Criminal Arrest Process
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We firmly believe that good people can be caught in bad situations. Just because you have been arrested for a crime does not make you a bad person. If you are like most people, when you are arrested you are afraid of what might happen to you.
For most criminal charges, the individual is released on his own recognizance, without a bond, and ordered to appear before the court at a specific date and time.
Other more serious charges may have a surety bond required by the Court or Magistrate to insure the individuals return. If the accused fails to return, the bond will be forfeited. Regardless of whether or not a bond was required, if the individual fails to make the appearance, it may result in the Court issuing a charge of Failure to Appear and a warrant for you immediate arrest being issued.
If the charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor or a felony, the accused has a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney. At the first appearance before the Court the accused will be notified of this right and will be asked if he or she would wish to waive this right, have more time to try to hire an attorney, or see if he qualifies to have counsel appointed to represent him. A public defender is only free to the accused if he is found not guilty. The typical fee to the accused for a public defender is $125 which can be paid along with any fines which may be levied by the Court.
All misdemeanor charges are heard in the General District Court or the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of the city or county in which the alleged criminal act occurred. The judge of that court will hear the evidence against the accused and enter findings of guilt and sentencing. Before the proceedings begin, the judge will announce the charges being made and ask the accused how he pleas. The individual may plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). If the accused pleads guilty or no contest, there will be a recitation of a summary of the facts and then the judge orders incarceration, fines and restitution that would be appropriate to the recited summary. The judge may suspend jail time and fines conditioned on the accused agreeing to perform community service or a period of time of uniform good behavior.
What Courts Are Involved?
Felonies will typically begin in General District Court or the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, but will ultimately be tried in Circuit. The General District Court or the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court will conduct a preliminary hearing to establish whether the evidence is sufficient to establish probable cause to hold the accused to stand trial for the charges. A finding of probable cause means that the evidence shows that more likely than not the crime was committed and that it was committed by the accused. A person who has been accused may choose to waive the preliminary hearing in exchange for an agreed upon plea bargain. Once in Circuit Court, the accused can elect to have a jury trial. Any appeal of a Circuit Court ruling must be noted with the clerk of the court within 30 days of the entry of the order.
An Arrest is Not Always as Traumatic as It Seems
Being arrested and taken into custody leaves most individuals in shock and confused about what to do or say. This is partially due to people being subjected to a process and procedures that are unfamiliar to them. When facing arrest people should keep in mind that sometimes good people can become trapped in a tough situation.
When that happens, the top-notch Hampton Roads criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., want people to know what happens following an arrest and how an attorney can help.
An Arrest Does Not Mean Charges Have Been Filed
Most arrests happen before the filing of formal charges. If a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, he or she may arrest the individual suspected of committing it. It will later be determined whether there is sufficient evidence to support the filing of formal criminal charges.
What Happens After a Police Officer Makes an Arrest?
The typical arrest by a law enforcement officer usually includes the following steps:
- Verbally advising the individual of the arrest
- Affixing handcuffs to the person
- Searching the arrestee and the vehicle the person was driving
- Placing arrested individuals in a vehicle and transporting them a local police department or sheriff’s office for further processing
Once at a law enforcement office in Newport News, Chesapeake or other location, the booking process continues with fingerprinting and photographing the individual. These items are run through a database to verify the person’s identity and to reveal the existence of any prior criminal record or the existence of any outstanding warrants for the person’s arrest.
Television and movie depictions of the arrest process cause people to believe the police committed an error if they fail to advise the arrestees of their rights at this stage. Unless a law enforcement officer intends to question the individual taken into custody, a reading of the person’s rights under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, commonly referred to as an individual’s Miranda rights is not necessary.
Law Enforcement as the Gatekeepers
Law enforcement officers are frequently referred to as the gatekeepers in the criminal justice system because an arrest ushers the person into the system. Unless a judge or magistrate has issued a warrant, a Virginia law enforcement officer may issue a summons to the arrestee in misdemeanor cases. The summons directs the accused to appear in court on a future date and time to answer the charges.
Misdemeanor warrants and the Virginia felony arrest process result in the detained individual being taken before a magistrate to have bond set. The court has the option to release individuals on their own recognizance without the posting of a bond to secure their future appearance in court. Individuals who have missed court appearances on other cases or are considered a flight risk because they do not have sufficient ties to the community could be required to post a bond to obtain their release from custody.
Arraignment and Trial in the Virginia Misdemeanor Arrest Process
The next stage in the process for someone facing misdemeanor charges is an appearance in a district court in Hampton or other location within the commonwealth. This first appearance following receipt of the summons or the bond hearing is the arraignment and usually includes the court doing the following:
- Advising the accused of the charges
- Making certain the person is aware of his or her right to counsel
- Setting a date for the next court appearance
Arraignment and Trial in the Virginia Misdemeanor Arrest Process (Cont…)
Unlike criminal proceedings in other states or in the federal courts, defendants do not enter pleas of guilty or not guilty at the arraignment. Instead, a trial date is set and a plea is entered before trial.
If a defendant does not plead guilty to the charges, a misdemeanor trial takes place before a district court judge without a jury. However, an adverse result in the district court does not prevent the accused from seeking a jury or bench trial in the circuit court.
Virginia Felony Arrest Process and the Role of the Grand Jury
The process from arrest through trial when the accused is charged with a felony is different from the process for misdemeanor cases. Individuals arrested on felony charges do not receive a summons with a future date to appear in court.
Felony cases begin with a warrant issued by a court or by an indictment handed down by a grand jury. When the case begins with a warrant, the arrestee’s first court appearance is in the district court for a magistrate to decide if the person should be held in jail or released on bond. The court also has jurisdiction at this early stage of the process to hold a hearing to determine if there is probable cause to believe the individual committed the crime.
The next stage in the process is the grand jury. Prosecutors present evidence to support the allegations against the accused. The members of the grand jury vote to decide if the evidence is sufficient to support the charges against the accused. If they agree that it does, then an indictment is issued, and the accused must appear at an arraignment to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest.
Following the arraignment in the circuit court, a date is set for trial or for motions and other pretrial procedures. Prosecutors must prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction in either misdemeanor or felony cases. When a Virginia Beach trial results in a conviction in a criminal case, the next stage in the process is the sentencing at which the punishment authorized by law is imposed upon the defendant.
Arrest Process for Violations of Federal Law
Conduct violating federal statutes is investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, including:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Department of Homeland Security
- Secret Service
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Investigations by these and other federal agencies can be nationwide in scope and usually involve large-scale criminal operations. An investigation could take a year or more before formal charges are filed against anyone, but when arrests are made, individuals taken into custody are processed in the federal courts.
Arrests on Commonwealth or Federal Criminal Charges Require Skilled Legal Counsel
The Hampton Roads criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., have the experience and skills to defend the rights of clients caught in the felony or Virginia misdemeanor arrest process in any court in the commonwealth.
We have four convenient Hampton Roads locations in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake and Newport News servicing the surrounding cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Smithfield, Poquoson and Williamsburg and the York, James City and Gloucester counties.
Find out more about what they can do by calling (757) 896-0868 to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation.