Category Archives: Criminal Defense Attorney

What to do with a Criminal Charge in Virgina?

“I was charged with a criminal offense in Virginia Beach,  I bonded out of jail, but I’m new to this whole thing. What should I do?”

virginia-criminal-attorneyBeing charged with a crime (or issued a summons) in Virginia Beach, Newport News, or anywhere in Hampton Roads can be confusing, devastating, infuriating, and stressful. If you’ve been accused of a crime, you might experience a huge range of complicated emotions and worries, and all of them are normal.  The criminal system can be complex and overwhelming, but a local attorney can walk you through it every step of the way.  One of the benefits of a good local attorney is having someone on your side who can let you know what will happen next, and how best to extricate yourself from the criminal system.

Criminal Charges Take Time to Deal With

Many people, especially if they feel they have been falsely arrested or falsely accused, think that since it’s all a big mistake they should be able to make their criminal offense go away pretty quickly. But that’s almost never the case. A great criminal defense attorney can walk you through dealing with the criminal charge, no matter whether you are guilty or innocent, but either way the same steps must be followed. It takes months to fully dispose of minor criminal charges, and can take years to fully dispose of more serious criminal charges, even when you are definitely innocent.  A good Virginia Lawyer can take steps to move the process forward as quickly as possible, but you should settle in for the long haul — do not expect that your criminal charge can go away 7 days after your were arrested.  That is almost never possible.

Step 1:  Criminal Arraignment

In Virginia, after you are arrested or summoned for most criminal misdemeanors and felonies, the first time you see a judge will be your hire your own Virginia Attorney to represent you.  And finally, while the judge will inform you that you have the right to represent yourself, you should never choose this option.

Step 2:  Bond Hearing

If you are in custody (jail) at the time of your arraignment, some judges will allow you to waive counsel and have a bond hearing right away to see if you can be released from jail pending your trial. However, unless you already have a lawyer present, you should not have a bond hearing at your arraignment. You can simply tell the judge you wish to hire an Attorney to do a bond hearing for you.  After that, you can have a friend or loved one contact us to arrange a bond hearing, and try to get you released from jail before your trial.

So it’s best to have your arraignment first, then contact your attorney to discuss the case, and then have that attorney schedule your bond hearing for you.  In most cases, you get one bond hearing and if the judge does not release you, you can appeal that decision one time. That second decision is final.  This is why you don’t want to “waste” a bond hearing at arraignment without an Attorney.  You only get two chances to be released on bond before your trial.

Step 3: Preparation and Negotiations

During this time, your Attorney will be working behind-the-scenes on your behalf to help deal with your criminal charges, and to prepare for trial. We simultaneously talk with the prosecutor about the case to see if it can be resolved without trial, while also preparing the case for trial. If you are charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense, this period of negotiation and preparation by your Virginia Defense Attorney might last 20 – 90 days.  If it is a serious felony criminal offense, this time period may be closer to a year. And on the most serious of the felony crimes, it can be 2 years or more before trial. During this time, other hearings may be scheduled for the judge to decide pretrial issues of evidence and procedure.

Step 4: Criminal Trial

Your Attorney will help you decide whether this will be a trial with only a judge or a trial with a jury. Many factors go into this critically important decision, which your lawyer will discuss with you so that you can make a well-informed decision considering your case and considering which court will be hearing the case.

There is no shortcut to dealing with criminal charges, but a skilled and caring Virginia Attorney can walk you through it and guide you toward the best possible outcome.  Give us a call for your free consultation.  We look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assert Your Rights in Virginia Police Encounters

Most people encounter the police in two main ways: traffic stops and home visits. Because of the protection of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution, you have certain rights whenever the police come knocking.

Asserting Constitutional Rights with Police on a Traffic Stop: Search & The Right to Remain Silent

You’re driving in your car, and suddenly a police officer pulls behind you and turns his lights on. What do you do? The temptation will always be to try to figure out whether the officer actually suspects you of a traffic infraction or crime.

