When you're accused of a crime, it's in your best interests to take steps to defend yourself. If you don't, you could face unfair treatment, a bias in court or just make mistakes that hurt your case. Many people don't realize the value that a criminal defense attorney has, but it's important that you do.
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.
Criminal defendants in Virginia and across the country often have to deal with the effects of racial bias in the courtroom. While outright bias and racist remarks may be far less common than they were in the past, implicit bias and stereotypes continue to play a role in bail decisions, pre-trial detention, sentencing and other serious issues. One of the key factors distinguishing implicit bias is that it is unspoken and unrecognized rather than a conscious act of racial discrimination.
When people in Virginia are charged but not yet convicted of a crime, their mugshots may still appear online. These might stay online even if the person is later found innocent or for years after people have completed sentences and moved on with their lives. However, some news organizations are making the decision to stop posting these.
When a person is arrested in Virginia and needs a criminal defense, it is important to think about how that defense can be presented based on the prosecution's case. This is true whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. One aspect of a court case that could be called into question is psychology tests.
People in Virginia facing criminal charges or investigations may contend with overzealous police investigators who exceed the terms of their search warrants or attempt to badger suspects into a dubious confession. In one California wrongful death case, a widow is suing police after her husband committed suicide while under investigation for a murder committed in 1984. During the trial, a retired detective admitted that some of the evidence retained by the police in the investigation had no connection to the search warrant or probative value in the case, including boxes of personal photos and family items.
Trials for those accused of a crime in Virginia and across the United States often rely on the testimony of witnesses. Witnesses are often asked to identify individuals who they believe committed a crime. Unfortunately, witness identification can be unreliable. In 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ordered a task force to look into witness reliability.
Those who are charged with a crime in Virginia and throughout the country must be read their rights before being taken into custody. Individuals have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and the right to know that anything that they say or do can be used against them in court. These are generally referred to as Miranda rights, and they were the result of a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Miranda v. Arizona.
In Virginia and across the country, many people have urged changes to the criminal justice system to reduce the number of people incarcerated. In particular, drug offenses have led to long-term imprisonment and felony criminal records for many people who face serious obstacles in reintegrating into society. Despite the growing movement for cannabis legalization and the reduction of drug possession sentences, some are still advocating for higher sentences for people convicted of drug dealing and distribution.
State and federal prisons in Virginia and around the country have a disproportionately high number of African American inmates, but racial disparities in correctional facilities are less pronounced today than they were in previous decades. In 2000, the chance of being sent to a state prison for violating drug laws was 15 times higher for African Americans than it was for whites. By 2016, that figure had fallen to five times higher.