Facing criminal charges in Virginia, whether for a misdemeanor or felony, is an intimidating experience. You will have questions about what will happen, especially if your freedom is at stake. Our lawyers at Virginia Criminal Attorney understand how you feel and the questions running through your mind. We have helped thousands of clients like you and can also help you. You have several rights that protect you. The primary legal right is that you are considered innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the alleged crime. Our Staunton criminal attorney can help you create a solid defense for your charges, irrespective of the charges you face.

The Criminal Justice System In Staunton

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, abbreviated as DCJS, plans and implements initiatives and programs to improve the effectiveness and functioning of the criminal justice system. The DCJS conducts research and evaluations on criminal justice matters. It also creates short- and long-term criminal justice plans and regulates the private security industry in Virginia.

Virginia has different criminal court procedures. Your case's procedure depends on the magnitude and type of the crime you committed. Here is how the criminal court system works for misdemeanor and felony crimes:

The Arrest

Depending on the circumstances of your case, the police can initiate a criminal procedure by issuance of a summons or through an arrest. Judges or magistrates can also issue warrants of arrest. If law enforcement officers find you committing a crime, they could arrest you without a warrant.

The police could also arrest you if there is probable cause to believe that you committed a felony offense. If the police do not see you commit a misdemeanor, they cannot arrest you without a warrant, even if they suspect that you committed the crime. A Staunton criminal attorney can help you if you have been arrested for committing a crime in Virginia.

Booking Process

After an arrest, the police can take you to the police station for processing, fingerprinting, and verification. If you provide false details at this stage, you could face additional charges.

Posting Bail

You are entitled to bail after an arrest unless you are a flight risk and can pose a danger to the community. You should contact an attorney to represent you right after an arrest. Your Staunton criminal attorney will review the circumstances of your arrest to determine its lawfulness and if your rights were violated. You can post a cash bail, a surety bond, or even be released on your own recognizance.

First Court Appearance or Arraignment

The offense for which you face charges will be formally read during the arraignment hearing. During arraignment, the defendant is informed of their right to hire an attorney. You can tell the court whether you will waive or retain legal representation. The attorney will represent you at the arraignment if you have already hired an attorney. When an attorney represents you at the arraignment, he/she becomes the attorney of record with the court and must represent you during the trial.

The judge could set the court date at the arraignment or shortly after that. If you face misdemeanor charges, your next court date could be a trial or a preliminary hearing.

Preliminary Hearing

If you face felony charges, a preliminary hearing will likely occur. The hearing determines if there is probable cause to try you for the charges leveled against you. The judge will listen to the prosecutor's evidence during the hearing. If there is probable cause, your case could go to a grand jury. On the other hand, if there is no probable cause, your case will not proceed to the grand jury.

The grand jury will meet to decide if there is probable cause to maintain charges against you. If there is, your case could move from the general district court to the circuit court for trial. The grand jury will also hear the prosecutor's evidence at this stage. However, the grand jury will not determine your guilt or innocence.

The grand jury will issue an indictment or formal statement of charges against you if it maintains that probable cause exists. No indictment will occur if the grand jury decides that the evidence against you is insufficient and your charges could be dismissed.

The Court Trial

Your case could move to trial following the arraignment in misdemeanor cases or the indictment in felony cases. Misdemeanor cases are heard and tried in bench trials at the district court. Felony trials, on the other hand, qualify for a jury trial.

If you are facing felony charges and your case goes to a jury trial, the process will start with jury selection. The defense and the prosecution can question the jurors to decide whether they are impartial. The attorneys from both sides can remove jurors without cause. Similarly, the judge can remove jurors if they appear to have prior or a prejudiced opinion about the case.

The prosecution and the defense can present their evidence to the jury or judge. After the trial, the judge or jury will determine your guilt or innocence for the charges, and if you are found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence on you.

Filing Appeals

If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of your misdemeanor case in general district court, you have the right to appeal. Your case could be moved to a circuit court and heard as if it had never been tried. You can also appeal in circuit court if you are unsatisfied with the outcome of your felony case.

