People may be charged with a misdemeanor offense by a summons to appear in court or by being arrested for a misdemeanor. If the person is arrested, then they will be brought before a magistrate to decide whether the person can be released on bail or has to go to the jail. If the person is held in the jail, then they will be brought before a judge, probably the following morning, for arraignment and to address the bond again. If they are still denied bond at that appearance, then they will have to have lawyer set bond hearing for them, or be held in the jail until the trial.
Arraignment for misdemeanors
At arraignment, the Judge will as whether the person intends to hire a lawyer or if they want a lawyer to be appointed to them. If the offense could cause a person to be incarcerated, and the person qualifies financially, then the Judge will appoint a lawyer to represent that person. If they do not qualify financially, then that person will have to find a lawyer on their own, and if they show up for trial without a lawyer, then they will be considered to have waived their right to an attorney. At the arraignment, the Judge will also set the date for trial.
Misdemeanor trials in Virginia
At the trial, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, or prosecutor, will put on their witnesses and present their evidence to the Judge. After the Commonwealth has finished with their evidence, the Defense can put on their evidence and testimony. The Commonwealth has the opportunity to put on additional evidence after that, called rebuttal testimony. After both sides are finished putting on evidence, then both sides can argue as to how the judge should decide the case. After the arguments are finished, the judge will rule as to whether the person is not guilty or guilty. If the person is found not guilty, then the process is over. If the person is found guilty, then the Judge will pronounce the sentence, sometimes after hearing more testimony and argument. Misdemeanors carry jail sentences of up to 12 months in jail, but in the jail while serving time for a misdemeanor a person will get one day of credit for each day they serve, so they will normally serve only one half of the time of the sentence.
Appeal of District Court Case
If a person is found guilty, they can also appeal the finding of guilt, and the sentencing, to the circuit court for a new trial with a different judge, which starts the process over again in the new court with no presumptions relating to the conviction in the lower court. A person an also ask for a jury trial on the appeal in the Circuit Court. Appealing a case sets aside the sentence so that does not have to be served, but the lower court judge may impose additional bond to secure that person’s release from the jail pending the appeal trial The time limit to appeal a District Court decision is 10 calendar days, including weekends and holidays. If the 10th day falls on a weekend or holiday, then the appeal can be filed through the next day that is not a weekend or holiday.