Sex Crimes Cases In Virginia
The maximum punishments for sex crimes in Virginia are quite high, and often include mandatory minimum sentences. Common sex offenses include: rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, indecent liberties, indecent exposure, prostitution, and carnal knowledge. It is critical that anyone facing sex crimes charges consult with an experienced criminal attorney as early in the process as possible.
If you are being investigated or have already been charged with a sex crime, contact our experienced sex crimes defense attorneys immediately. You absolutely should not talk with police or investigators. Nothing you have to say to them could possibly outweigh the risks involved. The police are under no obligation to tell you the truth, either—you simply cannot trust anything they say to you. Your best move, without question, is to retain an experienced attorney to speak and act on your behalf.
The Process For Sex Crimes Cases
An experienced attorney can fight for you through every step of the process, which in Virginia includes:
Obtaining Bond. In Virginia, there is generally a presumption against bond for defendants charged with felony sex crimes, including Rape, Aggravated Sexual Battery, Carnal Knowledge, and Indecent Liberties with a Minor. To obtain bond for a defendant charged with such a crime, a defense lawyer must file and argue a bond motion before the court. At the bond motion hearing, the attorney must present evidence overcoming the presumption that the defendant is a flight or public safety risk. If a defendant charged with a felony sex crime wishes to obtain bond, legal representation is usually necessary, since the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office will likely oppose bond.
Preliminary Hearing. A defendant who has been charged with a felony sex offense but has not yet been indicted by a Grand Jury has a statutory right to appear for a preliminary hearing prior to formal indictment of the charges. This hearing, used to determine whether there is probable cause to support charging the defendant with the felony sex offense, requires representation from an aggressive defense attorney experienced in handling sex crimes cases. Although the defendant does not enter a plea to the charges, there are a number of tactical decisions made at the preliminary hearing which may affect issues such as bond, a potential plea offer, or progression of the matter to the Circuit Court for a jury trial.
Discovery. Discovery generally refers to the process of finding out what evidence the government may have to use against the defendant. Discovery requests filed on behalf of a criminal defendant charged with a misdemeanor or felony sex offense are very difficult, since discovery is limited. In other words, Virginia procedural law prevents defense attorneys from requesting certain information from the prosecutors such as: 1) witness lists identifying who the Commonwealth will call as a witness against the defendant charged with a sex offense, 2) statements of the alleged victim made to law enforcement or to the prosecutors and 3) some medical reports related to the sexual contact between the alleged victim and the criminal defendant. As a result, a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or felony sex offense will need an attorney who is (a) familiar with the rules of discovery and (b) able to obtain information from other sources.
Use of Experts. Our criminal lawyers have good relationships with psychologists and private investigators throughout Virginia, who are invaluable in defending against sex crimes charges. Use of such experts is sometimes required in cases where the alleged victim is a child or the defense is not able to obtain needed information through the limited discovery process in Virginia.
Representation at Trial. For a defendant charged with a felony sex offense, trial will likely be by jury. Prosecutors, who are permitted to elect a jury trial even when the defendant requests the case be decided by a judge, will usually request a jury. The jury will hear the evidence and determine guilt or innocence. Representation by an attorney with specific experience in sex crimes cases is essential.
Sentencing. Even the best criminal lawyer cannot guarantee success at trial 100% of the time. Following conviction after a trial or acceptance of a plea bargain, a defendant found guilty of a sex crime will face a sentencing hearing. A good defense attorney, who is intimately familiar with the Virginia sentencing guidelines, is invaluable at this stage as well. Aggressive representation will be necessary at sentencing, when the court will hear detailed information about the criminal defendant’s prior record, detailed information about the defendant’s social history and information about the crime itself. At this stage, an experienced attorney can present mitigating evidence concerning the crime, and call witnesses such as the defendant’s family or relevant experts, for the judge to hear prior to deciding the defendant’s punishment. If the defendant is tried and sentenced by a jury, the defense attorney can present this evidence to the jury.