Procedure for Criminal Cases in Fairfax County, Virginia
Fairfax County Courthouse is one of the busiest in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Courthouse includes the Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, General District Court, and Circuit Court. Read below on what to expect for criminal cases in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Fairfax County Criminal Process
Criminal Cases in Fairfax County, Virginia start either when you are arrested or given a summons to appear in court. A summons is simply a piece of paper that requires you to come to court to answer for your charge at a hearing in the courthouse. Your summons will have critical information such as officer’s name, your next court date, your charge, and location of the courthouse. The officer or trooper issuing the summons will ask you to sign the summons to acknowledge you received it. Typically you will receive summons without an arrest for certain types of misdemeanors such as reckless driving, disorderly conduct, trespass, and drunk in public.
Instead of receiving a summons, you may be arrested and taken in front of a magistrate official at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center–which located directly next to the courthouse. The magistrate is a judicial official who issues warrants for arrest and makes the initial determination about whether to release an arrested person pending trial and, if so, what conditions should be imposed upon them.
Depending on the nature of the charge, if you are someone who has not been in trouble before, has a steady job, and has ties to the area you may be released solely on your promise to appear at trial. If you have been in trouble before—especially if you have failed to appear for a court date before—or if the charge is more serious, then you may have to post a cash bond or submit to some other conditions before you will be released.
Finally, if you pose a threat to the community, if you are a flight risk, or if another jurisdiction has a detainer on you, then the magistrate may not release you. If that happens, then you can be released following a bond motion or you may remain in detention until your trial.
What happens after I am arrested or given a summons?
If you are arrested and released or given a summons, you will be given a date to return to court–usually just a few days following your arrest in Fairfax. Make sure to show up on that date and time. If you do not, there are several potential consequences. They include losing any bond you posted, an additional charge of Failure to Appear, and a bench warrant for your arrest.
What generally happens at a first appearance in a misdemeanor case?
Yours will not be the only case, as Fairfax County is one of the busiest jurisdictions in Virginia. You will be waiting with many others. If you have not hired an attorney at this point, you will have to wait in the courtroom until the judge calls your case. At that point, the judge will inform you of the charges and your right to an attorney.
The judge will then give you a court date at which to appear with your attorney. And often in Fairfax County, the judge will give you a separate date prior to the trial date at which time you need to notify the court of who your attorney will be. You should find an attorney right away, do not wait until a week before your next court date. You can also ask for a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one.
In order to get a court-appointed attorney, you must be facing charges for which you might receive a jail sentence and you must be unable to afford one. After you make your request, the judge will have you go to court services to fill out forms so that he or she can determine whether you qualify for a court appointed attorney. Note that if you are ultimately found guilty, you will have to repay your attorney fees to the state.
What if my case is a felony case?
Felony cases are more complex. If your case is a felony case, your first court date will usually be an arraignment, which will be similar to a first appearance on a misdemeanor.
After that you will have a preliminary hearing date. You should retain an attorney immediately upon being charged with a felony to allow your counsel sufficient time to prepare your defense.
If you do not waive the preliminary hearing, and you usually should not, the prosecutor will try to put on enough evidence for a judge to find “probable cause” that you committed the felony crime you are charged with. If the judge finds probable cause, the case will then go to a grand jury for indictment. If the grand jury returns an indictment as a “true bill,” then the case will proceed to Circuit Court.
After the case proceeds to a grand jury, and if an indictment is issued, then a trial date will be selected.
Schedule a Consultation
For criminal cases in Fairfax County, contact the office today to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney.