Virginia Misdemeanor Criminal Defense
Being handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police car is an unnerving experience. When this occurs, fear, anxiety and confusion can take control. This is when you need legal representation and guidance from the premier misdemeanor lawyers in Virginia at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C.
Our 70 years of combined experience give you the best chance at avoiding the harsh penalties and the consequences of a criminal record associated with a misdemeanor conviction.
How Virginia Misdemeanor Attorneys Can Help
A criminal charge is classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor. F elonies are reserved for serious offenses, such as murder, rape and robbery. Misdemeanors crimes are considered less serious than felonies, so the punishment is not as severe. If you are convicted of committing a misdemeanor, the most frequently imposed penalty is a fine. Incarceration is limited to a maximum term of one year in jail.
Confinement in a state prison on a felony charge can be for as long as a life sentence. Even though they are less serious than felonies, a misdemeanor conviction leaves you with a criminal record. It also forces you to answer affirmatively when asked on an employment application about criminal convictions.
Hampton Roads Misdemeanor Criminal Defense:
- Petit larceny
- Simple assault
- Driving under the influence
- Domestic assault
- Reckless driving
- Public intoxication
Virginia Misdemeanors Classes and Penalties
Misdemeanor criminal law in Virginia separates misdemeanors into classes numbered one through four. A fifth classification is reserved for crimes not included in one of the numbered classes. This last group is referred to as unclassified misdemeanors.
Judges may also include probation or community service as part of a sentence imposed following a misdemeanor conviction. Virginia misdemeanor attorneys can advise you about the possible penalties based upon the facts of your case.
The seriousness of an offense determines the class of a misdemeanor crime. Different degrees of penalties are authorized for each class as follows:
- Class 1 misdemeanors: Domestic assault, DUI, petit larceny, and reckless driving are within this classification. Punishment includes up to 12 months in jail, fines up to $2,500 or both jail and a fine. A conviction of a DUI also includes suspension of a person's driver's license.
- Class 2 misdemeanors: Included in this group are aggressive driving and possession of drug paraphernalia or Schedule IV drugs. Punishment for a conviction includes jail terms of up to six months, a fine up to $1,000 or both jail and a fine.
- Class 3 misdemeanors: Possession of Schedule V controlled substances is one of the crimes included in this class. Punishment includes a fine up to $500.
- Class 4 misdemeanors: Possession of Schedule VI controlled substances and public intoxication are examples of crimes in this class. The penalty is usually a fine not to exceed $250.
- Unclassified misdemeanors: An example of an unclassified misdemeanor is marijuana possession as a first offense. Unless the law designating certain conduct as a crime also includes a penalty to guide a judge at sentencing, unclassified misdemeanors are punishable by fines up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.
What You Should Do if Facing Misdemeanor Charges
The natural instinct for many people charged with a misdemeanor is to believe they can simply explain their side of the story to make the charges go away. An experienced misdemeanor criminal defense lawyer knows statements made to the police usually become evidence prosecutors use to convict the person who made them.
Whether you are under investigation or have already been arrested and charged, the best thing to do is be polite and cooperative with the police. Do not make any statements concerning the activity the police are investigating or for which you have been arrested. Ask to have an attorney present before questioning continues. Criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of John W. Lee, PC are highly trained in defending those charged with misdemeanor crimes.
If you believe the police suspect you of committing a misdemeanor, you should not consent to any searches. Searches of your home, car or your person are limited by the Constitution unless you give your consent. The best thing to do is contact your attorney for advice about misdemeanor criminal law and searches. Your attorney will guide you based upon what is in your best interests.
General District Court
Misdemeanor cases are initiated with a citation or summons by the arresting officer or a complaint filed by a prosecutor. If you are arrested, the case is taken before a magistrate who will set bond. Typically, the first court proceeding is arraignment in General District Court where the accused is notified of the charges against them. The accused is given a chance to determine their legal counsel and a trial date is set.
There is no option for a jury trial for misdemeanor crimes so the judge will decide guilt or innocence. If convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor you could be facing up to one year in jail and a $2,500.00 fine. Misdemeanors involving narcotics or alcohol can result in a suspension of driving privileges.
Any finding of guilt in General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations court can be appealed. These lower courts do not have any record of the evidence presented for the finding so the matter would he heard de novo, brand new, as if it had not been previously heard. The appeal occurs in the Circuit Court where a jury can be requested. Any appeal of the decision of the General District Court or the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court must be noted with the clerk of that court within 10 days of the judge’s ruling or this right of appeal would be lost.
Consequences of a Criminal Record
Defending yourself in court against a misdemeanor charge could be a big mistake. Even if misdemeanor charges only result in a fine, a guilty plea leaves you with a criminal record. Finding employment can be difficult when a background check reveals a criminal history. Many employers will give preference to those who do not have a criminal record. Conviction of a misdemeanor could also make you ineligible for a security clearance.
A Hampton Misdemeanor Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Misdemeanors are serious crimes with harsh penalties and long-term consequences associated with them. Representation by first-rate misdemeanor lawyers in Virginia at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C. assures you of an aggressive defense. Give yourself the best chance to avoid the penalties and consequences of a conviction. Schedule a free and confidential initial consultation by calling (757) 896-0868 .