After you are charged with a crime in Virginia is advisable to find effective defense representation to assist you in understanding the charge(s), possible defenses and outcomes. There is a vast array of misdemeanor and felony charges that face in Prince William County. Picking the right Prince William County criminal attorney could make the difference in your case. Prince William County is a unique jurisdiction and your Prince William County criminal lawyer needs to know the specifics of this locality to best represent you.

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY

The Prince William County Judicial System makes up the 31st Virginia Judicial District. Within this district are many localities including:

o   City of Manassas

o   City of Manassas Park

o   Town of Haymarket

o   Town of Dumfries

o   Town of Occoquan

o   Woodbridge

o   Bristow

o   Triangle

o   Quantico

o   Dale City


The courthouse located in the City of Manassas, in the heart of Old Town Manassas, at 9311 Lee Ave, Manassas, VA 20110. It is a three story building with a lower level which has a very nice cafeteria with freshly cooked food and a law library for public research needs (LL on the elevator). Additionally, it includes the Circuit Court (3rd Floor), General District Court (2nd Floor), and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (1st Floor).  The Circuit Court is the highest Trial Court within the County. 

The Prince William County Courthouse has special rules that each person should be aware of before coming into this courthouse:

1.     The public is not allowed to bring in camera phones or recording devises without prior approval and order from a judge. This does not apply to officers of the court. Your attorney will have a phone on them. Please make sure to print out any pictures or information on your phone prior to court if you want to show the judge. It is always best to also provide any and all documentation, pictures, video, or recordings to your attorney prior to court.

2.     You will need to go through a metal detector and have your belongings scanned prior to being admitted into the building. It is unlawful to bring in or attempted to bring in any weapons. Be sure to leave your Swiss Amy knife at home.

3.     There are vending machines and a cafeteria on the lower level. You will need to finish your drink on this floor as food and beverages are not allowed in and around the courtrooms. There are drinking fountains throughout the courthouse. There are certain exceptions to this general rule. Contact your lawyer if you need more information on this.

4.     There is a dress code. Please do not wear revealing clothing. This includes low cut shirts, extra short skirts and pants sagging. Do not wear articles that cover your head into the courtroom (sunglasses on head, hats, bandanas and the like). The only exception is for medical and religious purposes. Circuit court requires all men to have their shirts tucked. The basic rule here is to dress business casual or professional. People are watching you and the judge will be watching you so present yourself how you would like to be judged.

5.     Please be polite, patient and respectful. Court can be stressful but this doesn’t mean that you are allowed to express your tension in inappropriate ways. This includes celebrating after a successful outcome. Contempt of Court is a real criminal charge and people from the public have gone to jail in Prince William County for acting inappropriately. Be mindful of how you are presenting yourself at all times. Sometimes the right attitude makes all the difference in the outcome of a case.


Prince William County Juvenile and Domestic Relations

On the ground floor, where you walk in though security is Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (“JD&R”).  In 2017, there are 5 regularly seated judges:

·       Hon. D. Scott Bailey, Presiding Judge

·       Hon. George M. DePolo, Presiding Judge

·       Hon. H. Jan Roltsch-Anoll, Presiding Judge

·       Hon. Janice Justina Wellington, Presiding Judge

·       Hon. Lisa Michelle Baird, Chief Judge

The Prince William County Juvenile and Domestic Relations clerk’s office is open Monday-Friday, 8:00AM – 4:00PM, excluding holidays. The clerk’s office can be reached by phone: (703) 792-6160 or fax: (703) 792-7863. Please know that only adult matters will be discussed on the phone or in person to a non-party. If your case involves a juvenile, these matters will not be discussed on the phone and you must either be the attorney of record or a parent or guardian to obtain information about a case.

Criminal cases that are heard in this court involve either a juvenile and/or a domestic relationship. Typical criminal cases heard in this court include:


Domestic violence

o   COURT SCHEDULING:

•  Walk-in adult arraignments are held in courtroom 1 at 9:00AM. If you hire a lawyer before your arraignment, your Prince William attorney may be able to help you avoid appearing for that first court date.

