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What are ‘rules of criminal procedure?
The established methods and practices used to resolve criminal cases are embodied in a set of rules referred to as "criminal procedure." The rules of criminal procedure are designed to ensure that an accused is given due process of law.

What is meant by criminal procedure and why is it important?
The rules of criminal procedure are set down to guarantee constitutional due process to those individuals charged with a crime. Because a person charged with a crime can be subjected to a loss of liberty, subjected to a fine and the loss of civil certain civil rights (to carry a weapon or right to vote) the rules of criminal procedure should be strictly followed. The failure to follow these rules that guarantee certain constitutional rights can result in a conviction being reversed and the charges dismissed. The trend in law today is to retreat from that position as the rights of the state and victims are being given more weight in the balancing of the two positions.

What is the difference between a civil offense and a crime?
A civil offense is an infraction of a law that is not a crime. This may be something like a routine traffic offense such as speeding. The only penalty for a civil offense is a fine. A crime is a violation of the law that is punishable by a fine or a jail sentence. A Class Three or Class Four misdemeanor in Virginia is only punishable by a fine. These may be violations of noise ordinances or other offenses not involving injuries to other persons or their property. A Class One misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A Class Two misdemeanors are punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Felonies are punishable by one or more years in prison and fines of up to $100,000

Detention and arrest - what's the difference?
Law enforcement officers have the right to investigate circumstances when there are facts which, together with reasonable inferences drawn from those facts, warrant further investigation. Thus law enforcement officers may temporarily stop a person in a public place (without transporting the person to another location) for the purpose of (1) requiring the person to justify his/her presence and activity in the location and (2) to identify him/herself. The stop may be accompanied by a "patdown" search for weapons. This enables law enforcement officers, with minimal upset to public tranquility and intrusion into personal rights, determine whether they should arrest a suspect, investigate further or take no action because their initial suspicion proved groundless.

An arrest occurs when a person reasonably believes he is not free to leave due to the actions of law enforcement officers. Once an arrest has occurred and questions are asked, law enforcement officers must provide Miranda warnings (the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc.). However, if no questions are asked (other than questions to determine basic biographical information such as name and address), the warnings need not be given.

Do they need a warrant to arrest me?
No. An arrest by a police officer without a warrant is proper if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed a crime.

Can I sue the cop for false arrest?
Sometimes. A false arrest consists of unlawful restraint of a person’s liberty without proper legal authority. The key words here are “without proper legal authority”. The burden is on you, the person complaining they have been falsely arrested, to persuade a court or jury that the officer acted without legal authority. This can be difficult to prove. The good news is that if you can show the officer was malicious you may be entitled to more money or what is referred to as “punitive” damages. A common example of a false arrest situation is where an officer may arrest a black kid suspected of shoplifting, with no real suspicion that the kid did anything wrong, just because he may have been the only black kid in the store.

The frustration for people who want to sue for false arrest is that the lawsuit is in another court (civil), a different judge, usually a different lawyer, there are different rules for what is happening in the criminal case, and the case can take longer to resolve.



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