Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 19.2. Criminal Procedure
Chapter 14. Presentments, Indictments and Informations
1/19/2021

Chapter 14. Presentments, Indictments and Informations.

Article 1. Necessity for Indictment, Etc.

§ 19.2-216. Definition of indictment, presentment and information.

An indictment is a written accusation of crime, prepared by the attorney for the Commonwealth and returned "a true bill" upon the oath or affirmation of a legally impanelled grand jury.

A presentment is a written accusation of crime prepared and returned by a grand jury from their own knowledge or observation, without any bill of indictment laid before them.

An information is a written accusation of crime or a complaint for forfeiture of property or money or for imposition of a penalty, prepared and presented by a competent public official upon his oath of office.

1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-217. When information filed; prosecution for felony to be by indictment or presentment; waiver; process to compel appearance of accused.

An information may be filed by the attorney for the Commonwealth based upon a complaint in writing verified by the oath of a competent witness; but no person shall be put upon trial for any felony, unless an indictment or presentment shall have first been found or made by a grand jury in a court of competent jurisdiction or unless such person, by writing signed by such person before the court having jurisdiction to try such felony or before the judge of such court shall have waived such indictment or presentment, in which event he may be tried on a warrant or information. If the accused be in custody, or has been recognized or summoned to answer such information, presentment or indictment, no other process shall be necessary; but the court may, in its discretion, issue process to compel the appearance of the accused.

Code 1950, § 19.1-162; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-217.1. Central file of capital murder indictments.

Upon the return by a grand jury of an indictment for capital murder and the arrest of the defendant, the clerk of the circuit court in which such indictment is returned shall forthwith file a certified copy of the indictment with the clerk of the Supreme Court of Virginia. All such indictments shall be maintained in a single place by the clerk of the Supreme Court, and shall be available to members of the public upon request. Failure to comply with the provisions of this section shall not be (i) a basis upon which an indictment may be quashed or deemed invalid; (ii) deemed error upon which a conviction may be reversed or a sentence vacated; or (iii) a basis upon which a court may prevent or delay execution of a sentence.

1993, c. 319.

§ 19.2-218. Preliminary hearing required for person arrested on charge of felony; waiver.

No person who is arrested on a charge of felony shall be denied a preliminary hearing upon the question of whether there is reasonable ground to believe that he committed the offense and no indictment shall be returned in a court of record against any such person prior to such hearing unless such hearing is waived in writing by the accused.

Code 1950, § 19.1-163.1; 1960, c. 389; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-218.1. Preliminary hearings involving certain sexual crimes against spouses.

A. In any preliminary hearing of a charge for a violation under § 18.2-61, 18.2-67.1, or 18.2-67.2 where the complaining witness is the spouse of the accused, upon a finding of probable cause the court may request that its court services unit, in consultation with any appropriate social services organization, local community services board, or other community mental health services organization, prepare a report analyzing the feasibility of providing counseling or other forms of therapy for the accused and the probability such treatment will be successful. Based upon this report and any other relevant evidence, the court may, with the consent of the accused, the complaining witness and the attorney for the Commonwealth in any case involving a violation of § 18.2-61, 18.2-67.1, or 18.2-67.2, authorize the accused to submit to and complete a designated course of counseling or therapy. In such case, the hearing shall be adjourned until such time as counseling or therapy is completed or terminated. Upon the completion of counseling or therapy by the accused and after consideration of a final evaluation to be furnished to the court by the person responsible for conducting such counseling or therapy and such further report of the court services unit as the court may require, and after consideration of the views of the complaining witness, the court, in its discretion, may discharge the accused if the court finds such action will promote maintenance of the family unit and be in the best interest of the complaining witness.

B. No statement or disclosure by the accused concerning the alleged offense made during counseling or any other form of therapy ordered pursuant to this section or § 18.2-61, 18.2-67.1, 18.2-67.2, or 19.2-218.2 may be used against the accused in any trial as evidence, nor shall any evidence against the accused be admitted which was discovered through such statement or disclosure.

1986, c. 516; 2005, c. 631; 2012, cc. 476, 507.

§ 19.2-218.2. Hearing before juvenile and domestic relations district court required for persons accused of certain violations against their spouses.

