If you are accused of a criminal offense, you want to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. By working closely with a highly experienced lawyer, you can take swift action to mitigate the probable consequences of your charges.
Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming. The situation can make you feel pressured to act faster to defend yourself. But by trying to talk your way out of the charges against you, you can easily incriminate yourself, landing yourself in more trouble. Instead, an experienced lawyer can help you avoid self-incrimination and protect your rights.
At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we have helped thousands of defendants obtain the best possible outcome by applying compelling strategies. Call us if you have been charged in Franconia, and we will help you, too. We will assess the facts of your case, give you legal advice, and guide you through the criminal justice process.
Classifications of Criminal Offenses in Franconia
The Commonwealth of Virginia classifies criminal offenses into two broad categories—misdemeanors and felonies. Still, some acts can either be misdemeanors or felonies based on the severity of the criminal act, the facts of the offense, and the defendant's criminal history. These kinds of crimes are known as wobblers.
Misdemeanors are less severe crimes punishable by lower court fines and a sentence of not more than 12 months or no incarceration period. Generally, misdemeanor sentences are served in county jail instead of state prison. Misdemeanors are classified into four categories based on their severity. These include:
Class 4 Misdemeanors
Class 4 misdemeanors are the least severe of the four classes of misdemeanors, and the consequences of a conviction do not include time in jail. Examples of Class 4 misdemeanors are possession of Class VI controlled substances and public intoxication. The penalties for a Class 4 misdemeanor conviction include up to two hundred and fifty dollars.
Class 3 Misdemeanors
Class 3 misdemeanor crimes are less severe than Class 2 crimes, and the consequences also do not include time in jail. Examples of violations under this class include property damage without specific intent to steal and possessing Class V controlled substances. The possible consequences of a conviction for any crime under this classification include a fine of not more than $500.
Class 2 Misdemeanors
Class 2 misdemeanor crimes are less severe than Class 1 offenses. Violations that fall under this category include possession of Class IV drugs and aggressive driving (if a person acts with the specific intent to injure, aggressive driving can be prosecuted as a Class 1 misdemeanor). The possible punishments for a Class 2 misdemeanor conviction are a period ranging between thirty days and six months in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Class 1 Misdemeanors
Class 1 misdemeanors are the most severe and prevalent misdemeanor offenses in Franconia. Usually, the possible penalties are similar to those for less severe felonies. Examples of Class 1 misdemeanors are DUI, reckless driving, petit larceny, assault and battery, and domestic assault. A conviction for any Class 1 misdemeanor crime is punishable by a maximum fine of $2,500, a jail term of 6-12 months, or both penalties. Additionally, some violations, like DUI, may lead to the suspension or revocation of a driver's license and other consequences.
Possessing less than one ounce of pot for personal use is no longer considered a misdemeanor violation. Instead, it is a civil offense carrying up to $25 in fines. This change was effected after Ralph Northam, former governor of Virginia, signed House Bill 972 and Senate Bill 2 into law in May 2020.
Apart from these four classifications of misdemeanor offenses, there is also an unclassified, or Class U, misdemeanor category, which rarely applies. Virginia law may also provide specific consequences for some misdemeanors.
Felony offenses are the more severe of the two classes. They are punishable by a federal or state prison sentence of more than 12 months and hefty fines. That said, felony crimes may involve some aspects or elements that are not present in misdemeanor charges; it is all based on the type of violation. Additionally, some felony crimes can entail all the aspects found in misdemeanor charges with aggravating circumstances.
State law recognizes six categories of felonies, with possible punishment varying based on the type and severity of the crime. These classes include:
Class 6 Felony Offenses
These are the lowest in rank as far as severity is concerned. Generally, Class 6 felonies are considered wobbler violations that can be tried as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the elements of the crime. Examples of offenses under this category are repeat larcenies, animal cruelty, court order violations, and reckless endangerment. A felony is punishable by imprisonment for 1-5 years, $2,500 in fines, or both penalties.
Class 5 Felony Crimes
Criminal offenses under this class include battery, extortion, involuntary manslaughter, and abduction. These offenses are also deemed wobblers that might trigger a misdemeanor conviction. Felonies are punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,500 and prison time ranging between one and ten years.