As the officer approaches your window, keep your hands on the wheel until he asks for your registration documents. When the officer asks you if you know why he pulled you over, you are entitled to invoke your Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and say, “Officer, I’m not going to answer any questions.  Would you like my driver’s license and registration card?” Police will try to get you to admit to speeding or committing another traffic infraction, regardless of whether you have actually committed an infraction. Provide your identification information, as well as your vehicle registration and insurance.  As to any other questions, simply say:  “Officer, I’m going to decline to answer any questions without a lawyer present.  Are you detaining me, or am I free to go?”  If the Officer says nothing or says he is detaining you, calmly remain.  If he says you are free to go, then calmly drive away. Whatever you do, never lie to the police. You are within your rights to decline to answer questions, but you should not lie or conceal your identity.  If the Officer’s traffic stop of your vehicle was unlawful, your lawyer can challenge the stop in court, but the street is not the place to challenge the officer. While on the street, you calmly assert your rights, decline to answer questions, and decline consent to search, but never physically interfere with an officer. His actions, if improper, can be challenged in Court as long as you have not consented. If you consent, you have waived any objection your lawyer may otherwise have been able to make on your behalf.

You may also exercise your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and refuse a search of your car. A police officer can search your car if you consent, or if he has probable cause to believe you have committed a crime. Regardless of whether you think the officer may have probable cause to search your car, you are entitled to politely state that while you are not physically resisting the officer, you do not consent to a search of your car. When you refuse a search, you are not admitting guilt or giving the officer the right to detain you. In fact, most police searches occur when police confuse or intimidate people into consenting to a search without probable cause.  When police say “You don’t mind if I look through your car, do you?” You can simply and calmly reply, “Officer, I don’t consent to any searches.”  Please note, if the officer believes he has probable cause to search, he will search your car anyway.  Never attempt to interfere with this. Simply refuse your consent, then step aside and allow the officer to do whatever he does. The search (if he does one) can then be challenged in court because you did not consent to it.  If you consent, you waive the opportunity for your lawyer to challenge the search in court.

After you refuse a search, be aware that the officer may try to make you prove your innocence by asking what you have to hide. You may again politely refuse to answer. You can just repeat, “Officer, I’m not going to answer any questions.  Am I free to go?” The police officer is not required to inform you of your right to remain silent unless he suspects you have committed a crime, and takes you into custody to question you about the crime. It’s up to you to exercise your right to refuse to speak and refuse searches — even if the officer has not “read you your rights” you still must assert them verbally.

There is no need to physically resist an officer on the street, or even to engage in a verbal dispute with him. You only need to calmly assert your right to 1) Not answer questions without a lawyer present, and 2) Not consent to any searches of yourself or your property.  Remember the officer may search anyway.  But your lack of consent is still important — it allows your lawyer to challenge the search in court. You don’t need to physically resist the officer’s search or interfere with him in any way (and you should not, or you risk being charged with additional crimes).  One simple and very clear verbal assertion of “no consent” is enough.

For more on this topic, check out www.flexyourrights.org

Asserting Constitutional Rights with Police at  your Doorstep:  Searches and Questioning at Your Home

Sometimes police officers will come to the door of your home. In many cases, the reason for the visit is something simple: a noise complaint in your neighborhood, or an investigation of a crime in the area. However, police might want to investigate activities occurring in your home or even suspect you of a crime. When this happens, you also can prevent an unwanted police entry.  When the police knock, you may want to try not answering the door at all. In most cases, police cannot kick down a door (but in some cases they can, when they have a specific type of warrant).  Or you may wish to open the door only slightly, perhaps with the chain-lock still fastened to indicate you still wish to retain privacy in your home. If police ask to come in, you may simply say “No thank-you” and close the door.  If they have a warrant to enter, believe me they will make that clear to you at this point.

You can exercise your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches by refusing the police entry to your home unless they have a search warrant. Make sure any roommates or children are aware that you will not consent to police searches, and that they have the right to refuse searches as well.  If you are not home, and your roommate consents to a search, that consent will allow the police to legally search most (and sometimes all) areas of your home.  On the other hand, if you decline consent to search and police do search anyway, your lawyer will be able to challenge the search in court. If it is found to violate the Fourth Amendment, any evidence they obtained in the search might be excluded from a case against you.

Just like the traffic stop example, there is no need to physically resist the police, though it is a best practice to avoid any confrontation and avoid opening your door to the police if you prefer not to answer questions nor allow them to search your home. If you open the door at all, and police believe they see evidence of a crime occurring over your shoulder, inside your home, they may have the right to enter your home at that point. The Constitution guarantees you the right to protect the sanctity of your home and requires police to obtain a warrant to search your home in most cases. But it is up to you to assert that right verbally, by declining consent to police entering your home.  Once you allow them into the front door, you have at least consented to them glancing around that room.  If they happen to see anything suspicious, they could begin an even more detailed search.  So if  you wish to assert your rights at your home, the best option is to not answer the door or to answer only by cracking the door long enough to ask the police to leave.

