Felonies are the most serious types of crimes. If you are convicted of a felony, you face at least one year in prison. It is essential to know how your case will move through the Virginia court system and what to expect each step of the way, so that you can protect your rights.
What Happens in Virginia Felony Cases
Although every legal case is different, and each can be dismissed at any time, many cases will go through the entire legal process. If this happens, the process generally includes:
- An arrest warrant or criminal indictment. Criminal proceedings officially begin with a notification that you are being charged with a crime. Notification may come when you are arrested or with a criminal indictment.
- A bond hearing. As soon as possible after your arrest or indictment, a bond hearing is held to determine whether you should remain in custody or released on bail. Typically, these bail hearings are held before a magistrate. You have the right to attend the hearing. The magistrate will consider your criminal history and release you on bail unless there is probable cause to believe that you won’t appear for trial or that you are a danger to yourself or others. The magistrate will set the terms of your bail if granted.
- A first appearance. Your first appearance in court will happen very quickly. Often, it occurs the day after your arrest and bond hearing if you were denied bail. At this court appearance, you will be advised of your right to an attorney, and you may decide to hire your own lawyer or to have a lawyer appointed for you if you can’t afford to hire one.
- An arraignment. At your arraignment, you have two big decisions to make. First, you will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Second, if you plead not guilty, you will decide whether you want a jury trial or a bench trial where your case is only heard by a judge. After that, your trial date will be set.
- A preliminary hearing. At this stage, the court will consider whether the Commonwealth of Virginia has enough evidence to establish probable cause that you committed the crime you were charged with. If probable cause is established, your case will be sent to the grand jury. A determination of probable cause will not impact your bail unless you’ve violated any of the conditions set down by the court.
- A grand jury deliberation. The grand jury will hear the Commonwealth’s evidence, but it will not consider evidence from the defendant. In most cases, the grand jury will issue an indictment.
- A pre-trial motion. In some cases, pre-trial motions, such as motions to suppress evidence, may be brought. These motions may resolve important issues in the case before you get to trial.
- A trial. At trial, both the prosecutor for the Commonwealth and your defense lawyer will have the opportunity to present opening statements, question witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, submit evidence to the court, and offer closing arguments.
- A sentencing hearing. If you are found guilty of the crime, a sentencing hearing will be held after your trial.
- An appeal. If you were found guilty and you believe that a mistake was made at trial, you may have the right to appeal.
These procedures apply to adults accused of felony crimes. Different procedures may apply in juvenile cases.
Protect Your Rights at Every Stage of a Felony Case
Your felony case may not follow the typical criminal court process, and it’s important that you have a lawyer who will discuss all of details and critical fine points of your situation. Attorney Steven Bloomquest works tirelessly to communicate all aspects of a felony case to his clients. He also ensures they are treated fairly. He will explain your rights and fight hard on your behalf. Learn more about what to do if you are charged with a felony in Virginia. Contact Quest Law PLLC today.