has one.
- The signatures of the persons who were in possession of the evidence at any time and the dates the evidence was transferred through the chain of custody.
To learn more about how a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax, VA clients recommend can help with your teen’s case, contact Dave Albo – Attorney today.