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Last Updated on: 22nd October 2023, 05:21 pm
How to Handle a Virginia Beach Arrest Warrant or Summons
Getting an arrest warrant or summons in Virginia Beach can be a stressful and confusing experience. This article provides practical tips and guidance on what to do if you receive one.
Understanding the Difference
First, it’s important to understand the difference between an arrest warrant and a summons:
- Arrest Warrant – This is issued by a magistrate or judge when there is probable cause to believe you committed a crime. It authorizes police to arrest you and bring you before a magistrate for bail determination.
- Summons – This is issued instead of an arrest warrant for minor offenses. It orders you to appear in court on a certain date to answer the charges against you. Failure to appear can result in an arrest warrant.
What To Do If You Get an Arrest Warrant
If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, here are some steps to take:
- Don’t panic – Easier said than done, but try to stay calm. Being arrested on a warrant doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted.
- Don’t run – This will only make things worse. Police will catch up to you eventually.
- Turn yourself in – Hire a criminal defense lawyer, then follow their advice on when and where to turn yourself in. This shows responsibility.
- Get released on bail – At your bail hearing, your lawyer can argue for release without needing to post bail, if circumstances allow.
- Don’t discuss your case – Anything you say to police can be used against you, so invoke your right to remain silent.
- Start building your defense – Work with your lawyer to construct your defense strategy and gather favorable evidence.
- Weigh options for resolving the charges – In consultation with your attorney, decide whether to fight the charges at trial or try for a plea bargain.
What To Do If You Get a Summons
If you receive a summons instead of an arrest warrant, here’s the best course:
- Appear in court as required – The summons will tell you when and where to appear. Failure to appear can result in an arrest warrant.
- Hire a lawyer – Having an experienced criminal defense attorney represent you is critical. Don’t go it alone.
- Follow your lawyer’s advice – They will guide you through the process and help negotiate the best resolution.
- Consider options for resolving your case – Your lawyer may recommend fighting the charges at trial or attempting a plea bargain or diversion program. Trust their judgment.
- Be respectful in court – How you conduct yourself makes an impression on the judge. Dress neatly and don’t lose your temper.
Finding the Right Lawyer
Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer is extremely important. Here’s how to find one:
- Ask people you trust for referrals – Friends, family, coworkers or neighbors may know a good local lawyer.
- Search lawyer directories – Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo provide reviews and ratings for lawyers. Focus on criminal defense attorneys.
- Look for experience – Find lawyers who specialize in criminal defense and have represented many clients in your situation. Ask about their track record.
- Consider resources – Public defender offices have dedicated criminal defense attorneys, although their resources are limited.
- Meet for a consultation – Schedule consults with a few lawyers before deciding. Make sure you feel comfortable with them.
- Agree on fees upfront – Discuss what their representation will cost. Some offer flat fees or allow payment plans.
Common Defenses Against Criminal Charges
If you decide to fight your charges in court, there are various defenses your lawyer may use. Some common ones include:
- Lack of evidence – If the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”, you must be acquitted.
- Unlawful arrest – If police lacked probable cause or proper procedures weren’t followed in your arrest, evidence may be suppressed.
- Mistaken identity – You can claim you were misidentified and are innocent of the alleged crime.
- Self-defense – For assault and other charges, you may argue your actions were legally justified self-defense.
- Alibi – With witnesses and records, you can prove you were somewhere else when the crime occurred.
- Entrapment – You may have been illegally induced or coerced into committing the crime by police.
- Insanity – In rare cases, you can claim you weren’t criminally responsible due to mental incapacity.
Plea Bargaining Options
Rather than risk conviction at trial, your lawyer may advise negotiating a plea bargain, such as:
- Reduced charges – Plead guilty to a less serious charge in exchange for dropping more serious ones.
- Sentencing recommendations – Agree to plead guilty in return for prosecution recommending a lighter sentence.
- Pre-trial diversion – Charges can be dismissed after successfully completing a rehab or community service program.
- Alford plea – Plead guilty while asserting innocence in order to accept a favorable plea offer.
- Nolle prosequi – Prosecutor drops charges either temporarily or permanently.
Talk to your lawyer about whether any plea bargain options make sense for your specific charges and situation.
Consequences of a Conviction
If convicted of a crime, even a misdemeanor, you can face consequences including:
- Jail or prison time – Felonies carry sentences of over 12 months. Misdemeanors are under 12 months.
- Fines – Criminal fines can range from $100 to over $100,000 depending on the charge.
- Probation – May have to complete 6-36 months of supervised probation and meet conditions.
- Criminal record – Conviction creates a permanent criminal record visible to employers, landlords, etc.
- Loss of rights – Convicted felons lose gun ownership and voting rights. Some occupations prohibited.
- Immigration issues – Convictions can trigger deportation for non-citizens or prevent legal status.
- Civil lawsuits – Victims may sue for damages. Conviction can be used as evidence against you.
Getting an Arrest Record Expunged
If you are arrested but not convicted, or convicted but later acquitted, you may be able to have your arrest record expunged through a legal process. Here is how it works:
- Qualify – Expungement is limited to certain circumstances, like dismissed charges or acquittals. A lawyer can advise if you’re eligible.
- File a petition – Must submit a formal request to the court along with an expungement fee, typically $150-$200.
- Attend a hearing – Judge decides if your circumstances and criminal history qualify you for expungement.
- Obtain an order – If approved, the court issues an expungement order you submit to police and other agencies.
- Remove records – Police, courts, jails must destroy your arrest records. Background checks should no longer show it.
- Get advice – The expungement process varies by state. Consult a criminal defense lawyer to understand your rights.
Being arrested or summoned to court creates many uncertainties. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer guiding you, it becomes much less intimidating. Be smart and proactive, but also patient as the legal process unfolds. The ultimate goal is resolving your case in the most favorable way possible, given the circumstances.