Your Virginia Criminal Law Questions Answered
After being charged with a crime in Virginia, most people have many concerns. What do I do now? Do I have any options? Do I need a lawyer? How do I find the right lawyer? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys offer their take on these questions and many more to help you understand more about your rights and options under the law. Don’t see your question here? Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. Call our Fairfax office at (703) 352-0100, or fill out our online contact form today.
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What are the pros and cons of agreeing to entering into a plea bargain in my criminal case?
The reality is that most criminal cases are resolved through a plea agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant. If you face criminal charges, you will most likely have to decide at some point in your case whether or not to accept a plea agreement. This is a very important decision in your criminal case since a criminal conviction can have long-term consequences. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you make this important decision.
What Is a Plea Agreement?
A plea agreement is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant to resolve the criminal case where the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a certain crime and the prosecutor agrees to provide the defendant a benefit for doing so. Plea agreements come in many different forms. In some cases, no actual "plea agreement" is reached with the prosecutor, but the prosecutor agrees to recommend a certain sentence to the judge in exchange for the defendant's agreement to plead guilty either to the original charged offense or to a lesser offense. In other cases, the prosecutor may agree to reduce the charged offense to a lesser offense in exchange for the defendant's agreement to plead guilty. There may or many not also be an "agreement" on a specific sentence, or an agreement by the prosecutor to recommend a specific sentence to the court.
In cases where there is no actual "agreement" between the parties regarding sentencing but only a recommendation by the prosecutor of a particular sentence, the court may or may not follow the prosecutor's recommendation. It is important to keep in mind that the judge's decision not to follow a "recommendation" on sentencing following the entry and acceptance of a guilty plea is generally not a basis to withdraw the guilty plea.
On the other hand, when the prosecutor and defendant enter into a plea agreement, the judge must first approve it. There would be a court hearing where the parties present the terms of the plea agreement to the judge. The judge would then question the defendant to be certain that he fully understood the terms of the agreement and voluntarily agreed to it. Then the judge would decide whether or not to approve the plea agreement.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Entering Into a Plea Agreement?
As with any agreement between parties where there is a dispute, a plea bargain involves a compromise. For the prosecutor and the judge, there are clear benefits of resolving a case through a plea bargain, including judicial economy and efficient resolution of their caseloads. In addition, prosecutors may gain the cooperation of the defendant as part of a plea agreement, which may assist their investigation or prosecution of other individuals. Judges have a similar incentive for wanting a criminal case to be settled—reduction of an already congested docket of court cases.
For you as the defendant, the decision whether to accept a plea agreement is more complicated and has more long-term ramifications. Here are some of the benefits of entering into a plea agreement:
- Remove uncertainty. One of the benefits of entering into a plea agreement is removing the uncertainty of the outcome of the case, which may result in you being found guilty of a more serious offense at trial.
- Lesser sentence and charges. A plea agreement may either result in a reduction in the charges against you, or a less severe sentence. This could affect more than just the penalties that could be imposed. For example, if you hold a professional license, you may risk its revocation if you are convicted of a felony. However, if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense, you may reduce the risk the losing your license and your job.
- Cost and time. Taking your case to trial can be time consuming, expensive, and very stressful. You must pay your attorney to thoroughly investigate the crime, prepare for trial, and conduct your trial. In addition, you may need to pay expert witness fees for the experts you might need to help prove your innocence. You avoid these costs when you enter into a plea agreement. More importantly, you avoid the stress and anxiety of trial.
There are also disadvantages to entering into a plea agreement. You should consider the disadvantages as well as the benefits when making your decision. Some of these include:
- Innocence. Unfortunately, being completely innocent of committing the offense you are being charged with does not guarantee a not guilty verdict at trial. When you are innocent and feel you must plead guilty to a lesser offense, it can feel unjust and immoral that you are being forced to do this for practical reasons.
- Coercion. You could face strong pressure from the prosecutor, the judge, and possibly your attorney to accept a plea agreement. You may feel unreasonable pressure to enter into the plea agreement that you are not certain is in your best interests. If this is how you feel, you should take a step back, reevaluate your options, and consult with an experienced attorney who will properly advise you on your options and the best path forward for you.
- Lack of investigation. Because police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys know most cases are settled through a plea agreement, there may not be sufficient investigation of the crime by the police or even your own attorney. This could result in an important defense that may result in dismissal of the charges against you being overlooked. You need to retain an experienced attorney who understands the importance of conducting a thorough investigation and fighting the charges when doing so is in your best interest.
- Loss of constitutional rights. When you enter into a plea agreement, you give up important constitutional rights, such as the right to have a jury decide your case, the right to plead not guilty and persist in that plea, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you, and the right to testify in your own defense or to remain silent.
- Sentence. By entering into a plea agreement, you would be pleading guilty or no contest to some offense that will result in the imposition of a sentence of some sort, even if it is probation or the payment of fines.
- Criminal record. If you plead guilty to any charge, even a misdemeanor, you will have a permanent criminal record that may affect your ability to obtain employment, a loan, security clearance, and more.
If you have been charged with a crime, let our experienced criminal defense attorneys investigate the charges against you, build a strong defense, and help you decide whether a plea agreement is in your best interests. To schedule your free case evaluation, call our office or fill out our convenient online form today.
Will I go to jail if I am convicted of a crime in Virginia?
If you are charged with committing a crime, your main worry is most likely the sentence that you could face and fears about being sentenced to prison or jail. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia has a number of sentencing alternatives to jail in many localities. These may allow you to continue in your employment or offer you drug or alcohol treatment options where appropriate.
What Are Alternative Sentences to Jail Time in Virginia?
Your eligibility for an alternative sentence will depend on many factors, including the crime that you were convicted of, your criminal record, and the specific circumstances of your case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will understand the available options and your eligibility for them. Some alternative sentences could include the following:
- Suspended jail time. A suspension of jail time means that you do not have to serve your prison or jail sentence as long as you comply with the conditions set by the judge. You are placed on probation instead. You are placed on probation instead, which may involve active supervision or simply unsupervised probation. Conditions that are commonly set include not committing any other crimes, paying fines and court costs, completing a substance abuse treatment program, paying restitution to the victim of the crime, and completing community service. If you violate the terms of your probation, you will be required to attend a hearing where the judge could order you to serve some or all of the suspended sentence.
- Jail served on weekends. Some jails permit people to serve their sentences on weekends so that they can remain employed. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements and application processes. Space can be limited. The Fairfax County weekend confinement program requires you to report by 6:00 p.m. on Friday and be released at 8:00 a.m. on Monday. You could be subject to random blood, breath, or urine tests. You must pay a fee of $2.00 per day for the program. If you fail to arrive by 6:00 pm on Friday, you are violating the terms of your sentence, and it could be reported to the judge. Not all defendants are eligible to serve their sentences on the weekend, and your attorney can advise you on whether you may be eligible to do so.
- Work release. You may be eligible for a work release program by which you are released from jail to go to work each day. Like weekend jail programs, each county has its own program and qualification requirements. In Fairfax County, for example, the requirements are having 30 to 180 days remaining on your sentence, having no pending warrants or charges, no violent crimes, not being convicted of sex crimes or crimes involving children, never escaping from custody, and not violating a work program rule. You must live in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC. You may also be required to complete a substance abuse treatment program first.
- House arrest. This is also known as an electronic incarceration program and allows you to remain at home and continue your employment instead of serving your sentence in jail. In Fairfax County, the rules are similar to those of the work release program except for a few additional requirements. You must wear an ankle or other electronic device, pay a portion of the fee for the program, be subject to random home inspections, and live in Virginia. People who have committed certain felonies, such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, and felony sex crimes, are not eligible for the program. You should consult with your attorney regarding whether you may be eligible for home confinement.
- Community service. In some cases, a person may be sentenced to perform community service instead of jail time. The judge usually sets a specific number of community service hours that the person must perform. Additional penalties, such as costs and fines, may be assessed as well.
- Community Labor Force Offender Program (CLFO). People convicted of misdemeanors or traffic violations may be placed in this short-term program in Fairfax County. To avoid jail time, low-risk offenders perform manual labor, such as removing graffiti, cleaning streams and rivers, and participating in other revitalization projects.
- Fines Option Program (FOP). This is another Fairfax County program that allows people to report to a pre-release center on weekend mornings to perform community service that is applied to court costs and fines that they owe. Work that may be assigned includes painting buildings, cleaning up litter, and moving furniture.
If you are charged with a crime, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the programs that you could be eligible for to avoid jail time if you are convicted or enter into a plea agreement. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and learn how our trusted attorneys can help you achieve the best possible outcome.
How will the jury be selected in a criminal case in Virginia?
Cases that cannot be resolved through a plea agreement are set for trial. Trials will be decided either by a judge in a bench trial, or by a jury. If your criminal case will be decided at a jury trial, it is important to understand how a criminal jury trial works so you know what to expect. Here, we discuss how jury selection works in Virginia.
Who Can Be on the Jury?
In order for a person to be eligible to be a juror in Virginia, he or she must meet certain requirements. Jurors must be at least 18 years old. In addition, a juror cannot be a convicted felon; however, if the juror was convicted of a felony, he must have had his voting rights restored and lived in the jurisdiction for at least two years in order to be eligible to serve as a juror.
The jury commissioner for each jurisdiction will create a master jury list of eligible residents who reside in the jurisdiction of the court. This list, often generated from voter registration lists, is sent to the court clerk. Potential jurors are randomly selected from this list.
How Many Jurors Are Selected?
On the day of your trial, a randomly selected panel of potential jurors will be present. In Virginia, the number of jurors picked for trial will depend on whether your case is a felony or misdemeanor. Generally, the following rules apply:
- In a felony case, 20 prospective jurors are called from those in the courtroom, and 12 members will be selected.
- In a misdemeanor case, 13 prospective jurors are called, and the final jury will include 7 jurors.
- One or more alternate jurors may be selected to be on the jury in case a juror becomes too ill to serve or is removed from the jury during the trial for other reasons.
How Does Jury Selection Work?
The process of selecting a jury is called voir dire. During this process the judge, prosecuting attorney, and criminal defense attorney ask the potential jurors, known as the jury panel, questions in order to pick appropriate jurors for the case. Often the judge will begin the process by asking basic questions to determine each individual's competence to serve on the jury and any obvious biases. Some of these questions will focus on the following:
- Whether sitting on the jury would cause the person an undue hardship
- Whether the person is related to the parties by blood or marriage
- Whether the person is being represented by either attorney or their law firms
- Whether the person has any preconceived opinions about the case
- Whether the person has a financial stake in the case
- Whether there is any other reason, such as a medical condition, that would prevent the person from sitting on the jury and making a fair decision
The prosecuting attorney and criminal defense attorney will then have an opportunity to question potential jurors. Often the court will send a questionnaire to the jury pool to complete before the trial date in order to obtain basic information about the jury pool. The attorneys may have reviewed these questionnaires before the trial date. In some cases, attorneys will hire experts to review these questionnaires and assist in jury selection.
The attorneys will question potential jurors more thoroughly than the judge. The prosecutor and the criminal defense attorney will ask questions to determine biases, backgrounds, and pre-existing knowledge of the case. They are looking for characteristics and experiences that could cause a prospective juror to side more favorably with either side.
How Challenging a Juror Works
The attorneys have the right to remove a certain number of prospective jurors from deciding a case. There are two types of challenges:
- Challenges for cause. An attorney can challenge a person’s right to sit on a jury for cause if he or she is not qualified to sit on a jury either because that person does not meet the basic qualifications, is not competent, or is biased and cannot be impartial. Bias can be actual bias if the juror admits in some way that he or she cannot be fair. Implied bias is where the juror has characteristics or prior experiences that make it unlikely that he or she can render an impartial decision. Generally, there is not a limit on for cause challenges.
- Peremptory challenges. A peremptory challenge is used when there is no reason for cause to exclude a juror, but an attorney does not want the person to be seated as a juror. The attorney does not have to give any reason to excuse the juror when using this type of challenge. However, there is a limit to the number of peremptory challenges an attorney can make. Generally, an attorney is only allowed three peremptory challenges, but the precise number could vary depending on whether the case is a misdemeanor, felony, or death penalty case.
When retaining an attorney to represent you in your criminal case, it is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who has conducted criminal trials and has a track record of success. If you are facing criminal charges, review our case results to see how we have helped other clients and then call our office to schedule your free consultation.
