Frequently asked QuestionsWhat is the Commonwealth's Attorney and what is his or her role in the Criminal Justice System?
What types of cases does the Commonwealth's Attorney NOT handle?
The Commonwealth's Attorney is one of five Constitutional Officers that are elected for each county or city in Virginia. That means that the position was established by the Virginia Constitution and has been in existence for more than 200 years. The duties of the Commonwealth's Attorney are many, but primarily they are in charge of representing the Commonwealth in criminal cases. However, the Code of Virginia establishes that the Commonwealth's Attorney is required to prosecute Felony cases only. Felony cases are cases involving crimes with a punishment in excess of 1 year. Obviously these are the most serious crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery, grand larceny, malicious wounding, etc. Mike Fleenor, your Commonwealth's Attorney in Pulaski County prosecutes all Felony cases, but also many misdemeanor crimes as well. "We decided when I was first elected in 1999, that we would be involved in prosecuting serious misdemeanor cases too," Fleenor explained, "We did not think it was appropriate for a police officer or a victim to be without an attorney on serious misdemeanor cases and subject to cross examination by the defendant's attorney. Therefore, we represent the Commonwealth in serious misdemeanors such as Driving Under the Influence, Stalking, Sexual Battery, Assault and Battery, Shoplifting, and other misdemeanors even though we are NOT required to do so." Other duties of the Commonwealth's Attorney include enforcement of local election laws and regulations, providing written opinion letters on questions relating to potential conflicts of interest, and advising all law enforcement agencies in Pulaski county on criminal investigations and procedure. "It is not uncommon for the phone to ring in the middle of the night with a police officer on the line asking a legal question or advising me of a serious crime. I am immediately advised of all homicides and go to the scene as soon as I am notified," said Fleenor.
I am a victim of crime. How will my case be handled?
The most common types of cases that the Commonwealth's Attorney does not handle are civil cases. These cases typically involve a dispute over money, land or family relationships. Examples of cases that the Commonwealth's Attorney does not get involved in are personal injury claims, divorce, partition suits over land, boundary line disputes, landlord tenant disputes and contract disputes.
After the crime has been committed, it will be investigated by the appropriate law enforcement agency. It will take several days and sometimes weeks to complete the investigation. Once complete, the law enforcement agency will forward the report to the Commonwealth's Attorneys office. From there it will be assigned to one of the seven attorneys-prosecutors in the office. You may call the office to determine which attorney is handling your case and make arrangements to speak to that person. But remember that often times it will take days or weeks before the report of the investigation gets to the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney. Unfortunately our criminal justice system is slow. That is not unusual to our County or State. That is the case everywhere. So please be patient.