How to Prepare for a Criminal Trial in Virginia: A Guide for Defendants

Facing a criminal trial in Virginia can be a daunting experience, but thorough preparation can significantly impact the outcome of your case. By understanding your charges, asserting your rights, gathering evidence, and working closely with a proven criminal defense attorney, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome.

Whether you are within the legal system for the first time or looking to enhance your understanding, this guide provides essential steps to help defendants prepare effectively for their day in court.

Stages in the Criminal Trial Process of Virginia

Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution presents evidence and witnesses to establish probable cause for the charges.

Grand Jury Indictment

The prosecution may present evidence to the grand jury to secure an indictment. If the grand jury determines there is probable cause, it issues an indictment, formally charging the defendant with the alleged offenses.


During the arraignment, the defendant appears before the court to enter a plea (typically guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere). If the defendant pleads not guilty, the court sets a date for trial and may address bail or other pretrial release conditions.

Pretrial Motions and Discovery

Prior to trial, both the prosecution and the defense may file pretrial motions addressing legal issues or evidentiary matters. Taking this into account, the parties engage in discovery, exchanging information and evidence relevant to the case.

Jury Selection

For trials that involve a jury, the process of jury selection, or voir dire, takes place. Attorneys for both sides question prospective jurors to assess their suitability and impartiality. The selected jurors are sworn in to hear the case.


The trial proceeds with opening statements from the prosecution and defense, followed by the presentation of evidence, including witness testimony, exhibits, and expert testimony. Both sides have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and make closing arguments.

Verdict & Sentencing

Once the jury reaches a unanimous verdict or the judge renders a decision in a bench trial, the verdict is announced in open court. If the defendant is found guilty, the case proceeds to sentencing. If they are found not guilty, the defendant is acquitted and released. If the defendant is convicted, the court imposes a sentence, which may include fines, probation, community service, or incarceration.

Tips to Prepare for a Virginia Criminal Trial

Understand Your Charges

Before anything else, it is important to fully grasp the charges brought against you. Sit down with your attorney to discuss the specific allegations, potential penalties, and available legal defenses. Understanding the nature of the charges can enable you to formulate a defense strategy that addresses the prosecution’s case effectively.

Know Your Rights

As a defendant, you have certain constitutional rights that must be upheld throughout the legal process. These include the right to remain silent, the right to legal representation, and the right to a fair trial. Familiarize yourself with these rights and assert them when necessary to protect your interests.

Gather Evidence

Collect any evidence that may support your defense. This could include documents, photographs, witness statements, or other relevant materials. Collaborate closely with your criminal defense lawyer to identify and gather evidence that can help challenge the prosecution’s case or corroborate your version of events.

Attend Pretrial Hearings

Attend all pretrial hearings and meetings scheduled by the court. These proceedings provide opportunities for your attorney to negotiate with the prosecution, file motions, and address any legal issues that may arise before trial. Active participation in pretrial proceedings can help streamline the trial process and potentially lead to favorable outcomes.

Prepare Your Defense

Work closely with your attorney to develop a comprehensive defense strategy customized to your case. This may involve conducting legal research, identifying key witnesses, and preparing to present evidence in court. Practice answering questions and delivering testimony to enhance your confidence and credibility on the witness stand.

Follow Legal Advice

Listen carefully to the advice and guidance provided by your attorney throughout the trial process. Trust their knowledge and follow their instructions regarding legal strategy, witness testimony, and courtroom behavior. 

Critical Role of a Defense Attorney in Preparing Clients for Criminal Trial

  • Explanation of Rights: Your defense attorney will explain your legal rights, including the right to remain silent, the right to legal representation, and the presumption of innocence.
  • Case Analysis and Strategy: The defense lawyer will conduct a detailed analysis of the case, reviewing evidence and identifying potential legal defenses.
  • Trial Preparation: If you plan to testify, your lawyer will prepare you for questioning. This includes conducting mock examinations, providing guidance on answering questions effectively, and ensuring you understand your role in the trial.
  • Evidence Review: The defense attorney reviews all evidence presented by the prosecution, including documents, photographs, and witness statements. 
  • Courtroom Etiquette and Behavior: Your lawyer will educate you on proper courtroom etiquette, including appropriate dress, demeanor, and behavior. They will advise you on how to interact with the judge, jury, and other courtroom participants in a respectful and professional manner.
  • Mock Trial Preparation: To make you familiar with the trial process and alleviate anxiety, your defense attorney may conduct mock trial sessions. These simulations can allow you to practice testifying, respond to questioning, and experience the dynamics of the courtroom environment.

Get Strong Legal Representation to Fight for Your Rights

The tenacious criminal defense lawyers at the Pack Law Group provide comprehensive legal guidance, emotional support, and trial preparation assistance. Our attorneys will make sure your interests are effectively represented in court, your rights remain protected, and that you get the best criminal defense. Schedule your case review with our lawyers today. Call us at 540-586-7225 or contact us online.

Taking Control of Your Finances After a Divorce

Divorce is usually an emotionally and financially challenging process, even when the proceedings are amicable. You need to take stock of your financial reality during and after the divorce. A reputable divorce attorney can help you gain a clear understanding of your assets, liabilities, income, and expenses.

