The criminal procedure of West Virginia is divided into various sub processes each meant to tackle a particular stage in adult offender handling. For instance, arrests are dealt with through preliminary examinations and grand jury hearings depending on the specific circumstances of a case. Typically, being taken into custody or the issue of a WV active warrantin the name of a person signifies that criminal proceedings have been started against him.
The issue of arrest warrants
Wants for detention can be issued by circuit and district courts if the police can prove that they have probable cause to suspect that a specific person has committed a criminal act. Arrests can also be made without active warrants. However, the police will need to have probable cause against the suspect before they can proceeded with such detentions. In case of warrantless arrests, a judicial determination of the probable cause against the suspect is made at the latter stage.
Booked and taken to prison!
Whether a person is apprehended under the provisions of a WV outstanding warrant or without one, he will be escorted to the local police precinct where they will capture mug shots and fingerprints and impound all the personal belongings of the accused before detaining him in police custody till he can be taken to court for a bail hearing.
The first appearance in court
Typically, the suspect will be taken in front of the magistrate immediately after being booked. However, if the arrest takes place during the weekend, the accused will have to wait till the start of the following week to face the judge. At the first appearance, the magistrate informs the accused of his rights and the charges being brought against him.
In case of misdemeanors, the formality of a preliminary hearing can be done away with while for felonies, the defendant is given the right to request such a court session. Furthermore, a bail is also set during the first appearance.
Before the trial
Preliminary hearingsif requested are held within 10 days of arrests and in 20 days if the accused has been grantedrelease on bail. This session isheld to determine if the police have probable cause to pursue the matter further. Unlike with the hearing held for the issue of arrest warrants, at this court session, the judge tries to determine if the evidence holds enough merit to involve the state in the matter.
Grand Jury Hearings
These are also probable cause determination sessions; however, only cases in which reasonable cause has been found through a preliminary hearing are taken up for indictment. During grand jury hearings, jurors and not the judge decide if the evidence held against the defendant is significant enough to initiate criminal proceedings against him.
A plea bargain can be entered into at any point during these processes. This is an understanding between the defense and the prosecution under which the suspect agrees to lesser charges and sentence in return for pleading guilty and skipping the trial stage.
The trial proper
In West Virginia, suspects accused of criminal infractions can be tried before the judge or the jury although most felony cases are heard by jurors. Both sides are given the opportunity to present evidence and their arguments during the trial. All jurors have to agreethat the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt for him to be held accountable for the criminal occurrence. Once the verdict has been delivered, sentencing is carried out by the judge.