If a police officer believes that a Virginia resident has committed a crime, that officer may take that person into custody. After taking a person into custody, a police report will be sent to the prosecutor. The police report will contain a variety of details such as why and where a defendant was taken into custody. At this point, the prosecutor can elect to press charges, send the matter to a grand jury or decline to pursue the matter further.
There are many factors that could determine whether a case is brought to trial or not. For instance, a prosecutor who wants to look tough on crime could decide that it’s necessary to file charges against someone thought to have committed a violent offense. Alternatively, a prosecutor could determine that it’s not worth charging people with nonviolent offenses. This could be because that person doesn’t think it would serve the public interest or that it would be unfair to do so.
If felony charges are filed, a pretrial hearing may be called. At this hearing, the prosecutor must convince a judge that there is enough evidence to get a conviction. It may also be possible to ask a grand jury if there is enough evidence to continue with a criminal matter. Prosecutors generally prefer to seek a grand jury indictment instead of having a hearing.
A person who is charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony could face jail time or other negative consequences if convicted of the charge. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help an individual obtain a favorable outcome in his or her case. For instance, it might be possible to have evidence suppressed or to cast doubt on testimony used at trial in an effort to obtain an acquittal.