Frequently Asked Questions

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Can my criminal defense attorney be paid under a contingency agreement?

The short answer is no.  A contingency agreement is an agreement whereby the attorney will only be paid if the party he or she represents wins the case.  This is a common agreement in personal injury cases where the attorney will only be paid out of the plaintiff’s recovery.  However, contingency fee agreements are considered to be unethical in criminal cases and you will have to pay your attorney regardless of the outcome of your case.  Contact Gene Cox at coxfedlaw.com to discuss legal fees.  Gene Cox will work with you on fee arrangements and accepts all major credit cards.

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How much will my criminal defense lawyer charge?

Gene Cox usually charges a set fee for criminal law cases.  Criminal cases don’t always go all the way to a jury and Gene Cox negotiates fees for different stages of the process.  Also, the fee is based upon the  nature of the charges and the difficulty of the case.  In unusual cases, Gene Cox will charge an hourly fee.  Gene Cox accepts all major credit cards for the payment of legal fees.

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Besides legal fees, are there other fees that I have to pay in a criminal case?

Besides legal fees, clients in a criminal case generally have to pay for expenses such as copying, travel, and expert witness fees.  As a state-wide practice, Gene Cox does not charge for his travel in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Also, Gene Cox will discuss any unusual expenses, such as expert witness fees, with the client and obtain his or her approval before retaining an expert.  In some cases, the Commonwealth will pay for a defense expert.

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Can I represent myself in a criminal case?

You have a constitutional right to represent yourself in a criminal court. However, with the exception of minor traffic offenses, it is very unwise to represent yourself. If you are accused of a more serious offense, you should always obtain a lawyer to represent yourself.  You have probably heard of the old advice:  “a person who represents himself in a legal matter has a fool for a client.”  That saying is actually not far off the mark.  Even if a person has legal training, he or she should not represent himself or herself because everything that he or she says can be used against them.  Also, he or she cannot help but let personal feeling cloud their judgment.  Finally, it is almost impossible for an accused to negotiate a favorable outcome with the the government.  If you can afford to hire an attorney, do it!

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What does "pro se" mean in a criminal case?

In a criminal case, “pro se” refers to the accused’s right to represent his or herself in the trial.  The accused has a constitutional right to represent himself in a criminal case but is very unwise to do so.  Also, the accused can lose this right if she engages in misconduct and disrupts the trial.  Finally, the accused cannot later claim “ineffective assistance of counsel.”  Ineffective assistance of counsel refers to the constitutional right to be represented by a lawyer during trial.  By proceeding pro se, the accused gives up this argument.

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Why shouldn't I just use a public defender?

Public defenders are very good attorneys.  They are very experienced and genuinely care about their clients.  So, why shouldn’t I just use a free public defender?  First, you may not have a choice.  You cannot just decide to use a public defender.  You must be indigent, which means that you must prove to the judge that you cannot afford your own attorney. Even if you could be represented by a public defender, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who has the time and resources to zealously defend you.  Gene Cox, with years of federal prosecution and criminal defense experience, stands ready to protect your rights. Call today for a free consultation.

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What is the difference between a warrant and a summons?

A summons is an order for the defendant to show up at a specified time and place to answer a misdemeanor charge.  Generally a summons is issued by the arresting officer and the defendant is free to go unless there are other circumstances that would cause the arresting officer to detain him or her.  An arrest warrant is issued for more serious misdemeanors and felonies.  Depending on the circumstances involved, the person may be taken into custody.  A police officer may arrest a suspect without a warrant if certain conditions are met.

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Can I be arrested without a warrant?

A police officer in uniform, or showing a badge, may arrest any person without a warrant if the crime was committed in the officer’s presence.   Also, the officer may arrest without a warrant if he or she has probable cause to suspect the person of having committed a felony.   There are many other exceptions.  If you have been arrested, you need to immediately consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.  Gene Cox is a former federal prosecutor with years of criminal defense experience and offers a free consultation.

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Will I receive bail?

