If you’re facing time in prison or serious fines, it’s time to find the best criminal defense attorney in Northern Virginia.
Some consider using a family attorney or even representing themselves. However, even the incredibly intelligent and savvy are often ill-equipped to create a salient defense due to their lack of familiarity with defenses, the court system, and the law itself.
This type of expertise does not come without extensive study and, most importantly, experience.
Advantages to Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
While most defendants realize that an attorney is responsible for conducting the defense in court, many do not realize how extensive a defense attorney’s job is outside of the court room.
The best criminal defense attorney will work hard on a number of important tasks.
#1 – Sets the Stage
Before you face court at all, the best criminal defense attorney will be able to inform you of how things will typically play out in a particular Northern Virginia court room.
Your attorney will apprise you of the severity of your situation. Whether you are overestimating or underestimating the gravity of your situation, you’re better off knowing from the start where you stand.
Furthermore, your attorney will know what appropriate motions should be filed before you go to court. In some cases, this can prevent going to trial.
#2 – Deep Knowledge
Whereas you may be able to read some legal text books, a skilled criminal defense attorney will know things not found in books. Court procedures and preferences of judges, prosecutors and other personnel will be well known to your attorney. This is not knowledge you can hope to gain between a charge and a trial, especially since many rules are “unwritten.”
#3 – The Power to Negotiate
For instance, your attorney may skillfully negotiate a plea bargain that reduces the severity of or eliminates some charges. Unfortunately, many prosecutors refuse to work directly for defendants who represent themselves.
In the event that you’re convicted, your criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate the term and type of sentencing given. For example, those facing a drug or alcohol conviction may be able to reduce jail time by completing a substance abuse treatment program.
#4 – Builds a Case
The best criminal defense attorney will be able to hire experts and investigators to bolster your case in Northern Virginia. Investigators can discover evidence that weakens the credibility of witnesses testifying against you, which can be valuable. Conversely, experts can point out aspects of your situation that make your case stronger.
Criminal Defense Process Frequently Asked Questions
The criminal defense process can seem overwhelming and confusing. Its true, there is a lot going on. While your attorney can help you navigate the process, it never hurts to have a basic understanding of things going into it. These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the criminal defense process and their answers.
How are Criminal Charges Classified?
There is a variety of different classifications for criminal charges. This is based on the severity of the charge. Felonies and misdemeanors are the two main categories but there are several subcategories in Virginia. Code of Virginia 18.2-9 outlines these categories.
Why does this matter? The classification of the criminal offense plays a major role in the punishment and sentencing. Consequences of series crimes are harsher than those for lower-level offenses.
Can classifications be lowered? In some cases, the prosecutors may agree to reduce the charges to a lower classification. Your attorney can explain this in more detail.
What Happens with Bail/Bond?
What is bail/bond? Posting bail/bond allows a defendant to get out of custody while waiting for a court date.
Are bail and bond different? Yes. Bail is the money a defendant posts for their release. Bond is money posted by a third party, where the defendant uses collateral to obtain the full funds required to meet bail.
Is bail a fine? No. When the case is over, the bail money will be returned. Bail/bond is used to ensure that the defendant appears in court hearings and at trial.
Can bail be reduced? Possibly. Defendants have the right to request a reduction and your defense attorney can help you prepare a motion.
How to Handle Pre-Trial Motions?
Pre-trial motions are official requests filed by the prosecutor or defense lawyer. These are generally used to raise procedural matters like where a case will be heard, and which types of evidence are allowed.
What are the common types of pre-trial motions? While they come in a wide range, most commonly pre-tail motions include:
- Motion to dismiss
- Motion to suppress physical evidence or witness testimony
- Motion to change venue
- Most to release evidence
How does a defense attorney help? Pre-trial motions are key to successful defense. A defense attorney will help you build the strongest case possible, starting with pre-trial motions.
What to Have for a Preliminary Hearing?
This hearing is a crucial part of your criminal case. During this hearing, the judge will determine if a defendant should be forced to stand trial.
When does the preliminary case take place? Usually, a preliminary hearing happens soon after an arrest is made and charges are filed. If you pleaded not guilty at your initial appearance, the hearing may be scheduled to determine if the prosecution holds enough evidence to move forward with the case.
Is it required? No necessarily, especially for misdemeanor offenses. However, under Virginia law every defendant facing felony charges has the right to a preliminary hearing.
How can I prepare for a preliminary hearing? Consulting with your attorney is the best way to prepare your case.
A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and defendant in which the defendant please guilty in exchange for reduced charges or a more lenient sentence.
When is a plea bargain entered? This can happen at any point in the criminal process but often happens after the preliminary hearing, before the trial.
Can the judge reject a plea bargain? Yes. The judge has the legal authority to accept or reject the plea bargain.
Should I accept a plea bargain? That depends on your case. Always consult with your attorney before making any decision like this. It may be advisable to take the plea bargain, but your defense attorney can make sure you are getting the best possible arrangement and a bargain that fully protects your interests.
