Fairfax Criminal Defense & DUI Lawyer
A conviction for any type of criminal offense under Virginia law can have serious consequences from a legal, personal, and professional standpoint. Developing a strong defense strategy when facing criminal charges can be essential to minimizing or avoiding some or all of these negative repercussions.
A Fairfax criminal defense & DUI lawyer may be able to assist you in building a strong defense to the accusations that you are facing.
Working with an accomplished attorney could be beneficial in numerous ways, as a strong legal advocate might be able to investigate the facts surrounding your situation, assess the evidence against you, and work to create an effective defense in your case.
Classification of Criminal Offenses in Fairfax
Criminal offenses are divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are generally the less serious of these two types, as they carry less severe penalties. Not only do felonies tend to carry more serious punishments, but they also routinely result in the loss of certain civil rights, such as the right to carry firearms and vote.
Criminal offenses classified as misdemeanors are typically crimes that do not result in serious bodily harm to others or involve large amounts of money or items of value. A conviction on a misdemeanor offense can result in a jail sentence of no more than one year, as well as fines and other penalties. As a knowledgeable criminal defense and DUI lawyer in Fairfax could explain, common examples of misdemeanor offenses include:
- Petit larceny of goods worth less than $500
- Protective order violations
- DUI as a first or second offense within a 10 year period
While misdemeanors can be minor, they do have the potential to result in jail time, especially for subsequent convictions. Misdemeanor convictions also might be problematic for some jobs or careers when they appear on background checks. Therefore, contacting a knowledgeable attorney may be the most effective way to avoid or minimize the consequences of misdemeanor convictions.
Felony offenses tend to have more severe penalties than misdemeanor offenses. These offenses often involve an element of violence, usage of a weapon, large amounts of controlled substances, or goods with a high value. Potential sentences of incarceration can range from one year in jail to life in prison—for the most serious of felonies, sentences of death or life in prison are also possible outcomes.
Some of the more common felony charges include robbery and burglary, sex offenses, grand theft, murder and manslaughter, and drug trafficking. With the lengthy prison sentences, a felony conviction also can result in thousands of dollars in fines and a loss of certain civil rights, such as the right to vote or possess a firearm.
Offenses that Could Be Misdemeanors or Felonies
Some criminal offenses may result in either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on certain circumstances. In some cases, a crime is normally a misdemeanor, but it may become a felony offense when individuals have prior convictions or when aggravating circumstances exist, such as the presence or involvement of a minor in the offense.
As an example, while a first-time DUI is a misdemeanor charge, a third DUI offense within a ten-year period can result in a Class 6 felony charge under Virginia law. Likewise, simple larceny of goods valued at less than $500 is a misdemeanor charge. If the goods are valued at $550 or more, it becomes grand larceny, which is a felony.
Facing DUI Charges
It is no secret that driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs can lead to serious consequences. Most people facing DUI charges had no intention of getting caught up in the criminal justice system. However, that may be exactly what happens if you are accused of intoxicated driving in Virginia.
Working with a Fairfax criminal defense attorney lawyer who understands the various aspects of defending against DUI charges can be an important part of facing the potential penalties. By getting the legal advice that you need, you also may be better equipped to make decisions about your case and work toward resolving the charges against you.
A DUI charge can happen to anyone, and the consequences of a conviction can be far-reaching. Individuals should note that an accusation of inebriated driving does not necessarily have to affect the rest of your life, however. An understanding and thorough DUI attorney with experience in criminal defense in Fairfax may mean that you do not have to navigate the criminal justice system alone.
How Stops Happen
In some cases, officers may stop drivers who have committed a traffic violation, such as speeding, improper passing, or other similar actions, or because they have set up a checkpoint. It may be only after officers approach the drivers of these vehicles that they suspect alcohol or drug usage. These observations may consist of slurred speech, slow reaction times, and the smell of alcohol, among others, which may give rise to the administration of sobriety tests.
These tests may include standard field sobriety tests that most law enforcement agencies administer, as well as a breath test, which is designed to measure the blood alcohol content (BAC) of drivers. If the results of these tests indicate that drivers are intoxicated or otherwise under the influence, they are likely to face arrest.
Advocating for Your Rights When Stopped for a DUI
While law enforcement can use a refusal to submit to testing as probable cause for making an arrest, there is generally no reason why drivers should help police officers build a case against them. As an example, when questioned about alcohol or drug usage during a traffic stop, drivers have the right to remain silent and not answer those questions. In fact, individuals may properly identify themselves and request to speak with a criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax prior to making any other statements.
