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The process of filing a criminal case

If you have been arrested, it is important to know what happens if you are charged with a crime. If you are charged with a crime, you will have to establish a viable criminal defense to avoid serious consequences.

Once someone has been arrested, Virginia police will draw up an arrest report detailing the events surrounding your arrest. They will forward this report to the prosecutor, who will then decide whether to move forward with the case or drop the matter entirely. In order to determine whether to proceed, prosecutors will consider a number of factors including their personal views on right and wrong, office policies and societal impact.

If the prosecutor chooses to proceed, he can file a complaint with the trial court and set the charges, or he can present evidence to a grand jury and have the jury determine what charges should be brought, if any. A grand jury differs from a regular jury in many ways. One of the main differences is that grand juries focus solely on whether to file charges and do not determine whether the defendant is guilty.

Even if the grand jury chooses not to indict a defendant, the prosecutor can go against the grand jury's recommendation and elect to file charges anyway. If this occurs, there will be a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor will prove to the judge that there is enough evidence for a trial.

Prosecutors must file the initial charges typically within 2-3 days after the arrest. However, the charges the defendant faces may change as the process continues on. Once charges have been filed, you and your attorney can determine the best way to defend against these charges.

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens When You're Charged with a Crime," accessed on Aug. 16, 2016

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