•  Adult arraignments for those in custody are held in courtroom 6 at 8:30AM. People in custody will not be transported to arraignment and will be teleconferenced in on a tv monitor in the courtroom. Arraignments are not bond motions however, depending on the facts of the case, the severity of the charges, and the presiding judge, sometimes bond is grant at this type of hearing.

•  Adult bond motions are held in courtroom 6 at 8:30AM. Your attorney will need to file a bond motion in advance and have the clerk’s office docket the motion for a particular morning. 

o   This can be a serious assault offense.  Some of those penalties are more severe than many traditional assault convictions [V.C.C. § 18.2-57.2 and 18.2-57.3].  Violation of a protective order is a class 6 felony, with a six-month mandatory minimum jail sentence [V.C.C. § 16.1-253.2].

o   Penalties for assault crimes can involve up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines for misdemeanor assault [Virginia Criminal Code § 18.2-57] or 20 years and/or a fine of up to $100,000 for the very serious charge of aggravated malicious wounding [V.C.C. § 18.2-51.2].

o   Even the overt threat of harm to another is an assault offense.  Most assaults that result in harm to the victim are charged as felonies.  If a weapon is involved – especially a firearm – or if the victim is seriously injured, or both, that’s a more serious felony, which carries a significant prison sentence and large fine [V.C.C. § 18.2-51.2].  Other elements that increase sentences include whether there is a hate crime that is part of the assault [V.C.C. § 18.2-57(B)] as well as the victim being a protected government employee (police officers, judges, EMTs) [V.C.C. § 18.2-57(C)].


Juvenile Traffic and Crimes

o   COURT SCHEDULING:

•  Juvenile traffic matters begin at 9:30AM in Courtroom 1. Always plan to be at court 30 mins prior to the beginning of court, especially in JD&R because the summons that the child receives says 9:00AM and if the Adult Walk-in arraignments are concluded early, the court will begin the juvenile traffic matters early.

•  Juvenile adjudications at heard Monday – Friday beginning at 10:00AM. These cases are typically heard in courtroom 4 or 5.

•  If the court orders traffic school or other pre-conviction work do be done and provides a return date, that court hearing is typically in the afternoon and heard by the judge that of offered the pre-conviction opportunity.

o   Teenagers under the age of 18 that receive notice of a traffic violation or reckless driving ticket will be required to attend court with a parent or guardian.

o   Reckless driving [Virginia Criminal Codes § 46.2-852–865] is a group of charges that pose a greater threat to the general public, drivers and passengers, and property than minor moving violations.  Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500 and as much as year in jail; though there is no statutory minimum for a first conviction: [V.C.C. § 46.2-868].  You’ll also incur six demerit points on your Virginia DMV driving record for 11 years.  Many of these tickets are issued for speeding (20+ MPH over the limit), dangerous passing, and racing; though there are other serious moving violations that are also covered by this charge.

o   Drivers who are children in the eyes of the law have opportunities that an adult may not have to maintain a clean driving despite being charged with a traffic infraction or worse, a criminal misdemeanor driving offense.

o   Juveniles can be charged with most of the same crimes adults can be charged with. If a juvenile is charged with a crime, the case will begin in JD&R.


Sex Crimes

o   Not all sex crimes are prosecuted in JD&R. If the crime involves a juvenile, a family member, or a domestic relationship then the case will begin inJD&R

o   Most Commonwealth of Virginia sex crime charges range from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 3 felony, although if additional serious felonies are involved, convicted suspects can receive more than the five-year minimum prison sentence that a class 3 felony brings.  These crimes are aggressively pursued by all levels of Commonwealth law enforcement, especially when children are the victims.  These include:

•  Rape [V.C.C. § 18.2-61]

•  Carnal knowledge of a child between ages thirteen and fifteen [V.C.C. § 18.2-63], Child (minor – under 18) pornography (possession, distribution, production) [V.C.C. § 18.2-374.1].  This is also the statute that sexting offenses are prosecuted under, even against minors. This type of charge is actively prosecuted in Prince William County. It is very serious offense.


Prince William County General District Court

On the second floor, you can either use the elevator or walk up the flight of stairs to get to Prince William County General District Court (GDC). In 2017, there are 5 regularly seated judges:

·       Hon. William E. Jarvis, Presiding Judge, Chief Judge

·       Hon. Wallace Semeon Covington III, Presiding Judge

·       Hon. Robert P. Coleman

·       Hon. Angela Lemmon Horan

·       Hon. Petula C. Metzler

The Prince William County General District Court criminal clerk’s office located next to the elevators and is open Monday-Friday, 8:00AM – 4:00PM, excluding holidays. The criminal division clerk’s office can be reached by Phone: (703) 792-6141 and Fax: (703) 792-6121. The clerk’s office now scans in all documents received and your file can be printed for you at a per page copy cost. If you have administratively lost your license due to a DUI/DWI offense, you can obtain your license from this office at the completion of the suspension. If you wish to obtain a court appointed attorney, this office can assist you.

Criminal cases that are heard in this court involve adult crimes and traffic matters. General District is a “court of no record”. This means that there are not court reporters provided by the court. If you wish to have a transcript of your hearing at this court level, you will need to hire and bring your own court reporter to court. Because this is a “court of no record”, only misdemeanor trials and judgements occur in this court.  There is also no jury in GDC. All matters in GDC are decided by a judge. Felony charges are subject to a preliminary hearing in GDC and the judge is not deciding guilt but rather whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to Circuit Court for trial. The judgment from a misdemeanor trial, if you are found guilty, is appealable within 10 days to the Circuit Court.

Typical criminal cases heard in this court include, but are not limited to:


Theft: Crimes Involving Property

o   Theft can range from minor shoplifting [V.C.C. § 18.2-103] to armed robbery to breaking into a house to steal valuables.  There are several ways to classify each theft offense, starting with what was stolen, and its value.  If the item(s) are worth less than $200, it is chargeable as a misdemeanor (petit larceny), but over that amount it’s chargeable as a felony grand larceny.

o   The most serious theft felonies involve burglary and robbery.  Burglary [V.C.C. § 18.2-89] combines the crimes of theft and breaking and entering.  In these cases, the perpetrator seldom ends up confronting the victim.  Robbery, on the other hand, is theft by threat of force or actual force.  Penalties – especially if an assault occurred – can be especially harsh [V.C.C. § 18.2-58].  Most of these felony theft crimes generally bring prison sentences of five to 20 years and very expensive fines. 


Driving While Intoxicated (DUI/DWI) and Reckless Driving

o   Driving offenses are taken very seriously in Prince William County. While most driving offenses are not felonies, they can have very serious consequences. Some people lose jobs over offenses such as these and it very important to have a knowledgeable Prince William DUI/DWI attorney present who is well educated on DUI/DWI Virginia laws.

o   Drunk driving [V.C.C § 18.2-266] and driving under the influence of drugs [V.C.C § 18.2-269] are both charged as DUI (specified by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two in the actual complaint) and class I misdemeanors.  First-time offenders could face up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 and lose their driver’s license for at least a year.  Repeat offenders who exceed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 face longer minimum jail times, as do drivers who had minors in the vehicle at the time they committed the offense.

o   Reckless driving [Virginia Criminal Codes § 46.2-852–865] is a group of charges that pose a greater threat to the general public, drivers and passengers, and property than minor moving violations.  Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500 and as much as year in jail; though there is no statutory minimum for a first conviction: [V.C.C. § 46.2-868].  You’ll also incur six demerit points on your Virginia DMV driving record for 11 years.  Many of these tickets are issued for speeding (20+ MPH over the limit), dangerous passing, and racing; though there are other serious moving violations that are also covered by this charge.


Drugs/Narcotics including Marijuana

o   Both the Commonwealth of Virginia and Prince William County aggressively prosecute and sentence drug law violators.  Most of the time, they are judicious in separating recreational possession from possession with intent to sell, distribute (or manufacture). 

o   The Commonwealth of Virginia rate drugs – for the purposes of charges and penalties – on their medicinal value and the degree of dependence the substance is likely to have of a person: [V.C.C. §§ 54.1-3446, 54.1-3448, 54.1-3450, 54.1-3452, 54.1-3454, 54.1-3455].  The lower the drug schedule number: the greater the sentence, i.e., Schedule I/II drugs such as heroin, cocaine, PCP, LSD, and methamphetamines are punished much harsher than Xanex and Rohypnol which are Schedule IV drugs.

o   Marijuana is still illegal and punished criminally in Virginia. A first time marijuana possession is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or up to a fine of $500 and a loss of your Virginia driving privileges for 6 months. A second time offense is punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or up to a fine of $2500 and a loss of your Virginia driving privileges for 6 months. While Prince William County understands that much of the United States has turned away from prosecuting marijuana case, it is still the law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. First time offenders may be eligible for a 18.2-251 disposition in order to try to avoid a conviction.

o   People who manufacture, grow or distribute controlled substances in Virginia can be sentenced to many years in state prison [V.C.C. § 18.2-248] and pay a fine as high as $500,000, depending on the facts of the case.  These are very serious charges, far more serious than simple possession. These charges need to be carefully considered with the assistance of a Prince William County Drug lawyer.


Fraud and White-Collar Crime

o   The majority of fraud offenses are grand larceny by non-violent theft.  These include knowingly passing a bad check, which – like all theft crimes – can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the amount of the check [VCC § 18.2-181].  But if it’s a serious felony with large amounts of money or goods stolen, it can be charged as larceny of bank notes [V.C.C. §§ 18.2-98].  Identity fraud (or theft) – with all of our reliance on computers – is becoming a more common criminal charge.  Because of this, and depending on the circumstances of the case, it can be charged as either a Commonwealth [V.C.C. § 18.2-186.3:1] or federal offense [18 U.S. Code § 1028].

o   Other fraud cases include false reporting to a law enforcement officer, using a false ID to avoid a criminal charge, or obtaining money by false pretenses. These are considered lying/cheating/stealing offenses. If convicted, your reputation for honesty and veracity will be scarred in the eyes of the court.


Prince William County Circuit Court

On the third floor, you can either use the elevator or walk up the flight of stairs to get to Prince William County Circuit Court. The website for Prince William County Circuit Court is www.pwcgov.org/ccourt.  In 2017, there are 5 regularly seated judges:

·       Hon. Carroll A. Weimer Jr., Presiding Judge, Chief Judge

·       Hon. Craig D. Johnston, Presiding Judge

·       Hon. Tracy Calvin Hudson

·       Hon. Kimberly A. Irving

·       Hon. Steven S. Smith

The Prince William County Circuit Court criminal clerk’s office located near the restrooms on the third floor and is open Monday-Friday, 8:30AM – 5:00PM, excluding holidays. The Circuit Court clerk’s office can be reached at the following numbers:

Phone: (703) 792-6015
Civil: (703) 792-6029
Fines/Costs: 703-792-6031
Criminal/Courtroom Support: 703-792-6025
Fax: Criminal Fax: 703-792-5746
Fax: Civil Fax: 703-792-7750

The clerk’s office now scans in all documents received and your file can be printed for you at a per page copy cost. There are two computers located in the office and you can search the database to see your case file that in the court’s records.

Criminal cases that are heard in this court involve all criminal matters. Misdemeanor cases that are heard in either JD&R or in GDC that are appealed are heard in Circuit Court. An individual being charged with a criminal offense has a right to a jury trial. Jury trials are held in Circuit Court. You are also able to waive, or give up your right, to a jury trial. If both the judge and prosecution agree to this waiver than a Circuit Court judge will hear the facts of the case, decide the outcome, and if there is a finding of guilty, set the punishment. There is a court reporter at all felony proceedings in Circuit Court. Felony motions and trials are heard in Circuit Court.

The Prince William County Circuit Court has its own scheduling policy that is different than GDC and JD&R. It is important that you have a Prince William Criminal Attorney familiar with these policies and procedures so that your interests are properly voiced in a timely manner in court. Generally speaking, Circuit Court begins hearing cases at 10:00AM. However, probation violations and motions are typically heard at 9:00AM. It is very important to know what time your court hearing is scheduled and always appear at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled time. Circuit Court is more formal than the other courts. Timeliness and proper attire are exceptionally important and should not be overlooked.  Your Prince William Criminal Attorney can assist you with making sure you understand your responsibilities in this regard.