Articles Posted in Court Procedure

Recently, a Virginia court denied a defendant’s appeal in a case involving delays due to COVID-10. On appeal, the defendant argued that the delay between the date he was charged for armed burglary and the date he was convicted was unreasonably long, thus violating his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately denied it, deciding the pandemic was sufficient justification for the delay.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with armed burglary after an incident that occurred in September 2018. Apparently, the victim of the burglary was home alone when two men entered her house unannounced. Both men had guns and both men were covering their faces so as not to be discovered.

One of the men immediately began searching the woman’s house for money, while the other kept a gun held to her head. At another point in the encounter, one of the men raped the woman and demanded that she clean herself afterward to erase evidence of the rape.

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Stafford County, VA DWI Cases

If you have been charged with DUI or DWI in Stafford County, you will need a highly skilled DUI attorney to represent you. Stafford is a “no nonsense” jurisdiction, meaning both the judges and prosecutors rarely show leniency when it comes to DWI offenses.

Your first court appearance is known as an arraignment. This hearing is waivable if you hire an attorney before the court date. When our DUI lawyers are retained on a Stafford case, our process begins by contacting the clerk’s office for available trial dates. We then confirm the best trial date option with the prosecutor’s office. Next, we submit our documents with the clerk, who then waives the arraignment and sets the case out for trial.

Types of Felony Crimes in Virginia

Felony crimes in Virginia are more serious than misdemeanor crimes. Felonies carry more penalties than misdemeanors and may have life-altering consequences. There are 6 felony classes, with class 1 being the most serious and class 6 being the least serious. If convicted of a felony crime in Virginia, your firearm rights and voting rights will be affected. If the felony crime is sexual in nature, registration on the national sex offender registry will also be required. Below are some of the most common felonies our attorneys handle in Virginia.

Class 1 Felonies

Types of Misdemeanors in Virginia

Generally, crimes are categorized as either misdemeanors or felonies in Virginia. Both misdemeanors and felonies have their own classes, which determine the crime’s severity and penalties. Misdemeanor crimes are separated into four classes, with class 1 misdemeanors being the most serious and class 4 being the least severe.

Class 1 Misdemeanors

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the Fairfax County General District Court, your first court appearance may be your arraignment. An arraignment or “advisement” hearing is the court’s opportunity to explain your charge, ask if you understand the charge, explain your right to an attorney and schedule your next hearing. Your next hearing will be your Information on Attorney date or “IAD.”

Your arraignment is waivable, so long as you hire an attorney in advance. If you hire our Fairfax criminal lawyers before your arraignment date, we will submit the necessary documents with the court to remove your arraignment from the docket. Because the purpose of an arraignment is to advise the defendant, he or she will not need to attend it once an attorney is hired. It is the criminal lawyer’s job to advise his or her client, which is why the court waives the arraignment.

You are not required to hire an attorney prior to your arraignment. If you choose to attend your arraignment pro se (without a lawyer), the judge will give you a deadline for you to hire an attorney. This deadline is a scheduled hearing known as your Information on Attorney date. The IAD is waivable if an attorney is hired beforehand.

In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his unlawful wounding conviction was denied. On appeal, the defendant argued that the court left too much time between the date he was arrested and the date of his trial. Because defendants in the United States and in Virginia have the constitutional right to a speedy trial, the defendant argued that his rights were violated and his conviction should be overturned. After examining the facts, the court disagreed with the defendant and denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was criminally charged after he wounded an acquaintance in July 2019. He was arrested a couple of months later, and he was subsequently denied bail. His jury trial was scheduled for March 16, 2020, but the court’s emergency orders resulting from COVID-19 delayed any court proceedings that were supposed to take place starting mid-March. The defendant’s trial was pushed back, and he remained in custody while he awaited a new date.

Due to the pandemic, scheduling delays, and requests for continuances from the defendant’s counsel, the defendant’s trial ended up taking place in November 2020. After trial, the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison. He promptly appealed his conviction.

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Both the United States Constitution and the Virginia State Constitution contain provisions that prevent a criminal defendant from being charged or punished twice for the same offense. These protections from “double jeopardy” help form the backbone of the procedural due process rights that criminal defendants are entitled to under both the state and federal constitutions. The Virginia Court of Appeals recently decided to reverse a defendant’s convictions on these grounds, finding that he could not be convicted of two charges for the same conduct, and that the prosecution would have to choose one or the other charge upon a retrial.

