A special guest today!

July 2, 2007 | Karin's Blog | 30 comments

It is my pleasure to introduce my good friend Virna DePaul as my guest today. If you have any questions at all, fire away! And thank you so much Virna for taking time for us today out of your very busy schedule. Oh, and Virna will be giving away a $10 BN gift card to a random commenter on this post.
Now a little bit about Virna:

Virna has been a criminal appellate prosecutor with the California Attorney General’s Office since 1996. Before that, she spent a year in the trenches handling misdemeanor trials as a Deputy District Attorney. Her first romantic suspense manuscript, Trial By Fire, placed second in the 2007 Smokey Mountain Laurie’s single title category (w/a Nina Meyers) and landed Virna her dream agent, Kimberly Whalen. Virna’s current wip explores repressed memories, sexual fetishes, and crimes of passion. She juggles her job and pursuit of publication with the support of many friends and the four men in her life (ages 2 to 38). www.virnadepaul.com

And heeeeeeerrrrre’s Virna!

First, a big thank you to Karin. I’m so thrilled to be a guest blogger today. Karin asked me to write a little bit about criminal procedure and the difference between criminal and civil law. I hope to give a down and dirty guide that all you writers can follow when trying to incorporate a criminal procedure plot into your stories. And I hope to do it in a way that won’t bore you to tears. But we are talking the law here, so I can only do so much. (I do believe the criminal procedure process has many similarities to the writer’s journey, but that’s another blog….)

When I say I’m a lawyer for the California Department of Justice, most people are baffled. They often confuse me with being a Deputy District Attorney, which is understandable. Both are prosecutors, after all. But there are many key differences. And it all has to do with what level and stage of prosecution you are dealing with.

Most true crime and cop shows, and most mystery/suspense novels for that matter, deal almost exclusively with a prosecution at the pretrial and/or trial stages. These are the stages that are most familiar to readers, and they are the easiest to make “sexy” since they most immediately follow the commission of a crime. But exclusive use of these criminal stages in your writing can be limiting. By having a good working knowledge of the criminal procedure process, you can definitely expand your story lines and your characterization. You can identify all the key players in the prosecution (and defense) with ease. And you can hopefully avoid the inaccuracies that can pull a reader out of a story, even if it’s because something “just doesn’t sound right.”

To illustrate what I mean, I’m going to tell you the key questions you need to ask yourself during the initial stages of your plotting (or pantsing, if that’s more accurate). This information is based on my knowledge of California law and research about federal law, but it is certainly not infallible or exhaustive. (Please do not rely on this blog for legal advice.)

1. The first obvious question to ask is what crime was committed and where was it committed. This will determine whether it is a state or federal prosecution, and it will tell you what agencies were/are initially in charge of investigating and prosecuting the crime.
2. The next question is what stage of prosecution is at issue? The stages are pretrial, trial, sentencing, appeal or writ, and corrections.
3. The next question is, based on the stage of the prosecution, have the investigating and prosecuting agencies (identified in step 1) changed?
4. The final question is what criminal issues are presented within each stage of the prosecution? Some familiar ones are Miranda violations, motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence, or jury misconduct.

Now, let’s walk through these steps using the story line from my work in progress.

Ten years ago, my sixteen-year-old heroine disobeyed her mother to see a boy four years older than her. She returned home to find her mother had been brutally murdered by a homeless man (Jackson) that the heroine had befriended. At the beginning of the book, the hero, the same boy (now man) who kissed the heroine ten years earlier, returns to Sacramento and is assigned to reopen the investigation into her mother’s death.

Some questions you may ask yourself are why and how the hero is able to reopen the case? What type of law enforcement officer is he? And what prosecutorial agency has asked him to reopen the case? To answer these questions, let’s go through the four steps I outlined above.


Q: What crime has the defendant committed and where?
A: Murder in Sacramento.

Q: What investigative agency initially responded to the crime and investigated it?
A. The Sacramento Police Department.

