Law Enforcement Priorities in Virginia
Generally, things that are in the news and shock the conscious are the trends that law enforcement officers crack down on in Virginia. Right now this includes hard drugs, such as opiates, heroin and other Scheduled 1 or 2 substances that lead to addiction and death. It also includes violent crimes, such as robbery, assault, malicious wounding, murder and rape. Additionally, it includes crimes against classes of persons that are especially vulnerable, meaning crimes against elderly, children and minors, and crimes against people who are placed under positions of trust, such as white collared crimes or crimes committed by people with important positions.
These types of crimes are all treated extremely seriously and it is therefore imperative that if you are charged you consult with a Virginia criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and begin building a defense.
How Priorities Impact Plea Bargains
If you are charged with an offense that is subject to an emphasis, then there is a strong possibility that it may influence the prosecutor’s decision-making when deciding whether or not it is a good case to prosecute or whether or not a plea bargain should be struck. For example, if it is a case that may gain media attention or scrutiny, the likelihood of favorable negotiations diminishes because the prosecution does not want to be viewed as being soft on crime.
If the police are conducting particular investigations to crack down on people charged with what you are charged with, like prostitution or drug sales, it may make negotiations that much more difficult.
Do These Priorities Ever Lead to Innocent People Being Charged?
It is hard to say because certain crimes are prioritized that this leads to wrongful arrests. However, it must be stated that people are often mistakenly charged with crimes, and part of the pressure that leads to arrests is the desire to close cases with arrests rather than not prosecute.
With some police priorities, like DUI/DWI enforcement, it is more important to the officers to make an arrest and end a potentially dangerous situation rather than secure a conviction in court. This means that some innocent people might be overcharged out of what the officer sees as an abundance of caution. It also means that many marginal cases can be defeated in court by an experienced criminal laywer.
Issues With The Criminal Justice System
The main problem with the criminal justice system is that we do not feel confident in giving judges, prosecutors and defense attorney’s discretion. For example, in Virginia the ability to defer, simply choose not to prosecute or choose not to convict when the state comes up with creative solutions is greatly diminished in comparison with some other local jurisdictions. This does not mean that every case should lead to a suspended imposition of sentence or deferred disposition. There are facts and circumstances in which a person commits a crime by the letter of the law, but their actions seem of outside of their normal character and their lifetime of hard work such that it would be in everyone’s best interests to not label them as a convicted criminal.
Instead, it requires certain steps to be taken to ensure that their bad acts will not happen again. There are limited circumstances for them to happen in Virginia, but most notably Virginia has a great first offender program for people who are charged with first offense possession of a controlled substance. However, similar dispossessions are not available with the first offense for shoplifting or even a first offense solicitation type case that can potentially be addressed with an intensive period of probation, community service or completion of required education. Instead people are convicted for offenses and those labels last forever in Virginia.