It’s not unusual for two or more people to be arrested and charged together for the same crime. However, in many cases, not everyone has the amount of culpability. It’s even possible that one or more of those charged was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you are facing charges with another defendant or multiple defendants, is it possible to ask the court to separate your case from the others? In legal parlance, having a case that’s joined with other defendants is known as “joinder.” Separating your case is known as “severance.”
What has the Virginia Supreme Court ruled?
The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that the cases of those “charged with participating in contemporaneous and related acts or occurrences” can be joined “unless such joint trial would constitute prejudice to a defendant.” The court also stated, “If the court finds that a joint trial would constitute prejudice to a defendant, the court must order severance as to that defendant or provide such other relief as justice requires.”
Making the case for severance
If a person wants to seek to sever their case from that of their co-defendants, they need to have a strong case to present to the judge to show why that prejudice against them would be likely to occur. The fact that you didn’t know some of the other co-defendants or weren’t aware of their actions may not always be sufficient. From large white-collar criminal enterprises to drug cases to gang activity, not all of the alleged participants operate together or even in the same area.
Part of making a motion to sever your case is getting your own legal representation. Even if the alleged leader of the group is willing to pay for everyone’s defense, you need to get your own counsel who will focus solely on your rights and defense. The sooner you do this, the better your chances are of prevailing in court.