Q: Was this a state or federal prosecution, and what prosecutorial agency began the prosecution?
A: State, as represented by the County District Attorney’s Office.

While none of this information probably comes as a big surprise, the reason I’m giving it is to point out that, while this is a typical scenario, it is not the only one.


Law Enforcement Involvement:

The local city police department will almost always be the first response to a crime scene. However, a county Sheriff’s Department will respond if the crime is committed in an unincorporated area of the county, or if it involves a crime committed in a county jail. Once the defendant is charged with the crime, the prosecuting agency may, in addition to local police, use its own investigative officers. For most crimes, D.A.s would use D.A. investigators. For other state prosecutions, the California Department of Justice would use Special Agents from the Department of Law Enforcement. And for federal prosecutions, the United States Attorney’s Office can use investigators from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Drug Enforcement Administration. The authority of state investigators and prosecutors is generally limited to the state in which they work, while federal investigators and prosecutors can compel witnesses and conduct investigations anywhere in the nation or even in another country.

Why this is a state prosecution?

Violations of the California Penal Code are considered crimes against the state of California. Crimes are classified as infractions (petty offenses for which there is never any jail or prison time imposed), misdemeanors (minor offenses for which there may be jail time imposed) and felonies (serious offenses for which prison time can be imposed). There is also a category called “wobblers,” which are crimes that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Persons convicted of felonies can have their rights limited. For example, they can lose their right to vote, serve on juries, possess weapons, or serve in the military. They may also have their sentences enhanced if they are convicted of additional crimes in the future.

Generally, crimes are initially prosecuted by a county’s District Attorney’s Office, which operates under the authority of the state’s chief prosecuting officer, the Attorney General. Criminal defense will be provided by either the county Public Defender’s Office or privately retained counsel.
The District Attorney’s Office, however, is not the only prosecuting agency to handle trials. The DOJ/California Attorney General’s Office handles prosecutions that have wider impact on the State. Such crimes can include white collar crime, large scale drug operations, gaming or environmental crimes, or unfair and deceptive trade practices and unfair methods of competition.

Also, prosecutors with the DOJ/CA Attorney General’s Office (called Deputy Attorney Generals) may step in and prosecute local cases for a district attorney’s office. This occurs where the D.A. has a conflict (for example, where the D.A.’s son is arrested for a d.u.i), where a small county’s district attorney’s office does not have the man power to prosecute a really big case, or where the D.A. decides not to prosecute a case and the Attorney General feels the case is worth prosecuting.
In addition, once a defendant is convicted at trial, his appeal (whether made in state or federal court [see step 3]), is handled by the DOJ/California Attorney’s Office. Again, defendants on appeal will be represented by court-appointed or private counsel.

Federal Prosecutions:

Certain crimes are crimes against the federal government. Such crimes can include terrorism, drugs, firearms, environmental crimes, child pornography, interstate domestic violence, bank robberies, and smuggling. The key is that the crime has significance to the nation or is not isolated to just one state. A federal crime also occurs where the crime took place on federal property or in a federal building (for example, a federal post office). Federal prosecutions are prosecuted by a division of the United States Attorney’s Office. Defendants may be represented by the Federal Defender’s Office or private counsel.
Note: The same crime can be prosecuted in both state and federal court without violating double jeopardy principles.


Q: What stage of the prosecution is at issue?
A: In my story, Jackson is at the appellate stage. He has sought review in the federal court via a writ of habeas corpus. Ten years after he has been convicted of the crime, the federal court has granted Jackson a federal evidentiary hearing.



The Arrest: This can occur at the crime scene or someplace else via an arrest warrant. In state prosecutions, the arrest generally comes before the filing of the complaint. In federal prosecutions, it typically comes after a grand jury indictment is filed. All arrests must be based on probable cause (“reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant has committed a crime”).
Evaluation of the case by the prosecuting agency: After arrest, the prosecuting agency will review police reports and, if necessary, obtain further evidence (witness statements, test physical evidence) to determine what crimes have been committed, if any. If there is insufficient evidence, the charges may be downgraded or dropped altogether.