This question depends on the facts.  Under Virginia law, a person is entitled to bail unless there is probable cause to believe that he or she will not appear for a trial or hearing or his or her liberty will constitute an unreasonable danger to his or herself or to the public.  Generally, if the person has failed to appear before, it may be difficult to obtain bail.  Also, there is a presumption that the person is a danger to the public if he or she is accused of committing a detailed list of crimes.  This presumption can be rebutted by the defendant.  You should immediately retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can make this argument on your behalf.  Gene Cox is a former federal prosecutor with years of criminal defense attorney.  Contact Gene Cox for a free consultation.

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How can I get bail?

You can ask for a bail hearing.  Your attorney should schedule a bail hearing with the judge and will make arguments on your behalf.  Even if you have been accused of committing one of the crimes that are listed pertaining to bail denial, the presumption can be rebutted.  Your attorney can argue that you should be granted bail under the particular circumstances of your case.  You should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you in your bail hearing.

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What information can I get about my case from the prosecutor?

In Virginia, this answer depends on where you are located.  The practice differs from place to place.  There are certain basic things that you are entitled to both under Virginia law and the U.S. Constitution.  There are rules for both the District Court and the Circuit Court about basic information that you are entitled to such as any statements that you made to law enforcement and your prior criminal record.  Under the U.S. Constitution, you are also entitled to evidence that would show that did not commit the crime.

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What happens immediately after I am arrested?

No matter what you are arrested for in Virginia, you are first taken before a judicial officer or magistrate. The magistrate then determines whether you should be released or not. Also, if you have been arrested without a warrant, the magistrate determines whether this is probable cause to issue an arrest warrant.

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When will I see a judge after am I arrested?

After you have been brought arrested, you are brought before a judge to determine whether you are indigent and entitled to the appointment of a counsel.  If the charge is a misdemeanor, a district court judge tries the case (or sets it later for trial).  If the offense is a felony, the judge either conducts the preliminary hearing or schedules the preliminary hearing.

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What happens at a preliminary hearing?

The accused is entitled to be represented by counsel at the hearing.  The judge examines witnesses under oath for or against the accused to determine whether there is sufficient cause to charge the accused.  After the hearing, the felony charge is either sent to a grand jury, reduced to a misdemeanor, or dismissed.

A preliminary hearing is not a trial. In most cases, the defense uses the preliminary hearing as a means for discovery of the prosecution evidence. For that reason, it usually does not make sense for the defense to call witnesses or present evidence.  Don’t get too nervous if your defense counsel is not too aggressive.  However, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side in the preliminary hearing.  Gene Cox of coxfedlaw.com is a retired federal prosecutor and offers a free consultation.

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What does a grand jury in Virginia do?

The Commonwealth’s Attorney certifies felony charges for deliberation in the form of a bill of indictment.  The Grand Jury considers these bills of indictment and determines whether there is probable cause to indict.  If the Grand Jury concludes there is probably cause to indict, it returns what is called a “True Bill.”  In this case, the next step is the arraignment.

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What is an arraignment in Virginia?

In Virginia, an arraignment is held in Circuit Court after a True Bill is returned by the Grand Jury.  In an arraignment, the charge is read and the defendant is asked for a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere.  If the defendant pleads not guilty or refuses to enter a plea, the case is set for trial.  If the defendant pleads guilty, the determines punishment.

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Will I be tried by a judge or jury in Virginia?

Each person has a constitutional right to be tried by a jury for a felony in Virginia. If you choose, and the Commonwealth Attorney agrees, you can be tried by a judge.  However, if the Commonwealth Attorney objects to your request for a bench trial (trial by judge), you will be tried by a jury.

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Who decides my punishment if I am found guilty?

If you have been found guilty by a jury, your punishment will also be decided by the jury.  If your trial was by a judge, and he or she finds you guilty, your punishment will be decided by the judge.

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What happens after I am found guilty by a judge or jury?

After you are found guilty by a judge or jury, a separate sentencing hearing is held by the judge or jury. Before pronouncing sentence, the accused has the opportunity to make a statement and present a pre-sentence report.  After sentencing, and unless he or she is prohibited by statute, the judge may place the accused on probation or suspend the sentence in whole or in part.

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Can the guilty verdict be set aside by the judge?

Yes, the accused has 21 days after entry of the final order to make a motion to set aside the verdict.  The judge may set aside the verdict of guilty because of errors made in the trial or because the Commonwealth Attorney failed to present enough evidence to support the verdict.

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