Criminal Law in West Virginia
Is your future about to be crushed? What about your family? Your job?Your hard earned money? If you or a loved has one been arrested for a crime committed in West Virginia, you need a West Virginia criminal defense lawyer – and this article is for you – regardless of whether you’re innocent or guilty.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- West Virginia criminal laws;
- What you need to know about criminal defense in West Virginia; and
- How to work with your West Virginia criminal defense attorney.
West Virginia Criminal Laws
West Virginia criminal laws are found in the West Virginia Criminal Code – Title 61 of the general statutes.
- The Code outlines behavior that constitutes a crime as well as the applicable punishments.
- Examples of the many crimes listed in the West Virginia Criminal Code include, treason, bribery, elder abuse, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, spousal abuse, stalking, fraud, credit card crimes, computer crimes, bigamy, trespass, indecent exposure, DWI, perjury, receiving stolen property, theft of cable television, defamation, theft, and drug-related offenses.
Statute of Limitations
Criminal charges must be brought within a certain period of time or be forever barred.
For example, in West Virginia, the statute of limitations for:
- Assault and Battery is either unlimited or one year (W. Va. Code В§ 61-11-9).
- Murder is unlimited (W. Va. Code В§61-11-9).
- Theft is either unlimited or one year, depending on the facts of the case (W. Va. Code В§ 61-11-9).
This is but a very brief sampling; ask your criminal defense lawyer if the statute of limitations may be a complete defense in your particular case. (It’s not likely, but there is a chance.)
Criminal punishment is handed down to those convicted of a crime. Examples of common punishments include probation, educational classes, counseling, community service, fines, restitution, and jail. The death penalty was abolished in West Virginia in 1965.
The goal of punishment is to deter future criminal behavior, provide restitution, protect society, and encourage rehabilitation.
- The West Virginia Sentencing Guidelines provide standard punishments.
However, each crime is individually analyzed; aggravating and mitigating circumstances either increase or decrease the presumed sentence, respectively.
For example, the jail time for arson ranges from 2 years to 20 years. The actual length of your jail sentence will depend on the facts of the case. If you burn a dwelling – where someone lives – the punishment is much stronger than if you burned an abandoned storage facility.
- Crimes that include extraordinary risk to society (and therefore increase the punishment) include crimes against children, crimes with use of a weapon, and crimes of violence.
In legal educational articles such as this one, we can only provide general information. Criminal penalties need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by an experienced West Virginia criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will let you know what punishment you are facing.
What You Need to Know About Criminal Defense
- If you are being questioned for or have been arrested for a crime in West Virginia, you need to seek legal counsel – even if you’re innocent.
- Attorneys are not all the same. You need a qualified West Virginia criminal defense lawyer – not just any lawyer.
- What you say to your attorney is confidential. You need to be completely honest and open with your attorney.
- What you say to the police, or anyone other than your attorney,can and will be used against you. Do not make any statements, other than to ask for an attorney.
How to Work with a West Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer
Your legal defense depends upon you. Honesty, cooperation, patience,good manners, and good sense are required. Do not get angry.
Though your attorney will ask you to take additional actions or inaction, to get started, this is what you need to do:
- Take and abide by the advice given by your attorney. He or she knows best.
- Tell your defense attorney exactly what happened. Even if you think something will make you look bad, disclose it.
- Answer your attorney’s questions, even if they are upsetting.
- Return all law firm phone calls promptly.
- Provide all information requested by your lawyer in a timely manner.
- Make sure the law office has your current address and phone number.
Your attorney will likely be polite and cooperative with police officers, witnesses, alleged victims, investigators, and the prosecutor. This is normal, professional, and an important part of the development of your defense.
Qualified criminal defense attorneys know criminal law and procedure; they understand how to conduct legal research, analyze your case, and talk to the jury; they understand the criminal charges against you, and know how to best put forward a strong and strategic defense.
Bottom Line: To find a West Virginia criminal defense attorney, search our site, www.attorneys.org, or ask friends or the bar association for a referral.