Westmoreland County Criminal Court hears all criminal cases in Westmoreland County. Below you will find specific information about criminal cases and how they are handled in Westmoreland County.
The Right to Trial by Jury
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by a jury. This is applicable for when the crime can carry a sentence of 6 months in jail OR a $500 fine, these are known as “Serious Crimes”. The defendant can also waive their right to a speedy and public trial.
Can I appeal a guilty verdict?
If found guilty, a defendant may decide to appeal his case to an appelate court. The appellate court will not retry the case, they will examine the proceedings in the lower court to make sure they were done in a legal manner. The appellate court can either uphold the original conviction, or determine that due to errors made in the original trial, that there must be a retrial, resentencing or a complete dismissal of the charges.
Prosecutor in Westmoreland County
In Westmoreland County, the prosecutor is an attorney representing Westmoreland County. In some cases, the prosecutor may actually represent Virginia. For the most part, the prosecutor in Westmoreland County has discretion to both decide whether to file charges and also negotiate a potential plea deal with the defendant.
What if I can’t afford an attorney?
The 6th Amendment guarantees you the right to an attorney whether or not you can afford one. If you cannot afford one, a public defender will be appointed by the court to represent you.
What is the Burden of Proof?
The term “Burden of Proof” means that the prosecutor is required to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor cannot provide proof of the defendants guilt, then the judge or jury in a trial must find the defendant not guilty. In the United States the principle innocent until proven guilty derives from this that the defendant is assumed innocent and the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.
What happens in Westmoreland County at an arraignment?
In Westmoreland County the defendant is brought into court and informed by the judge of the charges that have been filed against them along with informing them of their rights. At this time, the defendant can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, there will be no trial and the defendant may be sentenced immediately or at a later date. If the defendant pleads not guilty a trial date is set.
Where will Westmoreland County criminal case hearings take place?
Criminal cases will take place at the criminal courts of Westmoreland County. See here for the location of the criminal courts in Westmoreland County.
I need help for my Westmoreland County criminal case
The best place to get information about your criminal case is from an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to represent you which will assist in your case. For general information about your case the Westmoreland County court clerk is able to provide general information about your specific case (e.g. date/time hearings, mandatory appearance, what will take place and what you will be required to do). The court clerk for Westmoreland County will NOT be able to provide legal advice for your case, only an attorney can provide legal advice. The court clerk can provide legal information (like the information found on this website) about your case but cannot provide advice about what you should do in your legal manner.
At a sentence hearing the judge will inform the defendant of the sentence that will be imposed. This sometimes occurs at the same hearing in which the defendant is found guilty (either by trial or plea agreement). In can also occur at a later date, most often this is due to the complexity of the case where more time is needed to determine the appropriate sentence.
Jury Deliberations in Westmoreland County
In Westmoreland County, jury deliberations will take place in a jury trial after the prosecution and defense have presented their cases and rested. At this point, the judge will provide a list of instructions to the jury about what they are allowed and not allowed to do and what verdict options are available for them to decide. The jury will be sent to a private room to discuss the evidence presented in the case and attempt to reach a unaminous decision. When a unaminous decision is reached, the jury will inform the judge that they have reached a verdict and will return to the courtroom for the verdict to be read allowed. In the event that the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, the jury results in a deadlock and a mistrial is declared.
Mandatory Appearances in Westmoreland County Criminal Court
At a mandatory or required court appearance in Westmoreland County, the defendant must appear before the court. In the event of a “Failure to Appear” the judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. Note: not all criminal hearings are mandatory, in a non-mandatory hearing an attorney may appear on your behalf without you being in court.
What is a Plea Agreement?
A plea agreement is a deal made between the prosecution and the defendant in a case, where the defendant agrees to plea guilty to a particular charge in exchange for some concession from the prosecutor. In practice, more than 90% of criminal cases end with a plea agreement.
Westmoreland County Criminal Court Locations
Westmoreland County Circuit Court – 15th Judicial Circuit
Address: 175 Polk St, PO Box 307, Montross VA 22520
Phone: 804-493-0108 Fax: 804-493-0393
Westmoreland County General District Court – 15th Judicial District
Address: 175 Polk St, PO Box 688, Montross VA 22520
Phone: 804-493-0105 Fax: 804-493-1203
Westmoreland County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court
Address: 175 Polk St, PO Box 451, Montross VA 22520
Phone: 804-493-0117 Fax: 804-493-0173