A. In any case involving a violation of § 18.2-61, 18.2-67.1, or 18.2-67.2 where the complaining witness is the spouse of the accused, where a preliminary hearing pursuant to § 19.2-218.1 has not been held prior to indictment or trial, the court shall refer the case to the appropriate juvenile and domestic relations district court for a hearing to determine whether counseling or therapy is appropriate prior to further disposition unless the hearing is waived in writing by the accused. The court conducting this hearing may order counseling or therapy for the accused in compliance with the guidelines set forth in § 19.2-218.1.

B. After such hearing pursuant to which the accused has completed counseling or therapy and upon the recommendation of the juvenile and domestic relations district court judge conducting the hearing, the judge of the circuit court may dismiss the charge with the consent of the attorney for the Commonwealth and if the court finds such action will promote maintenance of the family unit and be in the best interest of the complaining witness.

1986, c. 516; 2005, c. 631.

§ 19.2-219. When capias need not be issued; summons; judgment.

No capias need be issued on a presentment or indictment of an offense for which there is no punishment but a fine or forfeiture, limited to an amount not exceeding twenty dollars; but a summons to answer such presentment or indictment may be issued against the accused; and if it be served ten days before the return day thereof, and he does not appear, judgment may be rendered against him for the penalty. If he appear, the court may, unless he demand a jury, hear and determine the matter and give judgment thereon.

Code 1950, § 19.1-164; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

Article 2. Form and Requisites.

§ 19.2-220. Contents of indictment in general.

The indictment or information shall be a plain, concise and definite written statement, (1) naming the accused, (2) describing the offense charged, (3) identifying the county, city or town in which the accused committed the offense, and (4) reciting that the accused committed the offense on or about a certain date. In describing the offense, the indictment or information may use the name given to the offense by the common law, or the indictment or information may state so much of the common law or statutory definition of the offense as is sufficient to advise what offense is charged.

1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-221. Form of prosecutions generally; murder and manslaughter.

The prosecutions for offenses against the Commonwealth, unless otherwise provided, shall be by presentment, indictment or information. While any form of presentment, indictment or information which informs the accused of the nature and cause of the accusation against him shall be good the following shall be deemed sufficient for murder and manslaughter:

Commonwealth of Virginia _______________ county (or city) to-wit: The grand jurors of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in and for the body of the county (or city) of __________, upon their oaths present that A __________ B __________, on the __________ day of __________, 20_____, in the county (or city) of __________ feloniously did kill and murder one C __________ D __________ against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.

A grand jury may, in case of homicide, which in their opinion amounts to manslaughter only, and not to murder, find an indictment against the accused for manslaughter and in such case the indictment shall be sufficient if it be in form or effect as follows:

Commonwealth of Virginia _______________ county (or city) to-wit: The grand jurors of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in and for the body of the county (or city) of _______________, upon their oaths present that A __________ B __________, on the __________ day of __________, 20_____, in the county (or city) of __________ feloniously and unlawfully did kill and slay one C __________ D __________, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.

Code 1950, § 19.1-166; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-222. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1996, c. 676.

§ 19.2-223. Charging several acts of embezzlement; description of money.

In a prosecution against a person accused of embezzling or fraudulently converting to his own use bullion, money, bank notes or other security for money or items of personal property subject to larceny it shall be lawful in the same indictment or accusation to charge and thereon to proceed against the accused for any number of distinct acts of such embezzlements or fraudulent conversions which may have been committed by him within six months from the first to the last of the acts charged in the indictment; and it shall be sufficient to allege the embezzlement or fraudulent conversion to be of money without specifying any particular money, gold, silver, note or security. Such allegation, so far as it regards the description of the property, shall be sustained if the accused be proved to have embezzled any bullion, money, bank note or other security for money or items of personal property subject to larceny although the particular species be not proved.

And in a prosecution for the larceny of United States currency or for obtaining United States currency by a false pretense or token, or for receiving United States currency knowing the same to have been stolen, it shall be sufficient if the accused be proved guilty of the larceny of national bank notes or United States treasury notes, certificates for either gold or silver coin, fractional coin, currency, or any other form of money issued by the United States government, or of obtaining the same by false pretense or token, or of receiving the same knowing it to have been stolen although the particular species be not proved.