Will I Get Jail Time?
When a person is arrested, they automatically want to know what kind of jail time they are facing. Jail time depends largely on the nature and severity of the charge. Federal law sets maximum and minimum jail times. Most people do not serve the maximum, but you should be prepared for the possibility.
Can I avoid jail time? If your attorney gets the charges dismissed or you are acquitted, you can avoid jail time. For misdemeanor offenses, you may be able to avoid jail time with a good plea bargain.
Can an attorney help? Absolutely. An attorney can build a legal defense that focuses on avoiding or limiting jail time. Your defense attorney will know the best strategy to take for your case.
What to Expect During Sentencing?
If a defendant is convicted or pleads guilt to a criminal defense, the judge must determine an appropriate punishment. This is the sentencing stage of the criminal justice process.
How are sentences determined? Virginia law lays out guidelines for developing and implementing basic sentencing. Sentences vary widely based on the factors of the case.
When will sentencing occur? This depends on the severity of the case. Lesser charges may be sentenced immediately after a guilty plea or conviction is entered. But other cases may require a sentencing hearing held at a later date.
Can sentences be reduced? Its possible. There are several mitigating factors at play. The defendant can point out positive contributions to the community, their lack of a criminal record, and their sincere regret and remorse for committing an offense.
How Much Does it Cost for Court?
Criminal charges can carry steep financial penalties and this should be a consideration.
Can fines be reduced? Yes. A proposed fine is not set in stone. Your attorney will consider the fines, costs, and other financial penalties while building your case. This well help to limit your exposure to financial consequences.
How do I pay fines and costs in Virginia? The most efficient way to make payments is through the Virginia Judiciary Online Payment System.
Criminal Defense Attorneys Northern Virginia
If you are facing a significant fine or prison time, you need to start searching for criminal defense attorneys in Northern Virginia ASAP. The legal system is designed to make competently representing yourself nearly impossible. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is the best thing you can do to ensure an optimal outcome.
What Criminal Defense Attorneys Do?
Criminal cases are unique and criminal defense attorneys are trained to quickly pick out the aspects of each case that make them unique while using their knowledge to find evidence and reasons why you should win the case. Your criminal defense attorney will also be able to use certain arguments and factors to mitigate or negate any potential crime. Even if you are guilty, an attorney may be able to help reduce your fines or jail time.
Building a Strong Case with Criminal Defense Attorneys in Northern Virginia
Attorneys work daily to stay in contact with clients, read case documents, evidence, and statutes, take notes on what will be helpful to the case, and form a strategy for the case. Criminal defense lawyers often spend several months preparing for a case. Being adequately prepared ensures that when the case goes to court, things move as quickly as possible and there are no surprises in the case.[Related: Serious Felony Defense]
Negiotiating Plea Bargains
A criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain to reduce your potential sentence or eliminate some of the charges against you. This is where your lawyer’s relationships & reputation with the prosecutor and judges matter.
If you are found guilty, your lawyer will work to change your sentence. For example, instead of going to prison for ten months for drug possession, your lawyer may suggest six months in prison and four months in a drug treatment facility.
One of the most important things your attorney can do is ensure that you have a realistic expectation of the outcome of your case. During the trial, your defense lawyer will have a much better understanding of what is happening and will be able to predict how the case is going and what the judge/jury’s outcome may be. These reality checks are essential when a criminal defendant is trying to decide whether or not to accept a plea bargain.
Rules and Regulations
Criminal defense attorneys have spent years studying the laws and understanding the system. This gives your attorney the ability to point out the relevant legal rules and regulations that you wouldn’t think of alone. Your attorney will understand the many rules involved in criminal prosecutions and ensure that your rights are protected.
While there are numerous written laws and regulations that must be followed and obeyed, there are also unspoken rules that go along with each jurisdiction.
For example, let’s say that there are only certain prosecutors who can make and approve plea bargains, your criminal defense attorney may save you time by speaking to the right person the first time. These insights into the nuances of the local courtroom and people will prove invaluable to your case.
Your criminal defense attorney will ensure that you understand the true consequences of pleading guilty. Some people think that pleading guilty will make the judge/jury “take it easy” on them and result in a lesser sentence. But there are hidden consequences to a guilty plea. For instance, if you plead guilty, you may struggle to find a job in the future.
Criminal defense attorneys are trained to work with witnesses. They understand which questions to ask, how to easily gather evidence and statements
Experts and Investigators
Investigators and expert witnesses will play a large role in the trial. If they can provide evidence that makes a witness’s testimony less believable, or evidence that shows your innocent, or rebut the evidence presented by the prosecution, it could make a tremendous difference in your case.
The Best Criminal Defense Attorney | Northern Virginia
Hiring the best criminal defense attorney in Northern Virginia ensures that you receive the best possible chance for avoiding prison time or a large fine.
Our attorneys regularly undertake high profile criminal cases and have been successful at defending them.