Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why you should consult with an attorney on even a minor charge -Collateral Consequences

The consequences of a misdemeanor may seem very little and easy to understand.  The possibility of jail time, a fine, etc.  This post continues on why you should consult with an attorney on a misdemeanor charge (see previous post for introduction).

While the penalties set out for misdemeanors may appear to be straight forward, there may be hidden consequences that you are unaware of, which an attorney would be able to advise you on.  For example, if you are convicted of a DUI, any subsequent DUI may come with MANDATORY jail time.  If you are convicted of petit larceny, a subsequent larceny may be a FELONY.  Due to these collateral consequences, it is important you understand the full impact of a conviction before going to court.  An attorney will be aware of these collateral consequences and should advise you as to those consequences.

Further, you should think about the impact a conviction may have on your job, school, career or any future plans you had.  For example, many companies that require you to drive frequently or provide a company car, may be seriously deterred if they see you have been convicted of a DUI.

Consulting with an attorney prior to court will help you see the big picture of the charge you are facing, not just the short term effects of a conviction. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why you should consult with an attorney on even a minor charge - Understanding the charge

I have found that many people do not fully understand the benefits of simply consulting with an attorney.  This post is directed at people who have been charged with misdemeanors.  When you are charged with a misdemeanor, a few things could happen: first, you could be facing jail time and found to be indigent, in which case the court will likely appoint you an attorney; second, you could be facing jail time but the court has not found you indigent; third, you could be facing jail time but the Commonwealth Attorney waives any possibility of jail time; and finally, the charge may be so minor that there is no possibility of jail time.  The latter three scenarios means the court does not appoint you a lawyer and you have to decide whether or not you will proceed pro se (without an attorney) or retain an attorney on your own.

Consulting with an attorney does not mean you have to retain that lawyer to represent you.  It simply can mean you meet with an attorney to decide whether or not you are capable of representing yourself or whether you should be represented by an attorney.  The next few blog posts will discuss why it is important that you consult with an attorney regarding these charges.

DUI, DUI 2nd, Refusal, Trespass, Assault, Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license.  These are just a few of the misdemeanor charges in Virginia.  While they many appear straight forward based on the name of the charge, there are a ton of intricacies within these charges.  Attorneys are trained to know these intricacies and/or be able to research and understand these intricacies to ensure that the legal system is working properly.  It is important to understand each element of the charge, as well as each possible defense, to determine whether or not you are guilty of the charge.  The first step to defending your rights after being charged with a misdemeanor is to fully understand the charge.

Consulting with an attorney will not only help YOU understand the charge, but, if you decide to retain that attorney, will provide you with someone who fully understands the charge and all of its intricacies. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Not happy with the result? Know your right to appeal

Your right to appeal is an important one to know and understand.  If you do not achieve your desired result in a court case, contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your specific rights to appeal.

In general, any case in general district court can be appealed to Circuit Court.  When this happens, the case is heard over again by a new judge, known as de novo review.  It is typically the same for cases coming up to Circuit Court from Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  Keep in mind the time limit on your right to appeal is short, typically ten days.

In the Circuit Court, you typically have a right to appeal to either the Court of Appeals of Virginia or the Supreme Court of Virginia, depending on the nature of your case.  Certain actions, such as a guilty plea on a criminal case, can result in a waiver of your right to appeal.

Be aware of your right to appeal and if you are not happy with the result of a court case, contact an attorney immediately to determine if you can appeal and how to go about that process.