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There are several reasons one may be charged with a crime including mistaken identity, false accusations, lack of restraint, poor judgment, or feeling that one had no other choice but to commit certain actions. Regardless of the circumstances that led to a criminal charge, if you are accused of a criminal offense in Virginia, you would be wise to learn as much as possible about the charges you face.
MISDEMEANOR AND FELONY CRIMINAL DEFENSE IN VIRGINIA
Virginia crimes are charged as either misdemeanor or felony offenses. A misdemeanor is considered a less serious crime than a felony, with a maximum jail sentence of one year. Violent crimes, high dollar property crimes, and serious drug crimes are generally considered felonies and carry prison sentences of up to life in prison. Certain crimes, such as DUI and assault, may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense. For example, first offense DUI is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, but subsequent offenses may be charged as felony DUIs. Assault is generally charged as a misdemeanor, but aggravated assault is considered a felony. Other crimes remain firmly planted in the misdemeanor category, such as disorderly conduct.
For a greater understanding of all the charges and penalties that fall within the disorderly conduct category, please click here.
Driving under the influence (DUI) charges in the Commonwealth of Virginia are taken very seriously. Drivers can be charged with driving under the influence if they are found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, and the limit for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge is even lower. DUI laws in Virginia also extend to drivers who operate a vehicle under the influence of narcotics or prescription drugs. Drunk driving offenses are very commonly charged and carry severe penalties including hefty fines, possible jail time, and even suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. A conviction could also lead to increased motor vehicle insurance rates and commercial drivers and those who drive for a living risk losing their employment and therefore suffering extreme financial strain. For a second or subsequent DUI conviction, the penalties become even more serious and you could possibly be facing felony charges.
Assault is a pretty general term, when in actuality there are a number of different crimes that fit that description. In Virginia, assault and battery are combined into one charge, encompassing a variety of offenses including harmful physical contact. Domestic assault and battery is another charge that may be confused with simple assault, but is characterized by assault between family or household members. Most simple assault and battery cases are tried as Class 1 misdemeanors, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison and $2,500 in fines. But the penalties for more severe cases escalate quickly. Our assault lawyer page will have more information about these types of laws and the charges you could face if you are found to violate them.
The Commonwealth of Virginia breaks down controlled substances into six different groups, or schedules, each carrying a different level of penalties if you are found to be in possession and ultimately convicted. The first, and most severe, classification is Schedule 1, and this includes drugs that are both addictive and dangerous, while having no medical value. That encompasses drugs like heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and GHB. Schedule 6, which carries the least stringent penalties upon conviction, simply includes marijuana. Virginia is actually one of a very few states that has a different section for Schedule 6 narcotics. The penalties for drug-related crimes in Virginia depend on the type of substances involved and the type of illicit activity. There are separate punishments for possession of an illegal substance versus drug distribution. Jail sentences for can range anywhere from five to ten years behind bars and fines can reach as high as $500,000. Please visit our drug lawyer page for more information about the various narcotic schedules in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the various penalties that each type of offense carries.
Fraud is defined in the Code of Virginia, Title 18.2 (Crimes and Offenses Generally), Chapter 6 (Crimes Involving Fraud). There are many fraud-related crimes that can result in criminal charges, though the majority of these crimes fall within the Class 1 misdemeanor category. Some of the most serious and common fraud-related offenses include bad checks and forgery, identity theft, and credit card fraud. Producing or using false identification can also result in a person being charged with a fraud-related offense. You can find more information about how to defend against such accusations here.
Even though you are granted the right to bear arms by the Constitution, there are certain laws that dictate when and where you are allowed to carry, and the penalties for violating those laws are very strict. Gun owners in the Commonwealth are also not legally able to carry some types of weapons, including plastic firearms and certain types of shotguns. The types of gun-related crimes with which you can be charged vary widely, including some that are considered felonies as opposed to misdemeanors, and the penalties for these violations will vary depending on the unique facts of your case. Our gun lawyer page features more information that will help you understand not only the laws you are accused of violating, but also the penalties that would be associated with a potential conviction.
The charge of murder is an offense that falls under the greater category of homicide. The legal definition of homicide holds that not all killings are crimes. In the case where someone has killed someone in self-defense, the slaying would be determined a justifiable homicide. However, many killings are defined as criminal offenses within the Commonwealth, including first and second degree murder and manslaughter. Homicide charges are among the egregious offenses that you can be charged with in Virginia, and the penalties for those convicted can be extremely dire. There are, however, a number of defense strategies that a well-qualified and keen legal mind can employ.
In Virginia, prosecutors have made it a practice to presume that a killing is second degree murder in many cases because the elements required to prove such a charge are more easily establish than those required for a successful first degree murder or capital murder conviction. Virginia Code Sections 18.2-30 defines both murder and manslaughter as felony offenses while Section. 18.2-31 determines that first degree murder, which is referred to as capital murder, is a Class 1 felony. Cases that may be deemed capital murder can include killings in the act of terrorism, murder committed for hire, multiple murders, and the killing of a victim under the age of 14 (provided that the accused is 21 or older and the slaying was proved to be premeditated, willful, and deliberate.
For a breakdown of all the homicide laws within the Commonwealth of Virginia, please click here.
Sex crimes are among the most fiercely prosecuted in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In fact, violations of these laws are treated so seriously that even an attempted act of sexual aggression could lead to pretty serious criminal charges even though a violation of the more serious laws was never actually committed. Sex offenses in Virginia include rape, sexual battery, and object sexual penetration, but also encompass non-physical acts such as indecent exposure. Sex crimes that cross state lines, such as sex trafficking and child pornography charges, could be prosecuted by the U.S. government and therefore be classified as federal crimes. A conviction for a sex crime could carry penalties of up to ten years in prison and pretty heavy fines, and there are also certain sex offenses that would require those convicted to register as a sex offender, so it is important to understand these laws and not risk putting yourself in jeopardy.
Theft offenses vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime, and can range from misdemeanor offenses to serious felonies. For example, shoplifting is often charged as petit larceny (if the value of goods is less than $200). At the other extreme, robbery charges involve elements of larceny and assault, making it a violent crime that is treated more seriously by the law and by prosecutors. Aggravating factors in robbery cases may include the use of a weapon (particularly a firearm), whether any serious bodily injury occurred, and whether it was the robbery of a vehicle (called carjacking).
Our site also offers information about reckless driving, which is more than just a traffic infraction in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In most states, driving at excessive speeds is a traffic violation. In Virginia, excessive speed and certain other driver actions are considered reckless driving. This is a criminal misdemeanor and can be punished by up to a year in jail. There is an extensive list of actions that constitute a reckless driving violation in the state of Virginia, which includes but is not limited to:
- Driving in excess of 20 mph above the posted speed limit
- Driving at any speed over 80 mph
- Failure to signal
- Passing a vehicle on a curve
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Driving with faulty brakes
- Drag racing
- Any act of aggressive driving, such as weaving in and out of traffic
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.
Many of these violations are very similar to an offense that would just lead to a typical traffic ticket, making it difficult to understand when you have committed a criminal offense or what exactly you did. You can find more information about these violations and what they might mean for you by visiting our reckless driving lawyer page.
Criminal offenses that are prosecuted by the United States government as opposed to the state are considered federal offenses; however, charges may be brought in either state or federal court. Federal criminal offenses include drug crimes such as drug trafficking and manufacturing as well as sex crimes such as production of child pornography. Convictions for federal crimes typically lead to much harsher penalties than state-level criminal offenses, which is why the help of a seasoned federal crimes lawyer is of the utmost importance. The federal government has endless resources at its disposal to investigate such crimes and will use investigative agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to build an extremely solid case against the individuals they are charging. There is a higher conviction rate for federal charges, but that does not mean that all is lost should you be charged with a federal offense. For more information on federal crimes and the penalties associated with them, click here.
WHITE COLLAR CRIME
Offenses involving illegal business or commercial activity for the financial gain of a person or organization are often referred to as white collar crimes in homage to the suits that businesspeople typically wear. These types of offenses are very commonly charged and very aggressively prosecuted. White collar cases can be tried in state courts or federal courts if the alleged victim is the U.S. government or an agency that receives funding from the government. White collar crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Money Laundering
- Tax Evasion or Tax Fraud
- Bribery or Extortion
Due to their intricate nature, such crimes often involve extensive investigation in order for the prosecution to prove their case. If convicted, offenders can face extremely severe penalties as well as a permanently marred reputation. Individuals who require security clearances for their jobs may risk their employment status.
Fairfax County is one of the most populated counties in the state because of the amount of people that commute to the nation’s capital. As a result, violent crimes are too common there, and there is a chance that residents of the county, and the independent city of Fairfax, will be the victim of a crime. According to the latest crime statistics, there were 17,453 “violent crimes” committed in the county in 2010, including 394 robberies, 963 cases of motor vehicle theft and 14,345 instances of general larceny. This, of course, does not include nonviolent crimes like reckless driving, so the figure of total crimes committed in the county will actually be much higher. Criminal cases in Fairfax County will be heard at the County Courthouse at 4110 Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax, Virginia.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
Prince William County extends from the Potomac River all the way north past Haymarket while engulfing the independent city of Manassas. Prince William County has one common facility for their district and circuit courts, and it can be found at 9311 Lee Avenue in Manassas. The county actually saw a downtick in a lot of common areas of crime enforcement in 2010 including drug, weapons, and DUI charges. Drug arrests fell from 1,290 in 2009 to 1,186 in 2010. Weapons charges dropped from 55 to 37, and DUI’s from 2,116 to 2,046. However, if you are facing criminal charges in Prince William County, you may be in need of well-qualified criminal defense.
The independent city of Alexandria, located inside the beltway but across the river from Washington, DC, is a very populated area with a lot of citizens who make their way into the city everyday for work. The city saw a pretty steep drop in the overall crime rate from 2009 to 2010. The violent crimes fell only 0.9 percent, but what the city describes as nuisance crimes (prostitution, gambling, DUI) fell almost 17 percent; an overall drop of 694 cases. The Alexandria courthouse, where many of these criminal cases will be heard, can be found along King Street.
The Arlington General District Court can be found at 1425 North Courthouse Road. That is where many of the criminal cases in the independent city of Arlington will be held. The overall crime rate in Arlington dropped almost 8 percent in 2010 from the totals in 2009. Vehicle theft experienced the largest drop, dipping from 297 to 211 cases in 2010. Despite this drop in crime rates, many individuals may still find themselves up against serious criminal charges and may require the help of a skilled defense attorney.
We also provide services for:
- Caroline County
- Chesterfield County
- Falls Church
- Henrico County
- Lunenburg County
- Macklenburg County
- New Kent County
- Newport News
- Nottaway County
- Stafford County
- And other locations
AGGRESSIVE VIRGINIA CRIMINAL LAWYER
No one plans on becoming a defendant in a criminal case, but if you find yourself facing a criminal misdemeanor or felony charge, your freedom and livelihood could be at risk. If you are questioned about your involvement in any crime, arrested on a criminal complaint, or charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, it is your right to have an attorney and it is important to exercise such constitutional rights. If you are looking for more information regarding the types of charges you are facing as well as the possible penalties associated with a conviction, our team of diligent Virginia criminal lawyers is here to advise you. To speak with an experienced Virginia criminal attorney regarding your case, call (703) 278-2800 or (888) 415-8090 for a free consultation.
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