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Facing a worst-case scenario: Being charged with a crime

It sounds like a terrible nightmare for many people, and it can often seem like the worst-case scenario. Even if you are somewhat familiar with the criminal justice system from either side, being charged with a crime is frightening. It's not the worst-case scenario, though -- that would involve being convicted of the crime and sentenced for it. Protecting yourself from the worst that could happen in such a situation is one reason to seek immediate assistance from a criminal defense professional in Virginia.

Most of the time, criminal charges follow a series of steps. One thing many people don't realize is that being arrested doesn't automatically mean you are charged with a crime. Police cannot charge you; they have to present a report regarding the matter to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor then has the option to present the matter before a trial court or grand jury, depending on the specifics of the case, or drop the matter. Prosecutors often have great discretion in these matters, creating an option for negotiation.

Prosecutors don't usually have a lot of time to decide what charges they will file. Often, they are required to act within two to three days. That means your defense lawyer also has only a little time to act or help you make certain decisions. Once the charges are filed, though, the matter isn't over. You still have plenty of rights to a defense and can continue working with the prosecutor to negotiate changes in the charges if that is what might be best in your case.

Understanding how criminal charges work is just one step in understanding your options for defense. Working with a professional, you can learn more about what might be the right step to take in your unique case.

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens When You're Charged with a Crime," accessed Sep. 23, 2016

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