How is my jail time determined in Virginia?
If you have been convicted of a crime and you are sentenced to prison or jail, one of your major concerns after worry about surviving the ordeal is how much of your sentence you will need to serve. In Virginia, calculating the time that you must serve can be complicated. There are many factors that may affect your release date, and different counties calculate the time served differently. In addition, you may be entitled to time off for good behavior. Here, we discuss some of the basics of how your jail time could be calculated.
Is There Mandatory Prison Time in Virginia?
Some crimes in Virginia carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. This is the jail time that a judge must sentence you to, and he cannot suspend any portion of it. If you are sentenced to a mandatory prison sentence, you are required to serve it in active jail or prison. You are not entitled to have the minimum prison time reduced for good behavior. Common crimes that come with mandatory minimum prison sentences include:
- Second, third, and fourth DUI
- DUI conviction where the BAC was .15 percent or higher
- Third offense of driving on a suspended license
- Assaulting a police officer
How Is Jail Time Calculated for Misdemeanors?
The sheriff’s department is often responsible for calculating jail time for people convicted of misdemeanors. However, if you are sentenced for more than one year in jail, the Virginia Department of Corrections could calculate your time. Under Virginia law, sheriff’s departments must require inmates to serve 50 percent of their sentences unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence. In most Northern Virginia jails, people will only serve 50 percent of their sentence conditional on their good behavior.
How Is Jail Time Calculated for Felonies?
If your felony sentence is for less than a year, your jail or prison time would be calculated by the local sheriff’s department. For a sentence of more than a year, the Virginia Department of Corrections would calculate your time and release date. Under the law, you are required to serve 85 percent of a non-mandatory felony sentence. How much of the 15 percent credit you receive would depend on the policies of the individual jail. Many in Virginia will give an inmate the full 15 percent credit while a few may not give as much credit.
Differences in How Jail Time Is Calculated
Different jails calculate a day or month of jail time differently, making it more difficult for you to be certain their calculations are accurate. For example, in Fairfax County, your time would be calculated using a calendar day. If you were serving jail time in Prince William, your time would be calculated based on a 24-hour day. Here is how these systems work. If you were incarcerated at 4:00 pm, at 12:00 midnight, you would have served the first day of your sentence in Fairfax County. However, in Prince William, you would not have served a full day until 4:00 pm the following day.
Do I Get Credit for Time Served?
In Virginia, you are entitled to credit for any time that you served for the crime you were convicted of while in the jurisdiction. If you were arrested in another jurisdiction, you would not get credit for the time period you were waiting for extradition. In many cases, the credit is calculated automatically. If not, a judge may give the credit for time served if you file a motion requesting that he do so.
What Should You Do If You Believe There Is an Error in Your Jail Time Calculations?
It is important that you understand how your time served in jail or prison is calculated to ensure that you do not spend more time incarcerated than required under your sentence. You also want to get the credit that you are entitled to for good behavior. If you have questions about your jail time or believe an error was made in calculating your time, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call our Fairfax office today at (703) 352-0100 to schedule a free consultation to learn how our criminal defense team can assist you.
What are common grounds to suppress evidence in criminal cases?
If you have been charged with committing a crime, you must raise all possible defenses you can and take any other helpful steps to fight the charges against you. You have too much at stake not to. One way to do this is to file a motion to suppress evidence. This can be an extremely useful strategy in your criminal defense. However, you cannot expect to successfully file these motions on your own. You will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. See how hiring an attorney can help if you are charged with a crime.
What Is a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
A motion to suppress evidence asks the judge not to allow certain evidence to be used against you by the prosecutor in your criminal case. In criminal cases, the police and prosecutors are not allowed to use evidence against you that was illegally obtained. This is known as the Exclusionary Rule and ensures that your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures and other constitutional rights are not violated.
Another helpful doctrine that also can result in the suppression of evidence is the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. Under this legal theory, evidence that would be otherwise admissible would be excluded if it was obtained through the violation of your constitutional rights. For example, a suspect may confess to a crime and tell the police where the murder weapon is. However, if the police did not inform him of his Miranda rights when required to or continued to question him after he asked for an attorney, the confession and the murder weapon may be suppressed and not allowed to be used against the suspect.