Class 4 Felony Crimes
Prostitution, kidnapping, arson of an uninhabited building, embezzlement, and manslaughter can trigger Class 4 felony charges. A conviction under this category carries a court fine not exceeding $100,000 and a prison term ranging between two and ten years.
Class 3 Felony Offenses
You could be found guilty under this category of crimes for stabbing, shooting, trying to poison someone, or for particular drug violations. Malicious wounding is another example of an offense in this class. It is described as inflicting injury on another, intending to kill, disfigure, or disable them. Class 3 felonies carry a fine not exceeding $100,000 and prison time ranging between five and twenty years.
Class 2 Felony Crimes
Felonies under Class 2 often involve intended crimes like aggravated malicious wounding (inflicting physical and permanent impairment on someone else), kidnapping, arson, and, in particular cases, murder. Crimes under this category are punishable by at least twenty years in prison to life imprisonment and a court fine of not more than a hundred thousand dollars.
Class 1 Felonies
Class 1 felonies are the most severe category of crimes. A conviction for any criminal offense under this classification carries the harshest punishment. Examples of felonies in Class 1 are murder in the first degree and capital murder.
Capital murder is punishable by death. However, capital punishment is not an option if the accused is under 18 years old or mentally incompetent as per the definition provided under Code of Virginia 19.2-264.3:1.1). Murder in the first degree or any other Class 1 offense is punishable by a fine not exceeding $100,000 and life imprisonment.
Apart from the criminal penalties, a conviction for either a misdemeanor or felony can impact background checks, driving permits, and security clearances. It can also affect the offender's capability to testify in future court proceedings.
A criminal conviction, be it for a felony or misdemeanor, results in a permanent criminal record that appears on criminal background checks. Based on the nature and severity of the crime, a defendant's employment and level of security clearance can be adversely impacted, making it critical that an expert criminal lawyer in Franconia be consulted.
Common Crimes in Franconia
A complete list of crimes charged in Franconia can be found under Title 18.2 of the Virginia Code. However, the most common charges include:
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a severe crime in Franconia. It can have harsh consequences upon conviction, including fines, a license suspension or revocation, and even time in prison for repeat offenders. If you are accused of DUI, do not handle your case alone. Instead, an experienced Franconia DUI defense lawyer with local knowledge and familiarity with these types of cases can be essential.
A lawyer understands how to contest unreliable BAC (blood alcohol content) tests and determine when a DUI stop was conducted without cause. This kind of knowledge and the capability to argue DUI defense strategies effectively are what you need in a lawyer to beat your charges. You want to defend your rights, whether it is your first-, second-, or third-time offense. You also want to understand the possible consequences that you may face.
In an era when drug legalization and decriminalization are becoming popular, it is critical to understand the drug laws of different states. For example, Virginia still criminalizes any individual without a valid medical prescription possessing marijuana. Consequently, if you are under prosecution for a drug crime, you can benefit from consulting a defense lawyer who knows how regulated substances are classified in Franconia and how a person can defend themselves against drug accusations involving simple possession and possession with intent to distribute.
The crime of theft in Franconia is divided into felony and misdemeanor violations by the terms grand larceny and petty (or petit) larceny. Whether you have been charged with a complicated fraud accusation or a first-time shoplifting offense, a knowledgeable theft crime defense attorney can fight for you. There are various defenses against theft offenses, but the most common one is to argue that no one was deprived of services or property. Another common legal defense is to assert that anything you took from the victim you took without intending to deprive.
Assault is one of the most commonly charged crimes in Franconia. You can be prosecuted for assault, sometimes known as simple assault, or assault and battery. Most people usually believe “assault and battery” and assault are the same crime, but these two are distinct offenses. The primary difference between them is that assault usually does not entail bodily contact with someone else, whereas “assault and battery” does.
You commit assault when you perform an overt act intending to inflict physical harm on someone else, accompanied by the present capability to inflict the injury. You can also be convicted of assault when you commit an overt act intending to place someone else in apprehension or fear of physical harm that creates reasonable anxiety or fear in the person.
