The Virginia Code criminalizes conduct ranging from misdemeanor trespass to residential burglaries to murder. An individual accused of violating one or more of these laws can encounter some structural disadvantages. These include well-trained law enforcement officers that possess a sophisticated grounding in criminal law and procedure, enabling them to build credible cases against a person circumstantially tied to a crime. Once a case reaches the court system, criminal defendants often face well-funded Commonwealth’s Attorney’s offices with prosecutors who only practice in their own city or county, providing them with critical familiarity with local court rules and procedures, as well as important intangible benefits, such as insights into local judges’ preferences and what “plays well” with local juries.
Despite these very real disadvantages, federal and Virginia law offer protections for the criminal defendant. Used properly, the law contains defenses available from the point of initial investigation through trial, and if necessary, appeals. Someone accused of a crime needs a knowledgeable attorney to represent them who will be aware of every potential means of defending against prosecution.
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