What Are Common Grounds to File a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
Even if you know you are guilty of the charges, you can file a motion to suppress evidence if you have proper grounds to do so. If the evidence is important enough to the police’s case against you, the charges against you may be dismissed. When the evidence is suppressed, but the case against you continues, you may have significantly weakened the prosecutor’s case, which could result in a favorable outcome down the road. Common grounds to file a motion to suppress include:
- Unlawful search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful search and seizure of your property and yourself. The police must have a valid search warrant or arrest warrant or probable cause to believe a crime was committed in order to stop you and search for evidence. If evidence was illegally obtained, it cannot be used against you.
- Failure to give Miranda warnings. When the police take you into custody, they are required to inform you of your Miranda rights. This includes informing you of your right to remain silent, that anything you say can be used against you, and that you have a right to an attorney. If the police fail to give you this warning, any statements or confession you made or other evidence the police obtained due to this failure could be suppressed.
- Chain of custody errors. Chain of custody refers to the proper procedures the police must use in handling pieces of evidence from the moment it is collected until it is used at trial. For example, if evidence is mislabeled or mixed with evidence in another case, it could lose its credibility and not be admissible in your criminal court hearings.
There are other reasons that your attorney may decide to file a motion to suppress evidence. Other common grounds for these motions include:
- Field sobriety tests were not administered according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards as required under the law.
- DUI or drug test evidence was compromised in its testing, handling, labeling, transport, or storage.
- Breathalyzer tests were inaccurate or the testing device was not maintained properly or malfunctioned.
- The search warrant was invalid or was not specific enough.
- Independent expert witness testimony raises reasonable doubts about a certain piece of evidence.
- Evidence was acquired in another unconstitutional fashion.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be trained to spot the constitutional grounds that can be used successfully file a motion to suppress evidence. These motions often involve complex constitutional issues, and you want an attorney who has experience filing and arguing them on your side. If you have been arrested, call our Fairfax law office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how our legal team can help build your defense and fight the charges you face.
What are my rights to discovery in a criminal case in Virginia?
If you have been charged with a crime, you have the right to certain kinds of evidence and other information before your scheduled trial. These materials are known as discovery. Each state has its own rules on what discovery must be provided by the prosecution and the defense. Unfortunately, Virginia’s rules on disclosing evidence favors the prosecutor. However, even with the limitations on what you can obtain through the discovery process, receiving and reviewing any information that you can obtain from the prosecutor is essential to building a strong defense.
What Are Your Rights to Discovery in Virginia?
Discovery is the process by which defendants find out about the prosecutor’s case against them. This information can be crucial for a criminal defense attorney to build a strong defense to the charges and to help the person charged with the crime decide whether entering into a plea agreement is in his interests. Discovery is an ongoing obligation. If you are a defendant in a criminal proceeding, the prosecution has a duty to provide you with the following:
- Any statement made by you
- Your prior criminal history
- Information on any expert witnesses the prosecution intends to use at trial
- The results of any scientific tests performed
- Books, papers, documents, photographs, and other tangible evidence that the prosecutor has and that is material to your case
- Exculpatory evidence
The prosecutor has no duty to disclose his strategies, legal theories, and notes regarding your criminal case. This is known as his work product and is not required to be provided to you. Discovery is now reciprocal, which means that you as a criminal defendant have obligations to disclose certain information to the prosecutor. In general, the information that you are required to share is similar to what the prosecutor must provide to you.
What Is Exculpatory Evidence?
Under the U.S. Constitution, the prosecutor is required to provide the defendant’s attorney with any exculpatory evidence in his possession or control. This is known as Brady information and is named after a famous U.S. Supreme Court case that established the requirement that the prosecution turn over exculpatory evidence. It is usually defined as evidence that tends to dispute the defendant’s guilt or would suggest a lesser punishment. In addition, the evidence does not have to strongly suggest innocence. It must be provided if it provides significant aid to the defendant’s case, including providing any doubt as to the defendant’s guilt.
In order to ensure that they receive this required information, criminal defense attorneys often formally request this evidence in a written request or motion early on in the criminal proceeding. In addition, the attorney may interview other parties that could be aware of other exculpatory evidence.
