Virginia Beach police arrested a suspect in a stabbing case recently. It illustrates a typical incident, and its reported circumstances pose some of the questions that criminal defense counsel must ask in initiating the defense of such an accused individual. The arrest occurred somewhere near the S. Plaza Trail after police heard a man screaming in a parking lot behind the Blarneystone Pub.
Military people know the drill of reciting name, rank and serial number if captured by the enemy. It's part of their training about complying with the rules of war. In the civilian world, the closest analogy to that might be if you are suspected of a crime and face questioning by the police.
Many different elements can converge to create significant legal troubles for individuals. Imagine for a moment that you are an long-haul trucker from Virginia stopped for a safety check by authorities in another state. These kinds of safety blitzes are common and happen more often this time of year.
Back in January 2016, we wrote a post to clarify the importance of the state's burden to provide "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" to obtain a criminal conviction. As that post observed, whether the burden is sufficiently met is a subjective decision made by the jury. It's futile to attempt to second-guess the outcome as an outsider.
"Virginia is for lovers." Have you heard that phrase before? It's been the tagline for Virginia tourism for so long that many in the advertising world say it has reached icon status. It certainly has attracted many visitors over the decades. Included among them are many young people who have chosen to come to the Commonwealth from other states to study at one of the hundreds of institutions of higher learning.
A student studying at William and Mary in Virginia was arrested on Feb. 27 for allegedly assaulting and abducting another student in two separate episodes. According to a spokesperson for the school, the accused person was 21 years old and the alleged victim was the same student for both incidents.
If you have been charged with a crime, the entire process can be extremely intimidating and frightening, particularly if this is your first offense. Even the smallest mistake can land you in a world of trouble, and affect your entire future before you realize what you are saying. Magazines and newspapers are full of stories where those accused have given false confessions and been convicted of crimes they did not commit. Before you are in this situation, you may not even consider ever giving a false confession, but it is a real problem you should be aware of before you deal with it.
There is reality and then there is what you can prove. In a Virginia criminal case, the distinction between the two things is paramount. There may be no question that a crime has been committed. Whether a judge or jury concludes the person charged with a crime is guilty or not, however, often comes down to what evidence is allowed and whose narrative they believe. The defense will offer its explanation of events. Prosecutors will offer theirs, bolstered by the testimony of the police.
When we are young, we rarely think ahead about the consequences of our actions. We live in the moment, and the resulting experiences help shape who we will be as adults. Some experiences, however, can have damaging and lifelong consequences.
The criminal justice system does not work quite the way we see it portrayed in TV dramas. If those shows were believable, every case that reached the court in Virginia would take about an hour at best or a last a single TV season at worst.