Prince William County Criminal Charges

When facing Prince William County criminal charges, you need to consider retaining the services of a qualified attorney. The courts take little time in leveraging every route possible against alleged offenders. However, charges could be fought, and defenses could be built to mitigate the circumstances of your case.

The Expected Process of a Prince William County Case after Charges Are Filed

After charges are filed against a person, the first thing a person could expect is to have a court date set. This would require either a summons or a warrant for an arrest to be issued. In many cases, an officer is not required to arrest someone to begin a case but may simply issue a summons to appear in court.

In other cases in which a warrant is required or an arrest is required to start the case, the first step that a person would face is an arraignment with a magistrate who would have the first opportunity to set a bond and establish a court date for the person who is arrested on the warrant. There are many cases where a magistrate either cannot or refuses to set a bond, in which case the person would have to go in front of a judge the next date that the court is open and possibly ask to have a bond motion filed before the court addresses the situation of bond.

What to Expect after a Misdemeanor Charge in Prince William County

People charged with a misdemeanor in Prince William County should expect to have their case set for trial in the general district court, meaning that when their case is set for court, they should expect to go forward with a trial on their scheduled court date. In many cases, it is necessary to continue a criminal case from the first court date and, often, more information and additional discovery are provided at the first court date that requires the case to be continued. Ultimately, Prince William County charges of misdemeanor cases are heard in the general district court, with some misdemeanors being filed in the circuit court and some misdemeanor appeals going to the circuit court.

Frequently Seen Misdemeanors in Prince William County Charges

The most frequent misdemeanor in Prince William County charges and probably in all of Virginia are reckless driving charges because any speed that is more than 20 miles over the speed limit or any speed that exceeds 80 miles an hour could constitute a reckless driving. Other misdemeanors that are common in Prince William County charges are possession of marijuana charges, assault charges, and shoplifting or petty larceny charges.

What to Expect after a Felony Charge

People who are charged with a felony in Prince William County should expect to have their case start in general district court. Like misdemeanors in Prince William County, felonies would generally begin in general district court. To resolve felony cases, they must go up to the circuit court, so someone who is charged with a felony in Prince William County should expect to have a longer process with more court appearances because a stage of their case in general district court is to determine if there is enough evidence to send their case up to the circuit court or if there is a more appropriate way to handle the case without sending it to the Prince William County circuit court.

Common Felonies in Prince William County

The most common felonies in Prince William County tend to be drug possession and shoplifting or larceny cases involving more than $500. Other common Prince William County criminal charges include burglary and robbery, malicious wounding and unlawful wounding, and fraud and credit card larceny.

Differences between a Misdemeanor and Felony Charge

The main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is that a felony could be punished by more than one year in jail and a misdemeanor is punished only by up to one year in jail. There are many more important and more severe consequences of a felony conviction. A felony conviction is permanent and has a number of collateral effects that are important for anyone considering a felony plea to consider.

A felony conviction has to be disclosed on all sorts of applications. A person who is convicted of a felony loses the right to vote, the right to possess a firearm, and the right to sit on a jury in Virginia. It is also more difficult to get certain types of employment and even certain types of housing or loans with a felony conviction. The legal difference between a felony and a misdemeanor may be the amount of jail time that is served, but the more important differences are the long-lasting effects of a felony outside of the direct punishment.

Top Three Pieces of Information when Facing a Criminal Charge in Prince William County?

The top three things for someone who is facing charges in Prince William County should consider is, first, there are two levels of court. Whether the case is general district court or in circuit court makes a big difference in how the case is approached. Secondly, even after charges are filed, an individual has the right to remain silent, and anything that people say, either on the phone, in jail or to any witness could be used against them when their case comes to trial. Third and most importantly is to seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in working in Prince William County criminal charges.

Charges of Conspiracy to Commit a Crime

Attempt to commit a crime and conspiracy to commit a crime are both incomplete offenses where a crime was not necessarily committed. There are many times when someone is charged with shoplifting and with conspiracy to commit shoplifting, but has yet to do the act. Additionally, just because the shoplifting was completed does not prevent them from being charged with a conspiracy. That is a little rarer because a conspiracy or an attempt is generally thought of as being an incomplete crime.