More on How to Assert Your Constitutional Rights with Police Officers:

5 Reasons You Need A Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer

criminal-defense-lawyerYour Defense Lawyer can help you make sense of a frightening and confusing situation.

When you are charged with a crime, the prosecutor has the full resources of the Commonwealth of Virginia at his disposal to investigate your case. That’s a scary proposition. However, a defense lawyer who comes into contact with Virginia prosecutors will know the tactics and strategies they use. Experienced defense attorneys can take the shock factor out of a criminal charge by examining the Commonwealth’s evidence, and consulting with you to formulate defenses to the charge.  Did you know that your defense attorney is entitled to see much of the prosecution’s evidence against you prior to any trial?

Your Defense Lawyer fully understands what’s happening in court.

Understanding Virginia criminal laws can be difficult. Filing motions in your criminal case requires special knowledge of criminal procedure and Virginia pleading forms. Your criminal defense lawyer will help you understand Virginia criminal law, as well as assist you by filing motions and developing defenses to your charge. It is important to protect your rights by making sure the Commonwealth can prove its case against you. If it cannot prove its case, or if the state lacks probable cause, your charges must be dismissed.  Your defense attorney can use pretrial motions to help force the state to show that it has followed all the proper procedures in your case.

Your Defense Lawyer can get your charge reduced or dismissed.

An experienced Virginia defense lawyer will have a professional working relationship with judges and prosecutors that enables them to negotiate more effectively on your behalf. In cases where a plea bargain is the outcome that you want to pursue, this relationship can help your defense lawyer secure a plea bargain in which your charge is reduced to a lesser offense. If the evidence against you is insufficient, your defense attorney can also file motions to challenge parts of the prosecutor’s case. If the motions are successful, the judge may dismiss the charge against you.

 Your Defense Lawyer can help save your job.

Many employers require job applicants to disclose all criminal convictions, whether misdemeanor or felony. If your conviction is even remotely related to the type of job you’re applying for, an employer will sometimes automatically disqualify your application. A defense lawyer can help you reduce or completely beat your charge, depending on the facts of your case. To protect against a criminal conviction sticking to your record as a red flag for employers, consult an attorney before going into court alone.

Your Defense Lawyer can save you money in the long run.

A criminal conviction often carries a substantial fine, and can result in higher insurance rates and trouble with employment and security clearances. Hiring an attorney who is experienced in negotiating with the prosecutor and the judge can reduce your fine, and possibly even eliminate the fine altogether if the charge is dismissed. If you are able to avoid a conviction or keep certain offenses off your criminal record, you may be able to avoid the other potential expenses related to a conviction.

Contact me today for a free and confidential telephone consultation on your case.

 

 

What To Do When There is a Warrant for Your Arrest

Every once in awhile, the cops in one of our local cities will take a weekend and go through the city arresting people who have outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants. What many people don’t know, however, is how easily one can have a warrant for their arrest without even knowing it.

How did I get this Warrant for my Arrest?

One common way people get a warrant issued is when they miss a court date. If you’re issued a reckless driving ticket, for example, but you forget to show up for your court date, you’ll eventually have a misdemeanor warrant issued for  your arrest.

Another way this happens is when detectives have been investigating a crime, perhaps even for years or months, but finally decide that they have enough evidence to charge you with the crime. When they initiate the charge, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. You will likely not even know what crime they are charging you with until you are actually arrested or turn yourself in on the warrant.

What do I do if There is a Warrant for My Arrest?

Typically arrest warrants will not be recalled or cancelled. They must be “served” on the suspect. The way to get an arrest warrant taken care of is by turning yourself in.  A criminal defense attorney can help arrange for turning yourself in on your terms, which is always preferable to being suddenly arrested at your home or place of employment.

For some charges, after you turn yourself in, you will be released on some type of bond until your trial date. For more serious charges, you will not be released on bond immediately, and you will need an attorney for a bond hearing in order to be released.  At the bond hearing, the Attorney can argue to the Judge that you should be released from jail pending your court date.

If you suddenly realize that there is an active warrant for your arrest, your first call should be to a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can give you advice on what to do if you encounter the police, and can help you arrange to appear for your court date and face your charges with minimal disruption and “drama” to your daily life.  It is always better to get an attorney and follow his or her advice as you face the charges head-on, rather than hide from the authorities and always be looking over your shoulder.

If you discover that you have an active warrant for your arrest, or think you might have a warrant for your arrest, contact me.  I can help you arrange to face your charges and deal with them once and for all.