Being accused of committing a crime is a serious matter no matter how your alleged offense is classified, what sanctions may come from a conviction, or what prior record you have—if any—of convictions for the same or other offenses. Once you have a criminal record, you may find yourself facing significant limitations on where you can live and what kinds of jobs you can hold, and more serious offenses could put you in state prison for years or even decades.
While you have a Constitutional right to representation from a public defender, retaining a private defense attorney is almost always a better course of action whenever possible. A seasoned Purcellville criminal defense lawyer could dedicate all their resources and legal expertise to your case, working diligently to protect your interests and secure a positive resolution.
Code of Virginia §18.2-9 establishes two broad categories of criminal offenses, each of which also has multiple subcategories. Most misdemeanor crimes listed under Virginia state law fall into one of four classes, with Class 1 being the most serious and Class 4 being the least severe. As per VA Code §18.2-12, any misdemeanor that does not have a specific classification or range of punishments listed in the state statute defining it is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Misdemeanors are generally nonviolent crimes like possession of less dangerous controlled substances and public intoxication, but some exceptions exist—for example, assault and battery is a Class I misdemeanor. Conversely, many of the six classes of felonies defined under state law entail violent offenses like animal cruelty, aggravated assault and battery, and murder. A private conference with a Purcellville criminal defense attorney could help clarify for an individual defendant what the classification associated with their charge(s) means for their case.
As a rule of thumb, misdemeanor offenses are considered less severe and punishable by less than one year of imprisonment in county jail, whereas felony offenses are considered more serious and punishable by at least one year in state prison. Both types of offenses also have fines associated with them, which—as a criminal defense lawyer in Purcellville could explain in further detail—may be levied against a convicted defendant in addition or as an alternative to incarceration.
Under VA Code §18.2-11, Class 4 and Class 3 misdemeanor convictions may lead to maximum fines of $250 and $500, respectively, while Class 2 and Class 1 may result in six to 12 months in jail as well as $1,000 to $2,500 in fines. VA Code §18.2-10 sets out the following range of punishments for felony convictions following jury trials:
The final classification listed above is reserved only for certain instances of premeditated murder.
Unfortunately, there is no standardized method for effectively contesting criminal charges in Virginia, as every case that a judge and/or jury hears is unique in some way or another. However, there are many potential strategies that could allow a defendant to preserve their future prospects, as well as options for mitigating punishments even after a conviction is passed on.
Whatever approach you want to take to your case, you should think twice before trying to pursue it without a Purcellville criminal defense lawyer by your side. Call today to see what a skilled attorney could do for you.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law