The defendant in the recently decided case was charged with several crimes after an alleged burglary. Police were tipped off to the defendant after he was observed spending some old currency that appeared to be the same as that which was reported missing from the victim’s home. After serving a search warrant at the defendant’s house, police found allegedly stolen items in his possession, including jewelry, currency, firearms, and ammunition. Among other charges, the defendant was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon as well as possession of ammunition by a felon. At trial, the defendant was ultimately convicted of several crimes, including both the enhanced firearm and ammunition offenses.

The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the offenses of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of ammunition by a felon cannot be charged together under the circumstances of the case without violating constitutional double jeopardy clauses. The defendant convinced the appellate court that because the two charges arose out of the same occurrence, by the same factual pattern, and were not two separate incidents of possession, that he could not be punished for both. The Virginia Court of Appeals reversed both of the defendant’s convictions and instructed the prosecution to choose one or the other charge and retry the defendant.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia case involving a woman convicted of driving on a suspended license. The appeal involves the lower court’s decision preventing the defendant from pursuing an appeal of her conviction. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s appeal was proper and that the lower court should not have precluded her from bringing her appeal.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was issued a summons on July 15, 2016, indicating that she was charged with driving on a suspended license. It was her fifth offense. The woman was convicted and filed an appeal with the circuit court. Defendants convicted in the district court have an automatic right to a new trial in circuit court.

In her appeal, the defendant raised several challenges to her conviction. However, the circuit court rejected each of her claims, and she was again convicted. The defendant then filed another appeal, this time to the appellate court. She referenced the circuit court case in her filing, naming a county official as the “appellee,” which is the party who is supposed to respond to the appeal.

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The Virginia criminal justice system is a complex institution that often leaves criminal defendants confused about their rights and remedies. In most Virginia criminal cases, a defendant can appeal a conviction after a court or jury finds them guilty. The United States Constitution and state laws govern what cases and issues a defendant may appeal. Many defendants unknowingly forfeit their rights to appeal because of the fundamental disparity in power during these proceedings. Appeals can take a significant amount of time, and it is essential that criminal defendants seek assistance to ensure that they present all relevant appeals to the court.

In some cases, a criminal defendant may appeal several issues based on various procedural or statutory errors. For instance, recently, a Virginia defendant appealed his conviction based on eight issues. The defendant appealed his drug possession with intent to distribute conviction and his revocation of a suspended sentence. His crux of the appeal was based on an alleged violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and his assertion that the Commonwealth made erroneous additions to his transcript.

In cases where a Virginia appellant contests their conviction, the court should address each assignment of error. Here, the appeals court addressed each issue in their opinion and ultimately affirmed the conviction. In some instances, a court may deny an otherwise meritorious appeal because of a procedural issue. These situations illustrate the importance of retaining a criminal defense attorney who has a comprehensive understanding of Virginia criminal procedure.

The Commonwealth has various statutes that govern Virginia gun offenses. The statutes delineate what constitutes a weapon or firearm, who can possess the weapon, and what processes the owner must go through to obtain and maintain a firearm legally. Further, criminal laws address what actions constitute a Virginia weapons offense and the commiserate punishment for violating a statute. These laws typically involve the complicated interplay between various statutes, and it is essential that those accused of a Virginia gun offense contact a dedicated criminal defense attorney.

For example, recently, the Court of Appeals of Virginia issued an opinion in the combined appeals of two defendants arguing that Virginia’s successive prosecution code bars their prosecutions for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In this case, two defendants argued that the court should dismiss their convictions for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.

At issue was Virginia Code section 19.2-294, which covers dual charging. The code addresses limiting prosecutions in cases where double jeopardy is irrelevant. Specifically, if a defendant’s act is a “violation of two or more statutes or two or more ordinances,” conviction under one of the statutes or ordinances “shall be a bar to a prosecution proceeding under the other or others.” Moreover, if the offense is a violation of a statute and federal statute, prosecution under the federal statute will bar prosecution under the state statute. The statute is designed to prevent an accused from multiple prosecutions. However, unlike double jeopardy rules, the statute does not consider the elements of an offense, and instead limits prosecution to an act instead of a crime. It only applies if there has been a “conviction,” not just a proceeding or prosecution.

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