Charging Document: In state court, the prosecution starts with the filing of a complaint. The defendant is then entitled to a preliminary hearing, at which time the prosecution must prove there is sufficient cause to hold the defendant over. If the court finds the prosecution has done this, an information is filed. In federal prosecutions, criminal prosecutions are normally started with the filing of the complaint and information, and then by a grand jury indictment. A grand jury is a secret panel of 23 people to whom an Assistant United States Attorney and a federal agent present evidence of a federal crime. Neither the defendant nor his attorney are allowed to be present. However, federal grand juries can compel witnesses to testify and submit documents to them. An indictment is issued if the grand jury finds probable cause of a crime.

The Bail Hearing: This can either be part of the initial hearing or a separate one. The court determines whether the defendant has to post bail or can be released on his or her own recognizance.
The Arraignment: Once a complaint, indictment or information has been filed with the trial court, the defendant is arraigned. This is where the defendant is formally notified of the charges in open court and where the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty. (Defendants almost always plead not guilty during arraignment, even if they later plan to plead guilty after a deal has been offered.) A defendant in California is entitled to be arraigned within 48 hours of his arrest. An in-custody defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of his initial arraignment. And he is entitled to a trial within 30 to 60 days of his Superior Court arraignment (after prelim) – depending on whether he is charged with a misdemeanor or felony and whether he is in custody. Of course, defendants can waive their rights to these time deadlines, which they will usually do to have more time to prepare their case.
Plea Negotiations: In many cases, the prosecutor and a defendant’s lawyer will negotiate a plea, also known as plea bargaining. Usually, the prosecutor offers to drop certain charges or agree to a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Pre-trial Motions: Prior to trial, defense attorneys can make a variety of motions. The most common are motions to dismiss for lack of evidence that a crime has been committed and motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence (i.e., evidence obtained without a warrant or from an illegal search).


If a plea agreement is not reached, the proceedings move toward the trial stage. Defendants have a constitutional right to a jury trial, but may choose to waive it in favor of a trial by a judge (bench trial). A jury is a sworn body of 12 persons who can issue a verdict of guilt or acquittal by a unanimous verdict. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, a mistrial results. The prosecution can decide whether to refile charges and try again. When the jury reaches a verdict, their finding is read to the defendant in open court. In state prosecutions, the judge is a county superior court judge. In federal prosecutions, it is a district court judge.


Presentence Investigation and Reports: Once the defendant is convicted, the court usually asks for reports on the defendant’s family, medical and criminal background. In state prosecutions, this is provided by the probation department, who identifies mitigating and aggravating factors, and gives a recommended sentence. The judge considers all this evidence to determine if the defendant should get the middle term sentence (this is the default sentence unless mitigating or aggravating factors are found), or the low or high term.


Unless the defendant has plea bargained for a sentence, he will normally be sentenced to the term of imprisonment specified in the Penal Code. In some jurisdictions the sentence is decided by the jury, particularly for capital offenses. In California death penalty cases, the jury first determines whether defendant is guilty and if the charged “special circumstance” (which makes him eligible for the death penalty) has been proven. In a separate penalty phases, it then decides whether to give him life without the possibility of parole or death.


Appeals: In California cases, every defendant convicted of a felony is entitled to appeal his sentence with court-appointed counsel (if he can’t afford his own). The appeal starts with the filing of a Notice of Appeal. The primary court which rules on appeals is the state district courts. The defendant can then seek review from the California Supreme Court. In capital cases, every defendant gets an automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court. When a defendant appeals, he is arguing that some error or misconduct prevented him from having a fair or reliable trial or sentence. The defendant may only raise issues that are reflected within the four corners of the appellate record. So if the court didn’t know about it or if it is not reflected in the record, it can’t be raised.

