Criminal Lawyer in Fairfax County
Being charged with a crime has so many implications in your life that getting through the court system is merely a step in this process. A criminal conviction can have a negative impact on getting student aid for school, getting into school, finding employment, immigration consequences, impact on your marriage or your visitation with your children, and the list goes on. And unlike a civil case where the prosecuting party (moving party) is a citizen, most times you are up against a police officer. Sworn to protect the community, police are given a lot of credibility by the court system in their testimony. As a result, as a Defendant, you can jump up and down yelling that their observations are not correct. A Judge, however, will have to decide which person they believe. Who do you think the Judge will side with?
The Letnick Law Firm, PLC has been in practice since 1978. We are in court every day and know the court system as if it is our job. We are familiar with the Judges, prosecutors, police officers, and court employees. We handle both misdemeanors and felony cases in Fairfax County and Prince William County. We limit ourselves to these two jurisdictions to better serve our clients.
All Lawyers are Not Equal
When choosing a criminal defense lawyer, it is important to feel comfortable with them. It is also important to avoid those that make promises. This is not only unethical, it is unfair to the client because there are just too many issues in any given criminal case to absolutely know an outcome prior to court. However, an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to assess a case and give a reasonable estimate as to a likely outcome.
We pride ourselves in ensuring that the client is prepared for court and we never sugarcoat. If the case outlook appears bleak, we will advise you of this and prepare you for it. We will also advise if a case looks good and give further instruction as to anything the client should do prior to your case date. We will always ensure that a client does not get hauled off to jail as a surprise. For example, in Fairfax County, most run-of-the-mill first offense trespassing charges do not result in jail time and we will not scare you into thinking otherwise. However, a first offense embezzlement case may result in some incarceration and we will advise you what steps you can take to give you the best chance of either beating the case or getting the smallest punishment possible. The key is preparation!
We handle Misdemeanor and Felony Cases in Fairfax County
The difference between Misdemeanor and Felony charges is like comparing applies to carrots. They are both crimes but are much different from one another. A misdemeanor is like a door ding while a felony is like a car wreck. In each type of case, we do our best to fix the damage and put you in the best position as possible when the case is over.
The Life of a Case in the Criminal Justice System
After an investigation is done, an arrest can be made. Sometimes the investigation takes a few minutes and, other times, it can takes weeks or months. The end result is an officer either handing you a summons or placing you in handcuffs. This is just the beginning of the life of your case.
The summons is a document that tells you what you are charged with, the date and time of the offense, and the court date for which you must appear. Most court dates given by the officer and those in which they have court on other matters. As a result, you will be in court with others that charged with a crime by the same police officer. In most jurisdictions, the summons you receive will be yellow in color. The court will be given a white summons and the officers is generally pink in color. Remember, signing the summons does not indicate that you are guilty. Rather, it is just a signature whereby you agree that you have seen the summons and know the court date. If you do not sign the summons the officer will generally have no choice but to place you in handcuffs and bring you before a magistrate.
A police officer cannot issue an arrest warrant. This document is issued by a magistrate. A magistrate is a state official that issues warrants based on a complaint by an individual or a police officer. For example, for a misdemeanor case, a citizen can fill out a criminal complaint and the magistrate will issue a warrant if they find probable cause that the crime was committed. However, a felony charge must be alleged by a police officer (since it is a much more serious offense).
It will be during the warrant issuance process that the magistrate will determine whether a person is eligible for release from custody pending trial. The more stable a person is in terms of employment, family, an address, and other evidence of ties to the community, the more likely they can be released on a promise to appear (personal recognizance). In other instances, a person may be released upon posting a cash bond or paying a surety (bondsman) to secure their appearance for trial. If the person is deemed dangerous or may not appear for trial, they will be held without bond. If the person is held without bond by the magistrate, the person will have the option to have the magistrate's decision reviewed by a judge in a bond hearing and, in many instances, have that decision overturned and the person released with conditions.
The arraignment is a court date in which the judge will state the charges against you and advise of your right to an attorney. It is at this time that you will be asked whether you wish to hire your own attorney or wish to be interviewed for court-appointed counsel in the event you are indigent. If you are found to be indigent, the court will appoint you an attorney to represent you in your case. If in custody, in many jurisdictions, the arraignment will also serve as a vehicle for the judge to review the magistrate's decision and determine whether to grant release. Many times, the presiding judge will simply set the trial date and appoint counsel if appropriate and a bond hearing can be scheduled at a later time once more information is secured about the person's employment and community stability.
A preliminary hearing is a creature of statute for felony charges (and any incidental misdemeanor charges are generally set with the felony charge). If the court finds sufficient evidence (or “probable case”) that the crime was committed, the case will be certified to hearing by the Grand Jury. Neither the Defendant nor the Defense Attorney is present for this hearing.
In many cases, charges can be resolved at the preliminary hearing. For example, if it is a weak case or the individual has a no or little criminal record, a prosecutor may agree to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for a guilty plea to the lesser charge. In other cases, upon review of the case by the prosecutor, they may move to dismiss the charge for a lack of evidence. Finally, a Judge can dismiss the charge they do not find probable cause that the crime was committed by the Defendant.
In misdemeanor cases where there are additional felony charges, there is no preliminary hearing. Rather, a trial can be held in General District Court if no agreement can be reached with the prosecutor to determine guilt or innocence. A Judge will either find the Defendant not guilty or guilty and, if so, determine an appropriate sentence. The Defendant has 10 days to note an appeal to the Circuit Court for a new trial (trial “de novo”) in front of a Circuit Court Judge or a Jury.
In felony cases either the Defendant or the Prosecutor can ask for a Jury. If so, guilt or innocence will be determined by the jury. If neither side requests a Jury, the Judge will determine guilt or innocence.