If there are Brady violations by the prosecutor, the court could overturn a conviction and set a new trial date. The judge is more likely to find a violation if the defense counsel made a written request for the information. This is one reason a thorough discovery is so important to a defendant’s defense.
Special Rules Regarding Discovery in Misdemeanor Cases
In district courts in Virginia, which is where misdemeanor criminal cases are heard, there are special rules regarding discovery. The prosecutor is only required to provide the following information:
- Any statement that the defendant has given to the police
- The defendant’s criminal record
Under this rule, criminal defense attorneys must make a formal request for this information at least 10 days before the trial date. In some instances, the prosecutor may not provide it until the morning of the trial.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the discovery process can be slightly different depending on the jurisdiction where a criminal case is being heard. Different prosecutors can have a different interpretation of what they are required to disclose. In addition, having an experienced criminal defense attorney who has experience working with the prosecutor can make the discovery process in your case go more smoothly.
At Greenspun Shapiro PC, our criminal defense attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience handling criminal cases for our clients, fighting for their rights, and working with prosecutors in many jurisdictions. If you are facing criminal charges, do not delay in scheduling your free consultation. Start an online chat today to schedule your appointment.
What long-term consequences could a criminal conviction have on my life?
Completing a criminal sentence successfully is a daunting task. It can require acceptance of the loss of freedoms that we take for granted. If you are sentenced to jail or prison, you literally lose your liberty and much of the control over your daily life. Even if you are sentenced to probation, you could have to abstain from alcohol or drug use, submit to random drug and alcohol tests, and lose your right to drive a vehicle for long periods of time. In addition, you could owe expensive court costs and fines that must be paid within a set time limit or you could risk being sentenced to prison. Unfortunately, the implications of a conviction can last long after you fulfill the requirements of your sentence.
What Are the Long-Term Consequences of a Criminal Conviction?
Whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense, the aftermath of a criminal conviction can filter into many important areas of your life. A major negative ramification is that you will have a permanent criminal record. Here are just some of the ways that a criminal conviction can change your life:
- Employment. Because the job market is often tight, employers can be selective about who they interview and hire. Having to list a criminal conviction on a job application can result in you not even being selected for an interview—at least for a good, well-paying job. Some convictions will exclude you from certain professions or stop you from getting the license you need to work in that profession. For example, a school district would not hire a person with a sex offender conviction.
- Loans. You may find it difficult to obtain a mortgage, auto loan, business loan, or other loan due to your criminal conviction. Some lenders will deny loan applications which list a criminal conviction, seeing this as impacting on a person’s character and ability to repay the loan or consider him a high-risk borrower.
- Student loans. While a conviction does not automatically eliminate your eligibility for financial aid for college, it could impact on your ability to qualify. If you were convicted of the possession or sale of illegal drugs, you could be ineligible for assistance.
- Landlords. Landlords often conduct background checks before approving a prospective tenant. A landlord could consider you a credit risk if you have a criminal record, especially if you were convicted of a felony. Your housing options could be even more limited if you have been convicted of a sexual offense.
- Sexual offender registry. If you are convicted of certain sexual offenses, you could be required to register on a state sexual offender register. This could limit where you can live and negatively impact on your ability to obtain a job. In addition, the public can search these registries and learn of your conviction, which may have occurred years ago.
- Voting. In some states, you could lose your right to vote, serve on a jury, or hold a public office if you are convicted of a felony.
- Immigration status. Your conviction could have serious implications for your immigration status. You could be denied the right to enter or remain in the United States, denied citizenship, and face deportation.
- Travel. Even a misdemeanor conviction can limit your ability to travel to other countries. Some, such as Canada, may refuse to admit a person into their country who has been convicted of certain misdemeanors or felonies.
- Security clearance. Being arrested or convicted of a crime may affect your security clearance—and your ability to do your job. A number of factors are considered in giving and renewing a security clearance, such as overall character, loyalty, honesty, and financial responsibility. A criminal conviction can negatively impact many of these factors and could result in the denial or revocation of a security clearance.
- Custody. A judge is required to consider the best interests of the children in awarding custody. Your character and ability to be a good parent could be called into question in a custody battle if you have been convicted of committing a crime.