Writs: Once his state appeal has been denied, the defendant may file a writ of habeas corpus with the federal court. A writ of habeas corpus differs from a state appeal because the defendant may raise issues that go outside of the trial record. In other words, he can claim that error occurred outside of the trial proceedings, that new evidence has been discovered, or that his federal rights were otherwise violated. If the federal court determines the defendant may be able produce evidence to prove his claims, it may grant an evidentiary hearing. A defendant is not entitled to court-appointed counsel in federal habeas corpus proceedings. In my story, the federal court granted Jackson’s motion for evidentiary hearing.


This is when the defendant serves his time. This can be done either in a city or county jail or a state prison, depending on the length of time imposed in the sentencing hearing. Obviously for federal crimes there are federal prisons.

Q: Has the initial law enforcement or prosecutorial agency changed?
A: In my story, because Jackson’s state appeal was rejected and he is now seeking federal review, his case is in the hands of the DOJ/California Attorney General’s Office. (Even though the case is in federal court, the CA Attorney General’s Office represents the CA prison wardens, who are the named defendants in federal writs/appeals.) As stated above, the law enforcement agency that investigates cases for the California Attorney General’s Office is the California Department of Law Enforcement. Investigating officers for DLE are Special Agents and are sworn law enforcement.

How the state and federal agencies could work together:
So for a crime that violates both state and federal law, local police might make the arrest, charges could be filed in the county D.A.’s office, after the defendant is convicted he could file an appeal with the CA Attorney General’s Office, and then after his conviction is affirmed, the United States Attorney’s Office could seek to prosecute him on federal charges.

Q: What legal issues are raised?
A: In my case, Jackson is claiming he is actually innocent and he is requesting the federal court to consider evidence that wasn’t available at the time of trial, specifically DNA evidence.

Types of legal issues:

Most commonly, legal issues center around the legality of police action (did they legally enter a home or conduct a search), or the admissibility of certain evidence (even though the defendant confessed to the crime, is that confession excluded because he was not read his Miranda rights). It can also center around jury misconduct claims, or claims that the defendant is incompetent or was legally insane at the time of the crime.


Finally, I wanted to talk briefly about the difference between criminal and civil trials. Civil law involves private law suits between two or more private entities. In criminal law, the prosecution is initiated by the state or federal government through the prosecutor. It is not initiated by the victim (which means the victim has no control over whether charges can be dropped). The other major difference? The burden of proof is different. In a criminal prosecution, because personal liberty is involved, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil trial, the plaintiff must prove her case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is a “more likely than not” standard. This means liability must be proved by at least a 51% probability.

So, I hope I’ve succeeded in showing you that your criminal procedure storyline does not have to be limited to D.A.s, local police officers, trials and motions to suppress (although I must admit that is exactly what my first ms was about). I also hope I’ve given you some details that will help you create a suspenseful story with accuracy and realism.

Are you writing a story with a criminal procedure plot line? If so, what stage in the prosecution are your characters dealing with? Can you think of a book or movie where the criminal plot or proceedings seemed unbelievable to you?

Wow! Thank you, Virna! I’m printing this out. Don’t forget Write Lifers, feel free to ask Virna questions.



  1. Lexi Connor

    Wow! What a wealth of information! Thanks for sharing. I too will probably print it out, especially since one of the stories bouncing around in my head revolved around a murder.

  2. Misa Ramirez

    You know your stuff, Virna! I’m going to print it, too, to keep as reference. Are you going to address criminalistics on your web site and blog?

  3. Amanda

    Virna, thanks for so much info. I’ll definitely print and save. What made you make the jump from lawyer to romance writer?

  4. Virna

    Hi Lexi! Thanks for posting. I hope the info helps generate some ideas for your story.

    Misa, I am going to talk about legal issues on my website periodically. For example, I already blogged about Miranda violations and excluding relevant evidence from the jury.

