If your case hasn’t settled through pre-trial proceedings, you will face trial. 


In Virginia, if you are accused of a misdemeanor your first trial will be in the district court and will be a bench trial. At a bench trial, a judge alone decides your innocence or guilt. If you are convicted at your bench trial you will need to appeal within ten days. In Virginia you can appeal de novo which erases the decision of the lower court judge and allows you a brand new trial. This is a great tool for the protection of your liberty that an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you take advantage of.

Trial Proceedings

If you are accused of a felony or you were proven guilty in district court, the next step will be a trial in the circuit court. You have the right to a jury at this trial regardless of the type of crime you are accused of. In a jury trial the judge will rule on legal matters and the jury determines the facts and decides if you are guilty or not guilty. To return a guilty verdict, the jury must determine that each element of the crime you are accused of has been proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt. After a determination is made in this trial, appeal can only be made on the grounds of misapplication of law. Determinations of fact made by the jury at this stage will remain throughout appeals.

Opening Statement

During the opening statements the prosecution and then your attorney each make a statement about the case they will present


The prosecution presents their evidence first. Evidence includes both physical evidence and testimony from witnesses. Your attorney has the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses to discredit their testimony and bolster your own theory of the case. After the prosecution has presented all of their evidence, your lawyer will present evidence on your behalf. Evidence must be presented according to the Virginia Rules of Evidence.

Closing Arguments

The defense and then the prosecution present their closing arguments. This is an opportunity for each lawyer to convey their theory of the case and a final chance to convince the jury of your innocence.

Jury Instructions

Jury instructions that are most helpful to your view of the case can be argued for by your attorney. Jury instructions are extremely important as they are used to instruct the jury on how to view the evidence and determine guilt. Sometimes jury instructions can be the difference between a finding of guilt or innocence.

Verdict determination

The jury determines whether you are guilty or innocent based on the evidence presented by your lawyer. To find you guilty of a crime the jury must be unanimous. A jury might find you guilty of some charges and not guilty of others.


If you are found guilty of a charge, the jury will recommend a sentence. A sentencing hearing will be set for a later date.

See also:

  • Virginia Rules of Evidence
  • Code of Virginia § 8.01-379.2
  • The Process
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