While these are two different charges that sound similar, they are distinct. An attempt to commit a crime is an incomplete commission of a crime where an attempt to commit a crime is a case where an individual has an intent to commit a particular crime and take some particular action in furtherance of that intent. A conspiracy, on the other hand, does not necessarily involve any direct action towards completing a goal but just requires that there be a goal that is agreed upon by two or more people.

In a case where two people sit down together and agree to commit a bank robbery, once the agreement is made, they are both guilty of a conspiracy. Once they take certain steps to go together and complete the bank robbery, they would be guilty of the attempted bank robbery even before they have actually carried out the robbery itself. There are many times where someone is charged with conspiracy in addition to being charged with the underlying offense but, typically, attempted conspiracies are charged as lesser offenses when a crime is not completed.

How Conspiracy Charges Impact a Person’s Case

This could impact the person’s case because if someone is charged with the underlying felony and also with the conspiracy to commit that felony–for example, when someone is charged with shoplifting and also with conspiracy to commit larceny because there are multiple people involved in the shoplifting–then the fact that they are charged with conspiracy could sometimes be used to enhance the sentence that they would face. Sometimes it could be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations to try to arrive at an outcome more favorable to the state.

Circumstances of Charges with Attempt/Conspiracy and the Underlying Offense

It is rare for someone to be charged with an attempt and an underlying offense because, typically, an attempt indicates that the underlying offense was not actually committed. However, it is possible for someone to be charged with an attempt and with an underlying offense in any number of circumstances because to be charged with an attempt merely means that there is enough evidence to charge someone that they intended to commit a particular crime and that they took some steps toward committing that crime.

Charging someone with the completion of an underlying offense requires different evidence to be shown and different factors to be proven, and whether a crime was completed does not prevent an attempt from being charged. In a case where two people have cooperated in committing a shooting, for example, but there is not enough evidence to convict either one of holding the weapon, both people would likely be charged with attempted crimes and the underlying crimes for the shooting itself.

There are many more circumstances in which a person can be charged with conspiracy and an underlying offense because a conspiracy is simply an agreement to commit an underlying offense. In virtually any case in which two people make an agreement and then actually complete a crime together, they could be charged with conspiracy to complete the crime and with the underlying offense. Those charges are quite common.

How Prosecutors Use These Crimes when Building and Litigating Cases

Prosecutors use these crimes when building and litigating cases quite often. There are quite a few procedural and evidentiary advantages that prosecutors can have when charging cases as a conspiracy. In the charging stage, it is common to add conspiracy charges. It is common when people are charged with conspiracy to have a wider bargaining range because they are facing additional time and more serious charges.

Many times, conspiracy charges are used as a way to increase the bargaining range and create a better outcome for the state, but conspiracy charges at trial might also be used to introduce statements of any of the co-conspirators, which could be very damaging to an individual who is pleading not guilty or is claiming innocence when they have statements from alleged co-conspirators that are incriminating of the coconspirators.

Mistakes to Avoid when Facing Criminal Charges of Any Kind

The biggest mistake that people make when facing criminal charges is talking too much. People talk about their case on the phone or talk about their case where it can be overheard or try to talk about their case with a prosecutor or police officer, and the only helpful person to talk about one’s case with is their attorney. The number one mistake people make is by talking too much about their case, especially on the telephone.

To avoid making these mistakes, the best thing to do when facing criminal charges is to hire an experienced attorney who is experienced in one’s locality. They should not talk about the facts of their case with anyone other than their attorney and should follow any other advice their attorney gives them.

Speak to a Loyal Defense Attorney Today

Facing Prince William County criminal charges is harrowing for anyone who has never experienced any form of the criminal justice system. Even for those more seasoned with how courts operate, it is still beneficial to have an attorney on your side to help you take proactive steps, vet your options, and work with the state to produce a more favorable outcome. Reach out to an attorney today.