    Kate, I’m hoping you didn’t “kill” who I think you did! 🙂 I didn’t decide to go to law school until I was a senior in undergrad. At that point I knew it would be criminal law since that had the human connection I needed. I wanted to write long before I wanted to be lawyer. Now I’m having to work around that detour, but it’s all been good.

    Hi Amanda! I’ve always wanted to write romance but always managed to make excuses (have to take one more writing class, read one more writing book, too busy, etc). But it was always under the surface and kept coming up, and I just decided to do it. And I’ve loved it!

  5. RachaelfromNJ

    Hi Virna! Thanks for posting so much wonderful info! Do you always plot everything out first or do you sometimes just sit down and write and see where the story takes you?

  6. Linda

    Hello Everyone,

    WoW! Great post lots of great information. Thanks for sharing this with us Virna.

    Virna, What is the most valuable advice giving to you as a writer?

    Have a wonderful & safe 4th of July everyone.


  7. Rachelle

    Great information! To answer your blog question, having been involved in some form of criminal law for almost 15 years, I find almost nothing unbelieveable anymore when it comes to criminals and crimes. However, I do find many movies tend to have an inaccurate portrayal of what the law allows, e.g., questioning that simply wouldn’t be allowed or evidence that couldn’t possibly be admitted. I know courts and attorneys can do crazy things, but some are even outside that realm. While I usually just try to suspend my disbelief, I truly appreciate a movie or book which doesn’t have these distracting flaws. When I see one, I know that the author/director had to work harder to make their story accurate. And, more importantly, I find the story is much more suspenseful as a result.

    On a different note, as a legal writer (I’m a Deputy Attorney General also) and a reader (not a writer) of romance, I really appreciate an author who writes about some other stage of the criminal process than the usual starting point: crime committed, prosecution commenced by DA. You can get some interesting case history, different players than usual, and can have some of the players be involved in ways you never thought before because interagency relationships are different than the traditional. And, for those who read lots of suspense-romance, there is a little different take on the usual which can only make the plot more unpredictable. Great job Virna. I can’t wait to see all your books in print.

  8. Josie Brown, author, IMPOSSIBLY TONGUE-TIED

    Hi, Virna,
    Thanks for all this WONDERFUL info.

    As a writer with such a strong legal background, how much would you say the introduction of DNA as a forensic tool will make it more difficult to write courtroom thrillers? It seems as if it makes a lot of cases open-and-shut…and that takes the fun out of plotting and reading… Thanks for your thoughts on this!

  9. Nancy Naigle

    Virna you have opened my eyes to several new angles I’d never considered or been aware of.
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Kate Perry

    Virna, all your great info makes me want to write suspense. I did kill someone off in my current WIP though–that’s a huge first step for me. 😉

    Did you always know you wanted to be a lawyer? And why/how did you get into criminal law?

  11. Liz L.

    Virna, great stuff. Thanks so much for sharing it. As we speak, I’m thinking of ways to incorporate some of it into my just finished RS.
    Thanks again.

  12. Debbie

    I’ve always been curious about the role of the sheriff’s department. Where do they come into play when there is a crime? I live in a small town with both local police and sherriff’s presence. I’ve always wondered why.

  13. Julia B.

    I am also a criminal attorney, and fairly new reader of romance. I have, however, read mystery and non-romance crime novels since I was a young girl. Thank you Virna for your exceptionally thorough, yet clear summary of the criminial process.
    I got into criminal law because of the human element involved. Each case was a new story, with new and often troubled lives. I began as a prosecutor, and now work as a defense attorney. One misconception writers have about female attorneys is that we have to be macho and abrasive. That is not who I am at all. I learned long ago that I can still be a good attorney and provide good representation for my client by being myself: respectful and diligent. I am human, and I do try to uphold justice, as well as the rights of the defendant. This is true whether I am prosecuting or defending.
    If you are a non-lawyer romance writer, I think it is very important to have a lawyer friend read your manuscript to help make your work sound true to both lawyer and non-lawyer readers. (Although with Virna’s great background, there won’t be as much for them to change.)
    My best moment in court came while I was prosecuting a man for spousal abuse. He did not have a prior history, and I believed that he could change. I made sure he paid the price for his crime (probation and counseling), but I also helped him get his record cleared when he had complied with all the court’s conditions. There is no greater moment than seeing a man stand before a judge after successfully completing all that was required of him for his crime. He stood tall and proud, though sufficiently humbled. I believe there can be great moments and stories in crime novels, and much can be said about justice and forgiveness.
    Good luck to all you wonderful writers!

  14. Virna

    Hi Rachael! I generally brainstorm the basic plot and characters for my book until I have several scenes in mind. Then I’ll sit down and can usually write the first few chapters until I feel the need to plot. I’ll write some more, then plot some more, and this is the process that generally works for me. I love seeing how my story and characters change from what I first envisioned.

    Linda, the most valuable advice I received was to just sit down and start writing. It forced me to stop making excuses and it reduced my expectation of perfection. I really believe that the best way to cure writer’s block is just to sit down and write. Even when I start out thinking it will be garbage, I’ve always been surprised at what I can come up with.

    Rachelle, thanks for your encouraging words about the importance of accuracy and variety in suspense stories. I hope to provide my readers the experience you are thinking of.

    Hi, Josie! I don’t think DNA will unduly limit complex plots in legal thrillers because it is usually the “final nail in the coffin.” You have to have a sample to test against the physical evidence. Even assuming there is a suspect to test the evidence against, there must still be enough probable cause to compel the sample. And, of course, there’s always the issue of whether DNA testing will be ordered. DNA testing is very expensive and right now only mandated in capital cases. Many prosecutors will go forward with standard evidence without ordering DNA testing. But, you’re right, for giving a definite answer when necessary, it will do the trick.

    Nancy, I’m so glad you found the information useful! Thank you for commenting on my blog.

  15. Virna

    Liz, Congratulations on finishing your manuscript!! I love that feeling. I hope some of the information I provided is useful.

    Debbie, my understanding is that uniformed police officers have general law enforcement duties, including maintaining regular patrols and responding to calls for service. Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs enforce the law on the county level as well. They have primary jurisdiction in unincorporated areas of the county. They also are responsible for courtroom security, for bringing all prisoners to court, serving summonses and writs for the courts, manning the county jail house and quelling riots. Generally, a deputy sheriff is in charge of keeping the peace within a county as opposed to one city within a county, but of course police and sheriff’s departments work together. Hope this helps clarify the difference!

    Julia, you made great points that I didn’t touch on. Thank you for reminding us that we should look beyond stereotypes for prosecutors, and specifically female ones. You are an example of quiet dignity and competence working for justice, and not just a conviction (or acquittal) at any cost.

  16. Karin

    Fab blog post, Virna. I wish OF was here to razz you a little. 🙂

  17. Virna


    I just wanted to clarify, it is my understanding that post-conviction (meaning on habeas) a capital defendant’s request for DNA testing of evidence that could exonerate him must be granted. At trial, the prosecuting or defense attorney will make a tactical choice whether to conduct DNA testing (assuming there is anything to test at all). DNA testing doesn’t eliminate the “who dunnit” suspense of a story, but once a suspect is apprehended and a viable DNA sample obtained from the physical evidence, that will make conviction easier. Hope that helps! V

  18. Virna

    Karin, I’m glad OF and I are on the same side! 🙂 I don’t even want to imagine trying to cross-examine him on the stand. Shudder.

  19. The other SFA Karin

    What a great blog, Virna! This is definitely going in my research folder.

    I have a few questions to help me clarify in my mind a certain hero’s backstory:

    1. What would be a reasonable amount of time we could use as the timeline from the time of a person’s arrest for murder to the time he/she arrives in prison? The man is being sent in as a plant by the Feds, but they want the arrest, etc. to seem real.
    2. If bail is denied in a federal murder case, does the accused stay in the local jail until sentencing is complete and only after sentencing gets transferred to prison?
    3. Do the appeals happen after the convicted person is already in prison?


