Many laws govern the activities of the Sheriff Department when investigating a crime. The Lincoln County Sheriff employs professional Deputy Sheriffs who are trained at the West Virginia State Police Academy, who have law enforcement experience and on-the-job training. Deputy Sheriff positions are not political, as they once were, but are civil service positions governed by State Civil Service laws.
Once the Sheriff Department has obtained a list of suspects who may have committed the crime, it generally narrows that list to the persons who had a motive to commit the crime; who had the means or ability to commit the crime; and who had the opportunity to commit the crime.
Once a supsect is arrested, that is, detained and placed in the custody of the Sheriff, the suspect is afforded all of the rights, duties and responsibilities guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the West Virginia Consitution, and all Federal and State laws.
The process begins at the Magistrate Court, where the accused is arraigned. At the arraignment, the accused may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, or the accused may remain silent and the court will enter a plea of not guilty for the accused. The Magistrate will set a bond for the accused at the arraignment, unless the crime is a capital offense, in which case the Circuit Court will set the bond. Arraingnments are sometimes conducted by video conferencing, where the accused remains at the Regional Jail for the arraignment.
If the crime is a misdemeanor, the accused will be tried by the Magistrate Court. The burden of proof in any criminal proceeding is "beyond a reasonable doubt". The accused is entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers in all criminal matters, or the accused may elect to be tried by a Magistrate only, in misdemeanor matters. If the accused is found guilty by a Magistrate or a Magistrate jury, the accused may appeal the verdict to Circuit Court.
If the crime is a felony, the Magistrate Court holds a probable cause hearing. If the Magistrate believes that sufficient evidence exists to believe that the accused committed the crime, the Magistrate will refer the matter to the Circuit Court where the Grand Jury will decide whether sufficient evidence exists to return an indictment against the accused.
Even if the Magistrate dismisses the matter at the probable cause stage, the Prosecuting Attorney still may present the matter to the Grand Jury for a possible indictment.
If the Grand Jury returns an indictment, the accused will then face a trial in Circuit Court, where again the accused will be entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers or to a trial by the judge.
The Sheriff is charged at all stages of a criminal proceeding to protect the public. If an accused is jailed pending the trial and other proceedings, the Sheriff Department will provide custodial care of the accused, including incarceration in the jail and transportation to and from the jail for court appearances.
The Sheriff also provides bailiff services for all of the Lincoln County courts, including Magistrate Court, Family Court and Circuit Court. The bailiff is charged with keeping the peace and maintaining proper order and decorum for the various courts.
The Sheriff and Deputy Sheriffs also are charged with keeping the peace and maintaining proper order at all public events and with enforcing all laws of the State and its subdivisions.
The Sheriff maintains a staff of Deputy Sheriffs to enforce the law at all geographical locations throughout Lincoln County. You may reach Law Enforcement in an EMERGENCY by dialing 9-1-1.