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  • Criminal Defense FAQ

  • WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I'M ARRESTED? - If you are arrested you should invoke your right to remain silent. If you voluntarily provide the police with information, it can be used against you at trial. The best thing that you can do is contact an attorney at Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC, who can begin working to defend your case.

    WHAT DOES "INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY" ACTUALLY MEAN? - You are considered innocent even after criminal charges are filed against you. You remain innocent under the law while your case is pending and upon acquittal. You are only considered guilty if you either plead guilty to a judge or are found guilty in a jury trial.

    WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MISDEMEANOR & FELONY? - Misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 fine. Felonies are more serious crimes and are punishable by at least one year of imprisonment and up to life in prison or the death penalty. In Virginia, the harshness of the sentence corresponds to the severity of the crime.

    WHAT IS AN ARRAIGNMENT? - An arraignment is a court proceeding where you are formally informed of the charges that have been brought against you. Generally, an arraignment will occur within a few hours or a few days following your arrest.

    IF I HIRE YOU, IS EVERYTHING CONFIDENTIAL? - Yes. Any information that you share with our office is protected under the attorney-client privilege.

    WHAT IS A PLEA OFFER? - In many cases, a prosecutor will offer a "plea bargain" or a reduced penalty in exchange for a guilty plea. There are numerous pros and cons to accepting a plea bargain that should be discussed with an experienced criminal defense attorney. However, the decision to accept a plea offer is always up to the defendant in the case.

    CAN I GET A LAWYER FOR A BOND HEARING ONLY? - Yes, in certain situations. However, many judges in Virginia require an attorney to remain for the entire case and many attorneys prefer to handle your case from beginning to end. It is best to discuss this in greater detail with the attorney you plan to retain. Call Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC at 540-657-0111 to discuss your situation.

    DO YOU GUARANTEE THAT MY CASE WILL BE SUCCESSFUL? - There are absolutely no guarantees in the courtroom. Any attorney that will promise to get you millions of dollars and that your case is an easy one is not acting ethically. Rethink your plans of retaining that lawyer's services. We do not guarantee but we will promise to put all of our experience, knowledge and commitment into your case, so that you can rest assured.

    CAN I APPEAL A CASE IF I AM NOT SATISFIED WITH THE OUTCOME? - Yes. You always have the right to appeal a court decision that you are unsatisfied with to a higher court for review.

    I'M BEING INVESTIGATED, BUT HAVEN'T BEEN CHARGED YET. WHAT SHOULD I DO? - The earlier you speak with an attorney, the better chance you have of us being able to intervene and work toward having a charge reduced or dismissed before charges are filed. At Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC, we offer free initial consultations for criminal matters, so now is the time to call if you are being investigated for a crime.

    HOW CAN I CONTEST A TRAFFIC TICKET IF I'M UNABLE TO APPEAR IN COURT? - For residents of Stafford County, Spotsylvania County & Prince William County, appearing in court to contest a traffic citation is generally inconvenient. However, for out-of-state residents and members of the military, physically appearing in court to contest a citation may not be an option. Military members who will be out at sea or deployed on a mission on the date of their scheduled court appearance may be tempted to simply remit payment for the traffic violation to "get it taken care of" quickly. This, however, may not be the best option.If you pay a ticket without disputing it, you are pleading guilty to the offense. This may cause points to be added to your driving record and could lead to the suspension of your driver's license. In some cases, certain traffic offenses must also be reported to the military. You can avoid the expenses, monetary and otherwise, that are associated with pleading guilty to a traffic ticket by successfully defending the ticket in court. If you are unable to personally appear for your court date, you may be able to have a local attorney appear on your behalf to dispute your citation. The first thing that you should do after receiving a traffic ticket is contact our law firm so we can explain the traffic laws and court rules for the Northern Virginia area. At Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC, we will be able to advise you as to whether or not he can appear in court without you being present. If you are facing charges that are more serious or complex than a basic traffic violation, our lawyers will work with you, advise you of your rights and responsibilities, and guide you through the legal system to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

    IF THE POLICE FAIL TO "READ MY RIGHTS", WILL MY CASE BE DISMISSED? - No. Miranda warnings exist to help prevent unwanted police interrogations. As a general rule, the police are supposed to advise you of you right to remain silent and to obtain an attorney at the time of your arrest. If they fail to read Miranda rights to you, any incriminating information that you provide following your arrest may be suppressed. However, this omission alone will not automatically lead to having your case dismissed.

    DO I NEED TO MAKE A FORMAL REQUEST TO THE COURT TO SET A BOND AMOUNT? - If your charges are serious, you may need to submit a formal request to the court to schedule a bond hearing. Similarly, if your bond has been set at an unreasonably high amount, you can request a bail reduction from the court.

    WHAT IS THE "LEGAL LIMIT" FOR A DUI IN VIRGINIA? - If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher, you are presumed to be driving under the influence of alcohol and can be charged with DUI.

    CAN I BE ARRESTED AND CHARGED WITH A DUI IF MY BAC WAS BELOW .08? - Yes. If you were unable to operate your motor vehicle safely due to the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could be arrested for a DUI/DWI even if your BAC was lower than the presumptive legal limit.

    WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR A DUI IN VIRGINIA? - A DUI/DWI is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. This means that the maximum punishment for a first time offense is a $2,500 fine and/or one year in jail with the loss of driving privileges for one year.The punishment for multiple DUI offenses depends upon the length of time between your offenses and your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of your arrest. Generally, your license will be suspended for 3 years if you are convicted of a second DUI offense. You may also be required to serve jail time for subsequent offenses.

    WHAT IS A RESTRICTED LICENSE? HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M ELIGIBLE FOR ONE? - The court has discretion to issue a restricted license that will allow you to drive to work, school or doctor visits. Whether you are eligible to receive a restricted license depends on the number of offenses that you have had and the circumstances surrounding your case.

    WHAT IS THE VIRGINIA ALCOHOL SAFETY ACTION PROGRAM? - VASAP is a mandatory treatment and education program that must be completed if you are found guilty of a DUI/DWI offense.

    AM I REQUIRED TO TAKE A BREATH OR BLOOD TEST IF I'M ARRESTED? - Yes. By driving a vehicle on Virginia public roadways you have provided "implied consent" to have your breath or blood tested for drugs and alcohol.

    CAN I REPRESENT MYSELF IN COURT WITHOUT A LAWYER? - Yes. You have the right to represent yourself. However, DUI/DWI cases can be complex. When working with Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC, we can ensure that your rights are protected by making sure that the prosecutor abides by Virginia's substantive, evidentiary and procedural rules.

    WHY SHOULD I FIGHT A TRAFFIC TICKET? ISN'T IT EASIER TO JUST PAY IT? - If you plead guilty to a traffic offense by paying the fine upfront, you may receive demerit points on your driving record. An attorney who is experienced in traffic cases may be able to get your ticket dismissed or have your fines reduced in some situations.

    WHAT ARE "DEMERIT POINTS"? - demerit points are issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for each traffic offense that you are found guilty of committing. There are different point values for each traffic offense.

    WILL MY LICENSE BE SUSPENDED IF I ACCUMULATE TOO MANY DEMERIT POINTS? - Yes. Virginia drivers are issued one positive "point" for each year that they maintain a clean driving record up to five years. If you have more demerit points than positive points, your license could be suspended.

    HOW LIKELY AM I TO RECEIVE JAIL TIME FOR A RECKLESS DRIVING CHARGE? - The answer to this is simple. It depends. Factors such as the actual facts of your case along with your driving record weigh heavily on this. Jail time is unlikely if your driving record was previously clean. In Virginia, the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail for a reckless driving offense, but this is typically only used in situations where there are additional charges.

    HOW CAN I GET A COPY OF MY VIRGINIA DRIVING RECORD? - You can request a copy of your driving record in person at a DMV office or by sending a letter containing your name, address, Social Security number and the reason for the request to the following address: VA Department of Motor Vehicles Attention: Vehicle (Driver) Records Work Center P.O. Box 27412 Richmond, VA 23269. There is an $8.00 fee required for a standard copy and a $13 fee required for a certified copy of your driving record.

    IF MY DRIVER'S LICENSE IS SUSPENDED IN VIRGINIA, CAN I GET A LICENSE IN ANOTHER STATE? - No. Most states have signed up with the National Driver Register. This organization maintains information on all licensed drivers in a computer database that is accessible by the department of motor vehicles in all states.

    I HAVE FAILED MY BREATHALYZER TEST. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? - All cases are different. An attorney that can properly analyze the facts in your case and sequence of events could get you a "not-guilty" verdict, or at least, have the charges reduced. The reduction of charges can be the difference between the jail time and facing consequences that are manageable. There are a few legal defenses that do not consider the breathalyzer result. Such examples would be an officer that did not have "reasonable suspicion" to stop your car or "probable cause" to arrest you. In such instances the breath result is not considered by the Court in its ruling.

    WHEN SHOULD AN ATTORNEY BE PRESENT WITH ME? - Make the arrangements to have an attorney present as early as possible. Do not say anything or make any statements until your attorney's arrival regardless of whether you bear responsibility for a crime or not. Request a court appointed attorney to speak on your behalf until you can contact your lawyer in case you are unable to get in touch with him. So, an attorney should be present whenever you are giving statements, talking to officials, and when you are in court.

    I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO SIGN FORMS BY POLICE OFFICERS - WHAT SHOULD I DO? - Do not sign anything except to acknowledge the ticket, court date, or promise to appear.  Other than that, make sure not to sign anything without your attorney! Let your attorney handle the papers. Moreover, according to the 5th amendment you are not obligated to make any statements. Talk to your attorney first.

    IF I'M GUILTY OF A TRAFFIC CHARGE, SHOULDN'T I PLEAD GUILTY AND PAY THE FINE? - Probably not; since traffic charges are criminal in nature, they must be proven in accordance with a strict statutory interpretation. Many times there are missing elements of proof that can be helpful to our office in obtaining a conviction upon a less serious charge (such as non-moving violation) or even a dismissal.

    WHAT DO I DO NEXT IF CHARGED WITH A CRIME? - At Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC in Stafford & Fredericksburg, VA, we are recognized for the level of superior legal services we provide with criminal matters. If charged with a crime, your very next step should be to call our law firm at 540-657-0111 to discuss your situation.