    The other SFA Karin 🙂

  20. Karin

    🙂 Virna, I’ve watched him. He’s damn cool up there on the stand. lol, and he has pissed off more than a few defense attorneys.

  21. Virna

    Hi (other) Karin! Thanks for posting your questions. I’ll answer from my experience as a state prosecutor. I don’t think the answers for federal cases would be different, but I’ll check around for you and get back to you if I find out anything different. About six months from arrest to trial, but this can be shortened or extended by waiving time, waiving prelim, waiving jury trial, etc. If bail is not granted, the defendant is housed in the county jail pending trial. And once convicted, he is sent to state prison (assuming that’s the sentence he received as opposed to county jail time) even if he has an appeal pending. Let me know if I can help any other way.

    Kellie, I’m so glad you found the information useful. I know you’re a KOD member, so I wasn’t sure if this was duplicative of info already out there. Sounds like you are ready to get going on that ms! Have fun with it. I still remember how helpful you were at the November conference and really appreciated it.

    Thanks so everyone who visited and posted coments.

    Karin T, thanks for giving me the opportunity to do this blog. It was awesome. I’ll announce the drawing winner tomorrow morning.

  22. Virna

    My friend Rachelle caught an error in my blog. DLE is the DIVISION of Law Enforcement, not the DEPARTMENT of Law Enforcement. DLE operates under the Department of Justice. Thanks, Rachelle!

  23. Cele

    Oh, I am feeling so educated but not over whelmed by your information. Virna thank you so very much. You were enlightening but not over the top. Educational and not condescending. I very much look forward to your blog. You have answered curiosities I’ve had for a long time, and while I have questions I think I will check out your archives and wait to see what comes up in future topics on your blog.

    And I will warn you, my blog posting for this week on the Wednesday Links will be you. Thank you.

  24. Kellie Finley

    Wow, Virna, talk about taking a blog to a whole new level — what an amazing job you have done! Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is perfect timing for the manuscript I’m getting ready to re-write. (I was blessed with some excellent feedback from a terrific agent, and now that I’ve got my head around it, it’s time to get busy!) I’ve saved a copy in my research folder of all that you’ve shared here!

  25. Virna

    Cele, what a wonderful compliment you’ve given me. I hope my writing will always be as well-received. I’m currently renovating my website and haven’t been posting very regularly. If a question comes up, feel free to contact me. I hope to be a regular on line soon. (BTW, the Oregon Coast is beautiful. I agree it’s pretty close to heaven.)

  26. Virna

    Congratulation to Liz L.! You are the winner of a $10 Borders gift card! Thanks again to everyone who visited and commented yesterday.

  27. Karin

    Virna, THANK YOU!!!!

  28. Carolyn Williamson

    That was a very complete and helpful explanation. In Texas some things are different. It is a good idea to find out what happens in the state where the story is set. In Texas at the trial level a judge may appoint a lawyer to defend a poor defendant in a criminal case. The lawyer is paid a set rate by the state. A jury of twelve decides the guilt and the sentence. Criminal appeals go to a court of criminal appeals, but civil appeals go to a civil appellate court.
    Carolyn Williamson

  29. Rhonda Stapleton

    HOLYYYYYY CRAP! That was some AWESOMELY wonderful information. I’m SO glad I read this post today. THANK YOU!!!

  30. Liz Kreger

    Great information, Virna. I’ve been on the civil end of law for years (admin. asst. … fancy name for peon), and the information you shared is pretty much on par with Wisconsin law. Hubby is with the D.A.’s office, so I’ve absorbed quite a bit of information from him. However, your info is far more detailed. Thanx.


  1. Magical Musings » Blog Archive » Distracted - [...] If you’re writing RS or anything to do with crime and punishment, check out Karin Tabke’s latest guest blogger.…

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