If you have been charged with a crime, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you lessen the long-term ramifications of a criminal conviction. At Greenspun Shapiro PC, our criminal defense legal team understands how a criminal conviction can negatively impact your life and are committed to helping you build a strong defense to reduce the short-term and long-term consequences. To learn how we can help you, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.
What questions should I ask my criminal defense attorney to help understand how he is handling my case?
Being charged with any crime is a frightening experience, and the outcome could have long-term consequences on the rest of your life. When you decide to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is important that you have confidence in him and in how he is handling your criminal case. Throughout your case, you want to understand what your attorney is doing to help you so that you can assist him when possible, know why he is doing what he is doing, and ensure that he is providing you with the best possible defense.
Questions to Ask Your Criminal Defense Attorney to Understand How He Is Building Your Defense
You and your attorney are a team in developing your defense to the charges you face and in attempting to arrive at the best outcome you can realistically expect. Here are some questions that you should ask your attorney so that you understand what he is doing and why he is doing it:
- Has your attorney reviewed all discovery? A key component of your criminal defense is for your attorney to obtain all discovery in your criminal case and review it thoroughly. This includes the police report, witness statements, videos and audiotapes, photographs, and any other possibly relevant evidence. You should review any evidence with your attorney. You also need to know his evaluation of the evidence, including any important missing evidence and damaging evidence.
- What steps should you take? Often there are steps that you can take to help your defense and lessen your sentence. For example, there may be documents or other records that you could obtain that could help during your case or sentencing. Should you enroll in anger management, drug rehabilitation, or other classes? Find out from your attorney what you can do.
- What is your attorney’s strategy? It is critical that you understand what defenses your attorney plans to raise in your case and how strong he believes these defenses are. You also want to discuss his overall strategy in your case regarding building your defenses and the likelihood that your case will go to trial.
- What motions will your attorney file? Even if you know you are guilty of the crime that you are charged with committing, you may have procedural or constitutional defenses that could result in the case against you being dismissed or the charges reduced to a less serious offense. For example, if the police illegally obtained evidence being used against you, your attorney may file a motion to suppress the use of this evidence. You want to know what, if any, pre-trial motions your attorney plans to file and the likelihood that this will result in the charges being dismissed or damaging evidence being suppressed.
If you are facing criminal charges, call our Fairfax office today to schedule your free consultation to get your questions answered and learn how our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you to build a strong defense.
What factors could affect the outcome of my criminal case?
After being charged with committing a crime, you most likely want to know what is going to happen to you. Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer at the beginning of a criminal case. However, certain factors could influence the outcome of your criminal case. By understanding them, you can get a better sense of what to expect in your criminal case.
Factors That Could Determine What Happens in Your Criminal Case
You first need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who can investigate the facts of the charges against you and develop your defense. While he can give you some guidelines on possible outcomes, he cannot guarantee what will occur in your case. Also, you cannot assume that you will have the same result as another person charged with the same crime. However, these factors could influence the outcome of your case:
- Facts of your case. The facts surrounding the crime that you are charged with committing and the evidence that the prosecutor has against you will play a huge role in your case. If the state has strong witnesses, photographs, video, or other compelling evidence, or you made damaging admissions, the prosecutor will most likely take a harder approach in your case, making it harder to get the charges against you reduced to a lesser offense. Your defenses will play a role in the outcome as well. If the police obtained the evidence being used against you illegally, it might be suppressed, weakening the case against you. Also, you may have other strong defenses that may enable your attorney to work out a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor.
- Your criminal history. Your prior criminal history will have a significant role in what happens in your case. If you have no other convictions, the prosecutor may be more willing to reduce the charges or allow the charges to be dismissed after you meet certain conditions, such as completing a drug rehabilitation program. However, if you have had many prior convictions, the prosecutor will be less likely to work out a favorable plea agreement.
- Prosecutor. Different prosecutors—even in the same office—will approach their cases differently. Some prosecutors are more interested in quickly moving their cases to resolution without going to trial and will be easier to enter into a plea agreement with. Others will take a hard line approach and will be unwilling to dismiss or reduce the charges.