Code 1950, § 19.1-168; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495; 1989, c. 370.

§ 19.2-224. In prosecution for forgery, unnecessary to set forth copy of forged instrument.

In a prosecution for forging or altering any instrument or other thing, or attempting to employ as true any forged instrument or other thing, or for any of the offenses mentioned in Article 1 (§ 18.2-168 et seq.) of Chapter 6 of Title 18.2, it shall not be necessary to set forth any copy or facsimile of such instrument or other thing; but it shall be sufficient to describe the same in such manner as would sustain an indictment for stealing such instrument or other thing, supposing it to be the subject of larceny.

Code 1950, § 19.1-169; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-225. Allegation of intent.

Where an intent to injure, defraud or cheat is required to constitute an offense, it shall be sufficient, in an indictment or accusation therefor, to allege generally an intent to injure, defraud or cheat without naming the person intended to be injured, defrauded or cheated; and it shall be sufficient, and not be deemed a variance, if there appear to be an intent to injure, defraud or cheat the United States, or any state, or any county, corporation, officer or person.

Code 1950, § 19.1-170; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-226. What defects in indictments not to vitiate them.

No indictment or other accusation shall be quashed or deemed invalid:

(1) For omitting to set forth that it is upon the oaths of the jurors or upon their oaths and affirmations;

(2) For the insertion of the words "upon their oath," instead of "upon their oaths";

(3) For not in terms alleging that the offense was committed "within the jurisdiction of the court" when the averments show that the case is one of which the court has jurisdiction;

(4) For the omission or misstatement of the title, occupation, estate, or degree of the accused or of the name or place of his residence;

(5) For omitting the words "with force and arms" or the statement of any particular kind of force and arms;

(6) For omitting to state, or stating imperfectly, the time at which the offense was committed when time is not the essence of the offense;

(7) For failing to allege the kind or value of an instrument which caused death or to allege that it was of no value;

(8) For omitting to charge the offense to be "against the form of the statute or statutes";

(9) For the omission or insertion of any other words of mere form or surplusage; or

(10) For omitting or stating incorrectly the Virginia crime code references for the particular offense or offenses covered.

Nor shall it be abated for any misnomer of the accused; but the court may, in case of a misnomer appearing before or in the course of a trial, forthwith cause the indictment or accusation to be amended according to the fact.

Code 1950, § 19.1-172; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495; 2003, c. 148.

§ 19.2-227. When judgment not to be arrested or reversed.

Judgment in any criminal case shall not be arrested or reversed upon any exception or objection made after a verdict to the indictment or other accusation, unless it be so defective as to be in violation of the Constitution.

Code 1950, § 19.1-165; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-228. Name and address of complaining witness to be written on indictment, etc., for misdemeanor.

In a prosecution for a misdemeanor the name and address of the complaining witness, if there be one, shall be written at the foot of the presentment, indictment or information when it is made, found or filed. In case the grand jury that brings in such presentment or indictment or the attorney for the Commonwealth who files such information fail to write the name of a complaining witness at the foot of the presentment, indictment or information, then the name of a complaining witness may be entered of record as such by the court on the motion of the defendant or the attorney for the Commonwealth at any time before the judgment.

Code 1950, § 19.1-173; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-229. When complaining witness required to give security for costs.

For good cause the court may require a complaining witness to give security for the costs and if he fails to do so dismiss the prosecution at his costs.

Code 1950, § 19.1-174; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-230. Bill of particulars.

A court of record may direct the filing of a bill of particulars at any time before trial. A motion for a bill of particulars shall be made before a plea is entered and at least seven days before the day fixed for trial and the bill of particulars shall be filed within such time as is fixed by the court.

1975, c. 495.

Article 3. Amendments.

§ 19.2-231. Amendment of indictment, presentment or information.

If there be any defect in form in any indictment, presentment or information, or if there shall appear to be any variance between the allegations therein and the evidence offered in proof thereof, the court may permit amendment of such indictment, presentment or information, at any time before the jury returns a verdict or the court finds the accused guilty or not guilty, provided the amendment does not change the nature or character of the offense charged. After any such amendment the accused shall be arraigned on the indictment, presentment or information as amended, and shall be allowed to plead anew thereto, if he so desires, and the trial shall proceed as if no amendment had been made; but if the court finds that such amendment operates as a surprise to the accused, he shall be entitled, upon request, to a continuance of the case for a reasonable time.