For example, if you threatened to strike or otherwise hurt someone but did not make bodily contact, although the other party believed you would harm them by considering your threats, you may be prosecuted for assault. Similarly, if you tried to hit someone but missed, you might still be accused of assault, although you only tried to hurt the person and did not make bodily contact.
Considering the confusing nature of the crimes of simple assault and assault and battery, an experienced attorney could be an invaluable asset. Usually, assault cases also involve instances of robbery and domestic violence. An attorney who understands assault charges can use the circumstances surrounding your criminal situation to create reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind, which may, in turn, result in an acquittal or reduced penalties. Even though there is no guarantee, consulting a knowledgeable lawyer who understands how assault cases are prosecuted may improve your odds of success.
Merely driving a few mph over the stipulated speed limit on some roads can subject you to reckless driving charges in Franconia, carrying a possible permanent criminal record, time in jail, high fines, and driver’s license suspension. Virginia law describes various acts as reckless driving. They include:
- Reckless driving in parking lots
- Failing to yield right-of-way
- Driving 20 miles per hour or more over the stipulated speed limit
- Driving over 85 miles per hour
- Driving too fast for traffic and highway conditions
- Failure to give proper signals
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Passing at a railroad-grade crossing
- Driving two abreast in a single-lane
- Passing two motor vehicles abreast
- Driving with a control impaired or obstructed driver’s view
- Passing at or on the crest of a curve or grade
- Driving a motor vehicle that is not under proper control or which has faulty brakes
- Driving in a way that endangers property, limb, or life
Often, the prosecution exaggerates given driving behaviors to pursue higher charges. Additionally, law enforcement in Franconia frequently uses incorrectly calibrated speed-measuring devices, which can result in wrongful prosecution. Because of the possibility of these gray areas appearing in your case, you want to hire a lawyer experienced in defending reckless driving cases if you are charged.
Three Things to Keep in Mind If Facing Criminal Charges
If you have been accused of a crime, you should understand various things that can help you successfully fight your charges. Firstly, remember that local prosecutors, judges, and the police in Franconia treat criminal cases very seriously. Severe penalties are imposed for crimes not deemed severe in other neighboring jurisdictions. These include DUI, possession of pot and specific other drugs, and reckless driving charges for speeding.
Secondly, know that in Franconia, much more is required than just standing before the court and narrating your side of the story. Judges are willing and ready to impose severe consequences, even on accused persons who come to court without a lawyer. The ideal thing to do if charged is to work with a skilled lawyer who can fight for you with the most compelling defense strategy.
Thirdly, exercise your legal rights. Do not overlook your legal right to challenge evidence or your legal right to stay silent. Even if your case appears simple, a skilled lawyer can usually detect a mistake that can result in much better results. You want to know your legal rights and protect them.
Benefits of Retaining a Lawyer
Criminal defense attorneys are invaluable for several reasons. Firstly, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can explain your charges, the elements making up the crime, what defenses apply to your case, and how to obtain the best outcome. An excellent attorney can inform you of your legal rights and the best way to protect them. Sometimes, the simplest and best results are achieved through negotiating with the prosecutor, otherwise known as a plea agreement. Plea agreements might include favorable terms in exchange for avoiding a conviction, also called suspended imposition of sentence or deferred finding, or a conviction with a lenient sentence.
Different, appropriate strategies might be available based on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. A skilled lawyer can apply their comprehensive knowledge of criminal procedures and criminal law to represent you based on the case facts and other factors like local rules and local practice.
Additionally, criminal defense lawyers can access legal professionals that individuals who represent themselves cannot. That means a defense lawyer generally has high access to police officers, the Commonwealth's Attorney (prosecutor), and other investigators. Also, lawyers have more resources, like clerks, assistants, and investigators, to help them build a defense against your case.
Find a Competent Franconia Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When accused of a crime in Franconia, you want to understand its nature and the sentence it carries to know the potential consequences you could be subject to.
At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we have skilled criminal defense lawyers who can assist you in understanding whatever charges you face and the circumstances surrounding them. Additionally, they can assist you in building your defense. Even if you believe you are guilty of the crime the prosecutor has accused you of, various constitutional, procedural, and other defense strategies could lead to your case being reduced to less severe charges or dismissed altogether.
Call us at 703-718-5533 to receive the legal help, advice, and representation you need.