Individuals who want to learn more about their rights regarding a charge for intoxicated driving, as well as the legal options that may be available to them, should contact a dedicated criminal defense and DUI attorney in Fairfax immediately.
How an Experienced Fairfax DUI Attorney Might Help
If you are accused of driving while intoxicated—whether for an underage charge or a third offense—time is of the essence. There are many significant penalties related to conviction that can have a significant impact on your life and livelihood, including the loss of driving privileges and other unintended consequences, like higher insurance rates. A conviction could also mean that you have a criminal record that may follow you for your entire life.
These deeply personal aspects of a case can make a compassionate Fairfax DUI lawyer an important part of your legal strategy in facing these charges. The sooner you begin working with a criminal defense attorney, the sooner that legal professional can dedicate time and energy to investigating your case. By working tirelessly to protect you through each step of the judicial process—from going to court to filing any necessary appeals—a legal professional could prove to be an essential ally.
Property Crimes in Fairfax
While property crimes primarily focus on the loss or destruction of property, they typically do not involve harm to others. As an example, property crimes include:
- Bad checks
- Credit card fraud
- Destruction of property
These criminal offenses often are less serious than those involving people, but they still can carry harsh penalties. A practiced criminal defense attorney in Fairfax could help to explain the nuances of these offenses.
One of the most common property crimes is theft, or larceny, which is divided into two separate categories. As dictated by Virginia Code § 18.2-96, petit larceny involves the theft of goods or items valued at less than $500 and the theft of goods or items valued at less than $5 directly from a person. Alternatively, pursuant to Va. Code § 18.2-95, grand larceny involves the theft of items valued at $500 or more and the theft of items valued at more than $5 directly from another person.
Individuals who steal any firearm, no matter its value, also face grand larceny charges. It should also be noted that if defendants have two or more prior petit larceny convictions, the subsequent charge is grand larceny no matter the value of the items that were the subject of the larceny.
White Collar Crimes
A subsection of property-related criminal offenses includes what are typically referred to as white-collar crimes. These offenses do not involve an element of violence and alternatively focus on financial transactions for the most part. Common white collar crimes include embezzlement, money laundering, and many types of fraud.
For example, embezzlement occurs pursuant to Va. Code § 18.2-111 when individuals exercise wrongful and fraudulent control over the property of another. As with larceny, the individuals have the intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property of its use or possession and use the property for their own personal gain. However, the difference is that these individuals have lawful possession of the property that has been entrusted to them as a result of their job, their office, or other position of trust.
Another common type of white collar crime is fraud. Virginia law defines various types of fraud, including writing bad checks, completing a fraudulent credit card application, fraudulently using a credit card belonging to another, and criminally receiving fraudulently obtained goods. Many of these crimes are low-level misdemeanor offenses, but some are felonies, although all felony fraud offenses are Class 5 or Class 6 felonies, which are lower-level felony offenses.
Crimes Against the Person
Some criminal offenses, which often are treated more seriously than property crimes, cause harm to or create a risk of harm to other people. These criminal offenses include murder, sexually-based offenses, assault, and domestic violence. Given the serious nature of criminal charges for crimes against individuals, defendants should consult a Fairfax criminal defense attorney for help.
Va. Code § 18.2-57 establishes the criminal offense of assault, which also includes traditional elements of battery. Simple assault or assault and battery, and domestic assault involving family or household members, is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Individuals should note that various factors can elevate the charge. These include:
- The alleged subjects of the offense were chosen based on their race, religion, color, or national origin
- The alleged subjects of the offense are school officials, teachers, school employees, doctors, nurses, or other healthcare workers who are acting in the course of their official job duties
- The alleged subjects are police officers, firefighters, emergency service personnel, or corrections officers acting in the scope of their official duties and they sustain injuries
- The individuals have two or more prior convictions for domestic assault against a family or household member within the last 20 years
Perhaps the most common sex offense is sexual battery, as defined under Va. Code § 18.2-67.4. Sexual battery may occur when individuals use force, intimidation, threats, or deception to have sexually abusive contact with others against their will. Various other relationships involving sexual contact also qualify as sexual battery, typically as a result of the fact that one person in the relationship is in a position of authority over the other.
Rape also is a common sexually-based criminal offense under Virginia law. Pursuant to Va. Code § 18.2-61, rape occurs when individuals take action to cause others to engage in sexual intercourse with them or others by one of the following means:
- Using force, threat, or intimidation of them or another person
- Taking advantage of their mental incapacity or physical helplessness
Rape also occurs when individuals engage in sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 13. Since the penalties for rape, sexual battery, and many other sex offenses can be severe, getting advice from a well-versed criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax may be extremely beneficial.
