Overview of the Virginia Court System’s Criminal Defense Process

Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney

The attorneys of The Bradshaw Law Group have years of experience with police policies, procedures, and tactics.

In today’s competitive world, a blemish on one’s criminal record can significantly compromise the ability to gain acceptance to schools, acquire employment, obtain a loan, or even secure living accommodations.

The process to reach an outcome after a criminal offense can be fairly time consuming. We want all of our clients to be knowledgeable of how they system works.

  • ARREST: In Virginia, the police may only place a person under arrest if they possess an arrest warrant, witness the commission of a crime, or in some instances, if they have probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a crime. More Info»
  • STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: The Commonwealth of Virginia must bring a misdemeanor case against the accused within one year of its alleged commission, subject to a few exceptions.  Generally, there is no limitations period for most felony offenses. More Info»
  • BAIL AND BOND: Without unnecessary delay, the police must bring a person under arrest to a magistrate or judge to address bail.  Bail is a person’s pledge, sometimes involving money or property, to return to court once released from police custody. More Info»
    • A person under arrest is statutorily entitled to bail unless there is probable cause to believe that he is a flight risk, a danger to the community, or if he is charged with certain serious felony offenses. More Info»
  • ARRAIGNMENT: A hearing in open court where the accused is formally notified of the charges pending against him, and he is given an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or nolo contendre (also known as “no contest”). More Info»
  • PRELIMINARY HEARING: Any person arrested on a felony charge must be afforded a preliminary hearing prior to an indictment issuing, whereby he may cross-examine the Commonwealth’s witnesses and present evidence in his defense.
    • These hearings are held in a General District Court, which will certify the charge to a Circuit Court upon a finding of probable cause that the accused is guilty. More Info»
  • INDICTMENTS, INFORMATIONS, AND PRESENTMENTS: No person shall stand trial for a felony unless a grand jury finds a substantial basis for the charge based on one of these formal, written accusations. More Info»
    • Motions to Suppress Evidence: The Fourth Amendment protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police have stopped you, or searched you or your property without a legitimate reason to believe that you’re involved in criminal activity, any evidence procured as a result thereof will be held inadmissible in court.
    • Motions to Suppress Identification: With the advent of DNA and other advances in forensic technology, we now know that eyewitness misidentification has led to an appalling number of wrongful convictions. If police employ a suggestive identification procedure during their investigation, it may violate your right to due process and the resulting identification may be inadmissible in court.
    • Motions to Suppress Statements: The Fifth Amendment affords people the right against self-incrimination. If you have spoken with police without previously being advised of your rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present for questioning, your statements may be held inadmissible in court. Moreover, the Sixth Amendment protects people from police interrogation without having an attorney present as well.
    • One may stand trial for any number of crimes, either classified as misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors generally carry a maximum penalty of twelve months in jail, whereas felonies generally carry a penalty to include at least one year in a state correctional facility (also known as prison). Felonies are more serious in nature than misdemeanors not only due to the penalties involved, but also because of the rights lost as a result of conviction. Convicted felons typically lose their rights to vote, to carry a firearm, and to travel freely. More Info»
    • An accused has a constitutional right to a trial by jury in a Circuit Court when facing a felony or misdemeanor charge. A jury is a panel of peers, selected by counsel after being questioned by the accused, the prosecutor, and the judge. An accused may not be convicted, unless all jurors agree that the Commonwealth’s Attorney has proven him guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. An accused may also be tried by the presiding judge instead of a jury, if agreeable to the accused, the prosecutor, and the court. More Info»
    • If a jury or judge finds that the defendant’s guilt has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt, a hearing will be held to determine the appropriate punishment under the law. While a jury may not suspend any portion of the sentence imposed, a judge generally has the power to suspend any portion of the penalty. Judges also receive sentencing guidelines recommending a range of penalties based on the defendant’s prior criminal history, the instant offense, as well as several other factors. Juries are not permitted to consider such guidelines. More Info»
    • An accused has an absolute to right to appeal a conviction from a General District Court to a Circuit Court within ten days, and to a new trial. If convicted by a Circuit Court, an accused may petition an appellate court for review, but has no absolute right to an appeal of the conviction. More Info»
    • If an accused defendant’s charge is dismissed or withdrawn by the prosecutor for any reason, he may request that his record be expunged, or erased of any record concerning the charge. More Info»
    • Felons: If you have previously been convicted of a felony, you have likely lost your right to carry weapons, to vote, and possibly to travel freely. In many circumstances, such persons may take steps to have these rights restored.
    • Habitual Offenders: Many persons with multiple traffic and criminal convictions have had their driver’s licenses suspended and/or been declared “habitual offenders” under Virginia law. In many circumstances, such persons are eligible to have their driving privileges restored. More Info»