The Appellate court will review the record of legal proceedings from the lower court and check for technical errors that could have influenced the case's outcome. Your Staunton criminal attorney can help you navigate the process of appealing your case's outcome.

The Common Criminal Offenses In Staunton

The typical criminal offenses that our Staunton criminal lawyers handle include:

Murder And Homicide Offenses

When you kill someone, regardless of intent or other details surrounding the incident, the offense is considered homicide. Murder charges arise when you kill another person knowingly and on purpose or cause significant bodily injury that causes the victim to die later due to the injuries you inflicted on them.

Murder is categorized into three classes under Virginia law, as follows:

  • Capital murder.
  • First-degree murder.
  • Second-degree murder.

The most severe homicide is capital murder because it is planned and executed purposefully with ill intent. You could face the death penalty if you are guilty of capital murder. You could also face life imprisonment and a fine that does not exceed $100,000. The following are examples of capital murder crimes:

  • The murder of a minor below 14 years by a person aged 21 years or older.
  • Murder arising from a drug distribution offense.
  • Multiple murders.
  • Murder by a prisoner.
  • Murder of law enforcement officer.
  • Contract murder.

The following constitutes first-degree murder:

  • Killing someone else by starving, imprisonment, lying in wait, poisoning, or
  • By any deliberate, willful, and premeditated killing, or
  • Killing someone in the commission or attempt to commit robbery, abduction, burglary, rape, arson, or forcible sodomy.

If you are guilty of first-degree murder, you could face a jail term that does not exceed 20 years or life imprisonment. You could also face a fine that does not exceed $100,000.

Second-degree murder is any other murder that is not defined as capital or first-degree murder. You could face second-degree murder charges if you killed someone else intentionally with malice. This could include felony murder or murder that you commit when you are committing another felony, like carjacking or robbery. Accidental death could also be considered felony murder if it occurs while a felony is being committed. You could face an imprisonment of up to five to 40 years if you are guilty of second-degree murder. Other penalties can include:

  • A fine of up to $100,000.
  • Permanent criminal record.

You could also face stigma for being a convicted felon. When you have a felony conviction, securing a job and a house to rent can be challenging.


Rape is a severe offense under Virginia law. The crime of rape is outlined under Virginia Code 18.2-61. You could face rape charges if you have sexual intercourse with another person or cause someone else to have sex with you against their will. The elements of the offense include:

  • You had sexual intercourse with another person against their will.
  • You committed the offense by using force, intimidation, or threats.
  • The victim was a minor, 13 years or younger. This could be considered statutory rape, and the offense can be committed with or without force.
  • You committed the crime on the victim, who has mental or physical problems.

Rape is a felony offense. You could face severe penalties following a conviction for rape. You could face a jail term of up to five years to life imprisonment. If the victim is under 13 years old and you are three years older than the victim, the mandatory minimum sentence could increase to 25 years. You could face mandatory life imprisonment if you are an adult and you are convicted of raping a minor under the age of 13.

The judge can order you to register with the Virginia Sex Offender Registry for the rest of your life after a rape conviction. Sex offender registration could make it complicated for you to secure a job or rent a house, and it can affect the custody rights of your children.

Rape charges are complicated because the defendant and the victim could even be familiar with each other and stay in the same house. You could still face rape charges even if the victim is your spouse, but you will face different penalties.

If you have no prior rape charges and your spouse agrees to it, you could be placed on probation and ordered to undergo therapy or counseling. Your case could be dismissed if you complete probation. If you violated any probation condition, you could face similar punishment as someone who was convicted of raping a victim who is not their spouse.


Robbery is a common theft offense in Virginia. Virginia Code 18.2-58 defines it as the act of taking property or an item that is not yours by intimidation or force. You could do so to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

You could have strangled, suffocated, or used a deadly weapon on the victim to execute the crime. Robbery attracts harsh penalties, including life imprisonment, because of the severity of the offense. A robbery conviction could also remain on your criminal record for life. Robbers are highly disregarded in the community because of the offense that involves violence. It could also be hard for you to secure a job if you have been convicted of robbery.

If the prosecutor accuses you of robbery, he/she must prove the following elements:

  • You took the property from someone.
  • The property belonged to someone else.
  • You took the property from the owner’s presence.
  • You took the property against the owner’s will.
  • You used force, violence, or intimidation to take the property.

Robbery is categorized into the following classes:

  • First-degree robbery.
  • Second-degree robbery.

You could face first-degree robbery charges if you used extreme force against the victim or threatened the victim with a deadly weapon. You could face a jail term of ten years to life imprisonment, depending on the number of victims involved and your criminal history.

Second-degree robbery charges can apply if you subject the victim to fear of suffering bodily injury. You could also face similar charges if you used electric shock or drugs to disable the victim. Second-degree robbery attracts less severe punishment. You could face a jail term that does not exceed five years if you are guilty of second-degree robbery.

Why Choose Our Staunton Criminal Lawyer?

With so many criminal lawyers, why should you choose us to represent you?

  • We have a thorough understanding of the criminal process.
  • Our lawyers understand the arguments that work best when defending criminal charge.
  • We have earned the respect and trust of the local judges and prosecutors.
  • Our lawyers are responsive and will be available whenever you need them.
  • All our legal services are reasonably priced.

Your Staunton criminal lawyer will help you make an informed decision about whether to accept a plea bargain or go to trial. A lawyer understands the arguments and defenses that can work even if your case goes to trial.

You should contact a lawyer immediately after an arrest. Your lawyer will guide you to ensure you do not say certain things. Some statements could worsen your case when you go to trial or during hearings. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.

Our lawyers understand the common tricks that prosecutors use to facilitate a conviction. They also understand the methods that law enforcement officers employ to investigate offenses and how they can infringe on people's constitutional rights. We will ensure that you do nothing that will put you in a worse position.

Virginia Criminal Statute Of Limitations Laws

Like other states, Virginia establishes time limits for how soon after an arrest the prosecutor must file formal criminal charges. These laws are known as statutes of limitation and are meant to protect the integrity of evidence and maintain an efficient justice system. The statute of limitations for most misdemeanors is one year, including battery, minor assault, and certain theft charges. Unfortunately, Virginia does not have a time limit for most felonies. The following offenses do not have a time limit:

  • Robbery.
  • Manslaughter.
  • Kidnapping.
  • Burglary.
  • Murder.
  • Rape.
  • Aggravated assault and battery.

There are specific situations where the statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses extends beyond the limit of one year. Examples include:

  • Three to five years for misdemeanor fraud or theft.
  • Three to five years for misdemeanor wildlife and environmental offenses.
  • Two to five years of misdemeanor misconduct.
  • Two years for misdemeanor violations of the building code.

The statute of limitations does not necessarily start on the date the crime was committed or for the duration of time following the offense. It also does not run when the suspect is out of the state or living as a fugitive. If you commit a crime and flee from the state the same day, the statute of limitations starts the moment you re-enter the state.

Your case can be more complicated if the statute of limitations is extended. Usually, a strict time limit prevents the prosecutor from pressing criminal charges. Once the statute of limitations expires, the prosecutor can no longer file criminal charges against you.

However, the statute of limitation for certain offenses can be extended to enhance public safety and shield victims from subsequent harassment. This is crucial if the offense was obfuscated or the victim is too afraid to report the offense. The prosecutor could also seek additional time to file the charges against you if you avoid arrest for an offense.

Find a Staunton Criminal Attorney Near Me

You should hire a competent attorney to help you fight criminal charges. You should not try to represent yourself because the results could be detrimental. If you need a reliable criminal attorney, contact the Virginia Criminal Attorney. Our lawyers will help you create a solid defense to fight your charges. Contact us at 703-718-5533 to speak to one of our Staunton attorneys.