Drug Crimes in Fairfax
Drug offenses can involve possession, distribution, and trafficking. Based on the type of the drug and the quantity of the drug found, along with various other circumstances, charges can range from low-level misdemeanors to high-level felonies. Drug offenses may involve both street drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, and prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and other painkillers.
Like many states, Virginia follows the classification scheme for controlled substances set forth in the federal Controlled Substances Act, with the exception of marijuana, which is treated separately from other controlled substances. This Act classifies drugs in schedules according to their risk of misuse, perceived danger, and any acceptable medicinal uses. The schedule in which a drug is classified directly impacts the severity of the penalties for criminal offenses involving the drug.
Possession of Controlled Substances
One of the most common drug-related offenses is possession, as set forth under Va. Code § 18.2-250. It is illegal to knowingly possess any controlled substance without having a valid prescription for it or being otherwise authorized to obtain the drug. The charges and resulting penalties for possession depend upon the schedule of the drug. For instance, whereas possession of a Schedule I controlled substance is a Class 5 felony, which can lead to ten years in prison, possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance is a Class 4 misdemeanor, which can result in a $250 fine and no chance of incarceration.
While marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the Virginia legislature has greatly decreased the penalties for possession of marijuana as opposed to other Schedule I drugs. Under Va. Code § 18.2-250.1, a first-time marijuana possession conviction is a misdemeanor offense that can result in a potential sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Manufacturing, Selling, and Distributing Controlled Substances
The penalties for manufacturing, selling, and distributing controlled substances are more severe than for mere possession of controlled substances. Pursuant to Va. Code § 18.2-255.2, individuals are prohibited from manufacturing, selling, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances, imitation controlled substances, or marijuana at any of the following locations:
- At any school or daycare or on any public property 1,000 feet or less from those locations
- Upon any public property, at public recreation or community center facilities, or at public libraries
- On any school bus, at any designated school bus stop, or on property open to the public within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop when children are being dropped off or picked up at that stop
- Upon the property of any state facility or upon public property within 1,000 feet of such facility
Violation of this section is a separate felony offense that can result in up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. This offense can be charged simultaneously with a possession charge or other drug charge, depending on the type of drug, amount of the drug, and other circumstances.
Sentencing in Fairfax Criminal Cases
The penalties that individuals may receive for sentencing in criminal cases varies widely according to whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor offense. Virginia law also assigns various levels of felony and misdemeanor offenses based on the severity and nature of the actions involved. For more information about sentencing, contact a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Offenses
Under Va. Code § 18.2-11, misdemeanor offenses are categorized according to Classes 1 through 4. Both Class 1 and Class 2 misdemeanors can result in jail time. For a Class 1 misdemeanor, the maximum jail sentence is 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500 and for a Class 2 misdemeanor, the maximum jail sentence is six months and a fine of up to $1,000. Class 3 and Class 4 misdemeanor offenses do not carry the possibility of jail time, but only a small fine.
Penalties for Felony Offenses
Pursuant to Va. Code § 18.2-10, felony offenses are divided into six different classes. Class 1 felonies are considered the most serious felony crimes and Class 6 felonies are considered the least serious felony crimes, so penalties decrease as the class number assigned to an offense increases.
A Fairfax criminal defense and DUI attorney could explain the distinction between felony classes and how penalties for a conviction may differ from one case to another.
For instance, conviction on a Class 1 felony charge, such as murder, could result in death, life imprisonment, and a fine of up to $100,000 for individuals who are over the age of 18 and not intellectually disabled at the time that they committed the offense. The range of punishments for other classes of felony offenses include the following:
- For a Class 2 felony, 20 years to life and a fine of up to $100,000
- For a Class 3 felony, five to 20 years and a fine of up to $100,000
- For a Class 4 felony, two to ten years and a fine of up to $100,000
- For a Class 5 or 6 felony, one to ten years (Class 6), one to five years (Class 5), or a jail sentence of up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500
Call a Criminal Defense & DUI Attorney in Fairfax for Help
While the penalties for a criminal conviction may vary, all charges carry the possibility for collateral consequences for you both personally and professionally. Having any convictions that appear on a background check can inhibit your ability to support yourself and your family.
Getting legal advice and counsel from a Fairfax criminal defense and DUI lawyer could be crucial to your ability to fight back against an accusation of a criminal act.
The stakes can be high in any case—you risk financial losses, the loss of your civil rights, and the loss of your freedom in some cases if you are convicted of a criminal offense. Legal representation and advocacy on your behalf may be the most effective way to minimize or avoid the potential repercussions of a criminal conviction.