Code 1950, §§ 19.1-175 through 19.1-177; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

Article 4. Process.

§ 19.2-232. What process to be awarded against accused on indictment, etc.

When an indictment or presentment is found or made, or information filed, the court, or the judge thereof, shall award process against the accused to answer the same, if he be not in custody. Such process, if the prosecution be for a felony, shall be a capias; if it be for a misdemeanor, for which imprisonment may be imposed, it may be a capias or summons, in the discretion of the court or judge; in all other cases, it shall be, in the first instance a summons, but if a summons be returned executed and the defendant does not appear, or be returned not found, the court or judge may award a capias. The officer serving the summons or capias shall also serve a copy of the indictment, presentment, or information therewith.

If the accused is in custody when an indictment or presentment is found or made, or information is filed, and no process is awarded, the attorney for the Commonwealth shall so notify the court of such at the time of first appearance for each indictment, presentment, or information for which a report is required upon arrest pursuant to subsection A of § 19.2-390, and the court shall order that the fingerprints and photograph of the accused be taken for each offense by a law-enforcement officer or by the agency that has custody of the accused at the time of first appearance. The law-enforcement officer or agency taking the fingerprints and photograph shall submit a report to the Central Criminal Records Exchange for each offense pursuant to subsection A of § 19.2-390.

Code 1950, § 19.1-178; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495; 1980, c. 349; 2019, cc. 782, 783.

§ 19.2-233. How awarded, directed, returnable and executed.

Sections 8.01-292 and 8.01-295 shall apply to process in criminal, as well as in civil cases; and the court may, in the same case against the same person, award at the same time, or different times, several writs of summons or capias directed to officers of different counties or cities. An officer having a capias under which the accused is let to bail shall give a certificate of the fact, which shall protect him against any other capias which may have been issued for the same offense. A summons shall be served by delivering a copy thereof to the party in person and the clerk issuing such summons shall deliver or transmit therewith as many copies thereof as there are persons named therein on whom it is to be served.

Code 1950, § 19.1-179; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-234. Procedure when person arrested under capias.

An officer who, under a capias from any court, arrests a person accused of an offense shall proceed in accordance with § 19.2-80 and Article 1 (§ 19.2-119 et seq.) of Chapter 9 of Title 19.2 regarding bail.

Code 1950, § 19.1-183; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495; 1986, c. 327.

§ 19.2-235. Clerks to mail process to officers in other counties, etc.

The clerk of every court shall forward, by mail, all process issued for the Commonwealth, directed to the officer of any county or city other than his own.

Code 1950, § 19.1-181; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-236. Where process of arrest may be executed.

When process of arrest in a criminal prosecution is issued from a court, either against a party accused or a witness, the officer to whom it is directed or delivered may execute it in any part of the Commonwealth.

Code 1950, § 19.1-182; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-237. Process on indictment or presentment for misdemeanor.

On any indictment or presentment for a misdemeanor process shall be issued immediately. If the accused appear and plead to the charge, the trial shall proceed without delay, unless good cause for continuance be shown. If, in any misdemeanor case the accused fails to appear and plead, when required the court may either award a capias or proceed to trial in the same manner as if the accused had appeared, plead not guilty and waived trial by jury, provided, that the court shall not in any such case enforce a jail sentence.

Code 1950, §§ 19.1-180, 19.1-184; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495; 1979, c. 468.

§ 19.2-238. Summons against corporation; proceedings; expense of publication.

A summons against a corporation to answer an indictment, presentment or information may be served as provided in §§ 8.01-299 through 8.01-301; and if the defendant after being so served fail to appear, the court may proceed to trial and judgment, without further process, as if the defendant had appeared, plead not guilty and waived trial by jury. And when, in any such case, publication of a copy of the process is required according to such sections, the expense of such publication may be certified by the court to the Comptroller, and shall be paid out of the state treasury; but the same shall be taxed with other costs and collected from the defendant, if judgment be for the Commonwealth, and be paid into the state treasury by the officer collecting the same.

Code 1950, § 19.1-186; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.