The first thing you need to do is understand your net worth. You can calculate it by subtracting your total liabilities from your total assets. This figure provides a snapshot of your overall financial health and helps you understand where you stand financially after the divorce.

Here are the additional key steps that can help you take control of your finances following a divorce:

Inventory Your Assets

Begin by listing all your assets. These include both tangible and intangible items such as:

  • Bank Accounts: Savings and checking accounts.
  • Investments: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement accounts: 401(k), IRA, and so on.
  • Real Estate: Homes, rental properties, land.
  • Vehicles: Cars, motorcycles, boats.
  • Personal Property: Jewelry, electronics, valuable collections.
  • Other Assets: Business interests, life insurance policies with cash value, annuities.

Identify Your Liabilities

Next, catalog all your liabilities. These are debts and financial obligations, including:

  • Mortgages: Remaining balances on home loans.
  • Auto Loans: Outstanding car payments.
  • Credit Card Debt: Balances on credit cards.
  • Student Loans: Any remaining student debt.
  • Personal Loans: Loans from banks or private lenders.
  • Other Debts: Medical bills, tax liabilities, alimony or child support payments.

Track Your Expenses

Document your monthly expenses to understand your spending patterns. Divide these into categories:

  • Fixed Expenses: Rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance premiums, utility bills.
  • Variable Expenses: Groceries, dining out, entertainment, clothing.
  • Discretionary Spending: Hobbies, vacations, non-essential shopping.
  • Debt Payments: Credit card payments, loan repayments.
  • Savings and Investments: Contributions to savings accounts, investment accounts, retirement funds.

Review Financial Documents

Gather and review important financial documents to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding. These documents include:

  • Bank Statements: Monthly statements for all accounts.
  • Investment Statements: Quarterly or annual statements from brokerage firms.
  • Loan Statements: Current balances and payment schedules for all loans.
  • Tax Returns: Past few years of tax returns to understand income history and tax liabilities.
  • Insurance Policies: Life, health, auto, and home insurance policies.

Close Joint Accounts

You need to close any joint accounts you held with your ex-spouse. This includes:

  • Bank Accounts: If you had joint checking or savings accounts, you need to close these to prevent future disputes or unauthorized access. Open new accounts in your name to ensure complete control over your finances.
  • Credit Cards: Joint credit card accounts should also be closed to prevent future charges from being made. Request that the credit card company transfers any remaining balance to an account solely in your name.

Update Beneficiaries

Ensure that the beneficiaries listed on your financial accounts and policies reflect your current wishes. Update beneficiaries for:

  • Life Insurance Policies: Change the beneficiary designation to a new person if your ex-spouse was previously listed.
  • Retirement Accounts: Update the beneficiaries on 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement accounts.
  • Investment Accounts: Ensure that any investment or brokerage accounts have the correct beneficiaries.

Protect Your Credit

Take steps to protect your credit during and after the transition:

  • Monitor Your Credit Report: Regularly check your credit report for any discrepancies or unauthorized activities. You can get a free report annually from each of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
  • Freeze Your Credit: Consider placing a credit freeze if you are concerned about identity theft or unauthorized access to your credit.

Separate Debts

Work on separating any joint debts and ensuring that each party is responsible for their fair share:

  • Negotiate with Creditors: Contact creditors to divide joint debts and transfer balances to individual accounts.
  • Document Agreements: Ensure that any agreements regarding debt responsibility are documented in the divorce decree or a separate legal agreement.

Update Legal Documents

Make sure all legal documents reflect your new financial situation:

  • Will and Estate Plans: Update your will, trusts, and any other estate planning documents to reflect changes in beneficiaries and asset distribution.
  • Power of Attorney: If your ex-spouse was previously named as your power of attorney, appoint a new trusted individual.

Build an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is vital for financial security. Aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses. This fund will provide a safety net in case of unexpected expenses or financial setbacks.

  • Automatic Savings: Set up automatic transfers to a dedicated savings account to build your emergency fund consistently.
  • Liquid Assets: Keep your emergency fund in a liquid account, such as a high-yield savings account, to ensure you can access the money quickly when needed.

Plan for Retirement

Retirement planning is a critical component of your long-term financial strategy. Ensure you are on track to meet your retirement goals.

  • Review Retirement Accounts: If you divided retirement accounts during the divorce, review your balances and make necessary adjustments to your retirement plan.
  • Contribute Regularly: Maximize contributions to your 401(k), IRA, or other retirement accounts. Take advantage of employer matching contributions if available.
  • Diversify Investments: Ensure your retirement portfolio is diversified to balance risk and reward. Consider consulting a financial advisor to optimize your investment strategy.

Speak to an Experienced and Resourceful Family Law Attorney in Virginia

Divorce can leave you in a financial mess. At the Pack Law Group, our compassionate yet assertive family law attorneys focus on helping clients achieve a fair and equitable divorce that protects their financial needs. Our lawyers can help you secure a stable future by taking care of everything from asset division and spousal support to child custody arrangements. Schedule a consultation today. Call us at 540-586-7225 or reach us online