- Judge. The judge assigned to your case may also have a significant influence on what happens. Like prosecutors, different judges approach their criminal cases differently—even in the same city or county. They may have their own rules regarding the scheduling of criminal cases and typical sentences if a person pleads or is found guilty at trial. A judge must approve a plea agreement and is not required to do so. Therefore, the prosecutor often will not offer a plea agreement that he knows the judge assigned to the case would not approve.
- Your attorney. An important factor that you have control over is your lawyer. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney will significantly increase the likelihood of a favorable result. If he conducts a thorough investigation, hires necessary experts, and builds a strong defense, he may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with a lighter sentence. Also, if he has a good reputation with the prosecutors and judges in the court system where your case will be heard, this can affect his ability to negotiate a resolution of your case with the prosecutor.
At Greenspun Shapiro PC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys have years of experience in defending clients charged with a variety of crimes in many different locations. Our attorneys are committed to conducting a thorough investigation and aggressively raising your defenses to arrive at a satisfactory resolution of your criminal case. Schedule a consultation by calling our Fairfax office at 703-352-0100 or filling out our online form.
What can I do to help my criminal defense attorney with my criminal case?
Being charged with any crime—even a traffic offense or misdemeanor charge—can have serious consequences regarding the sentence you could face and your life in general. Even if you are guilty of the crime you are accused of committing, there may be defenses that could result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense. You need to do everything you can to minimize the potential negative outcomes of your arrest. How do you do this? One way is to do whatever you can to help your criminal defense attorney defend you.
Ways You Can Help Your Criminal Defense Attorney With Your Defense
Even when you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, you cannot expect him to successfully defend you without your cooperation and assistance. You and your attorney are a team, and you can do many things to help him or make his job harder by not following his advice or making mistakes. If you want a successful outcome in your case, follow these guidelines:
- Tell him your goals. As your attorney investigates your case and keeps you informed about possible outcomes in your case, be clear on your goals with him and what would be acceptable. For example, if you are willing to accept a plea agreement, you want to be certain that he knows this. Informing your attorney of your goals can help him shape your defense and to work toward achieving an outcome that you are willing to accept.
- Talk about cost. Hiring experts or an investigator and taking depositions costs money and time. While you want the best possible defense, you also need to be realistic about what you can afford and should communicate this to your lawyer.
- Be honest. You need to be 100 percent honest with your attorney if you want him to prepare the best defense for you. Answer his questions truthfully and thoroughly. Remember that attorney-client privilege protects your conversations with your attorney and that he has a duty to fight the charges whether or not he knows that you are guilty. By being honest with your lawyer, you avoid him discovering surprises that could hurt your defense and that could prevent him from giving you an honest evaluation of what could happen in your case.
- Do not talk to the police. The police are looking for statements or other information from you that they can use to strengthen their criminal case. If you have any information to disclose to the police or the prosecutor, you should discuss this with your attorney and let him convey it to them if he decides that it is in your best interests.
- Provide information promptly. Provide your attorney with the contact information for potential witnesses and any other helpful information for your defense promptly. An attorney needs this information to help build your case. Even if a witness does not want to testify, provide his information to your attorney and let him know this. Your attorney may decide to subpoena the person to testify at a hearing or your trial. Keep in mind that the earlier you provide helpful information to your attorney the more likely it is that he will have time to follow up on it and be better prepared for your hearings
- Stay off social media. You never want to post anything about your criminal case on social media. The prosecutor, his investigator, or the police will find it. If possible, stay off social media altogether until your criminal case is resolved.
- Stay in touch with your attorney. Your attorney needs to be able to contact you at all times, so you need to provide him with your current contact information. Take an active role in your case by regularly communicating with your attorney about the progress in your case. However, avoid contacting him on a daily basis.
- Be on time for appointments and court hearings. You want to be on time for any court hearings. A good way to do this is to plan to be there early.
- Dress appropriately and be respectful. When you attend court hearings, you want to make a good impression on the judge. You can do this by dressing appropriately as if you were going to a job interview and being respectful of the judge, court bailiff, and other court personnel.
- Follow your attorney’s advice. You hired your attorney to help defend you and give you advice on what to do. If you want to achieve the best possible outcome, you need to follow your attorney’s advice.
Have you been charged with a crime? Call our Fairfax office or start an online chat today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our trusted criminal defense attorneys to learn how the superior legal representation we provide to our clients can help you.