A single poor judgment can put you in trouble with the law, resulting in criminal charges. The scope of criminal law is broad, with convictions resulting in various sentences depending on your case’s circumstances. Normally, a felony conviction attracts harsh sentences, but this does not mean misdemeanor convictions do not attract severe sentences.

If you are apprehended for a crime and interrogated about your role, you should understand that your rights are in jeopardy. Therefore, it is advisable to remain silent until your attorney is present because anything you say will be used against you by the prosecutor in the trial. A Sterling criminal defense attorney will help you cooperate with the investigating authorities and protect your rights. When accused of a crime in Sterling, the Virginia Criminal Attorney is eager to defend your rights and freedom.

Virginia Criminal Statutes

You can face multiple criminal charges when apprehended in Virginia. The count you will face for breaching the law varies from minor offenses under Virginia Code 46.2-852 to serious felonies like rape under Section 18.2-61.

The arresting officer prepares a file and sends it to the prosecutor for evaluation. If the evidence is convincing, the prosecutor files charges in court and notifies you of the same. Once your attorney receives your charges, they will know the law you are accused of contravening, possible penalties, and viable legal defenses.

Deep insight into the law applying to your crime helps you develop solid defense strategies for a charge reduction or dismissal. A seasoned attorney in Sterling understands Virginia statutes and will use that knowledge to obtain a favorable outcome.

Common Sterling Criminal Charges

Virginia’s Code Title 18.2 defines various criminal acts and their consequences. These laws are complex, so you need a defense attorney to be on your side from arrest to the close of the case. The criminal charges you will likely face after an arrest in Sterling are discussed below.

Driving while Intoxicated (DWI)

As per Virginia Code 18.2-266, driving a vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Under the law, it is a crime to do the following:

  • Operate a vehicle after consuming considerable alcohol capable of impairing your judgment.
  • Operate a car with a BAC of .08% or higher. You should understand that even if you do not display any intoxication signs, you still risk arrest and prosecution when you drive with a BAC that exceeds the designated limit.
  • Driving a car while impaired by drugs like cocaine, heroin, and other narcotics.

The prosecutor must show that you drove a car and were intoxicated at the time of the act. The intoxication signs the arresting officer looks out for are:

  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Erratic driving.
  • Swerving.

Also, the officers can conduct field sobriety tests to determine if you are under the influence. Additionally, the officer collects a sample for chemical testing or utilizes a breathalyzer to establish the alcohol content in your blood.

If the prosecutor secures a conviction, the judge imposes penalties based on the nature of your case and the number of repeat DUIs. 1st and 2nd DWIs are misdemeanors. When convicted for a first offense, you will face:

  • Jail incarceration.
  • Court fines of no more than $250.
  • Six months of installing an ignition interlock device (IID).
  • Twelve months of driver’s license revocation.
  • Increase in your car insurance premiums because you are considered a risky driver.

Nevertheless, you will face sentence enhancement if aggravating factors like having a BAC higher than .15% or driving while impaired with a child in the car are present in your case.

It would help to know that many of these offenses do not end in a trial because many defendants opt for a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser offense like wet reckless in a plea deal. The punishment for a wet reckless is less severe than that for a first DWI.

Theft Crimes

Also called larceny crimes, theft offenses involve taking someone else’s valuable item without their permission and intending to deny the rightful owner its benefits. These offenses are classified as petty and grand theft based on the money lost. If the property’s value is above $1,000, it is classified as grand larceny or petit theft when the stolen figure is at most $1,000. 

Grand theft is charged as a felony, and upon sentencing, it attracts no more than twenty years of prison incarceration. A conviction for petit theft attracts up to twelve months in jail.

The offenses that are classified as larceny crimes are:

  1. Virginia Burglary

Subsection 18.2-89 of the Virginia Code defines burglary as the unauthorized entry into someone’s home with plans of committing a felony or larceny crime once inside. You will face these charges even when the building door you entered is open. The prosecutor should demonstrate the following aspects of the crime to secure a sentence:

  • You used force to break or enter into somebody else’s property.
  • The events took place at night.
  • You unlawfully entered the building to commit a violent misdemeanor.

The most prevalent burglary charge is a Class 6 felony, whose conviction results in at least five years and, at most, twenty years in prison. Further, the court can impose a monetary fine of at most $100,000. Conversely, a statutory burglary is classified as a Class 2 or 3 felony with a possible prison sentence of no more than 20 years when convicted. A burglary sentence is life-altering, so speak to an attorney as soon as possible to adequately prepare for the case and avoid a conviction.

  1. Virginia Embezzlement

Subsection 18.2-111 of the Virginia Code defines embezzlement as the fraudulent and unlawful utilization of property or a check entrusted to you by the employer. Embezzlement is a petty felony if the amount embezzled is below $1,000, and grand theft if the figure exceeds $1,000.

Many investigations and audits are involved in the process leading to the arrest and filing of charges. Nevertheless, just because you allegedly engaged in embezzlement does not make you guilty. Your experienced Sterling criminal attorney can help you mount solid defenses to avoid a guilty verdict.

  1. Use of Another Person’s Car without Permission

Subsection 18.2-102 criminalizes the unlawful use of another person’s vehicle without permission. You should take the allegations seriously because even if you claim you borrowed the vehicle from a friend, it will be insufficient to prevent a conviction. The elements that the prosecutor must demonstrate under this code section are:

  • You, too, operated or utilized someone else’s vehicle, animal, or aircraft.
  • You acted without permission or consent.
  • You had plans to deprive the rightful owner of the car’s enjoyment temporarily.
  • You were not stealing the car.

The crime is a Class 6 felony whose sentence, when found guilty, is up to five years of prison incarceration and court fines not exceeding $2,500. Do not worry about these penalties because, with the help of your Sterling criminal defense attorney, you can obtain a charge reduction.

Drug Crimes

Drug offenses range from simple possession to possession with intent to sell. The severity of your illegal actions and drug quantity determine your sentence. The common charges for drug possession you can face are:

  1. Controlled Substance Transportation

Subsection 18.2-248.01 criminalizes the transportation of at least an ounce of cocaine or eight ounces of cannabis for sale. The crime is a felony whose conviction attracts mandatory incarceration of at least 36 months in state prison and a court-imposed fine of $100,000. If you have a prior conviction for a drug crime, you risk mandatory prison incarceration for ten years, possibly spending up to forty years in jail.

  1. Controlled Substance Possession

Possessing controlled substances or buying them without a valid prescription is unlawful. Possession is categorized as actual or constructive. Actual possession is when the drugs are found on your person, while constructive possession is when the drugs are not on your person, but you exercise control over them or where they are stored.

The penalties under this subsection depend on the schedule of drugs you possess. A conviction for Schedule I and II substances attracts 120 months in prison and a court fine of no more than $2,500. If the drugs under your control are categorized as Schedule III, you will face a misdemeanor jail sentence of twelve months. Schedule IV drug possession is a Class 2 misdemeanor whose conviction attracts no more than half a year of jail incarceration and, at most, $1,000 in court fines. For Class V drugs, the court imposes a court fine of $500 when the prosecutor secures a conviction.

Having a Sterling criminal attorney on your side is crucial to avoiding incarceration. A profound attorney will negotiate with the court to sentence you to probation instead of jail time.

Marijuana Possession

Possessing cannabis or acquiring it unlawfully in Sterling is a crime. If the prosecutor successfully proves all the case’s facts and secures a guilty verdict, you will be sentenced to thirty days in jail, pay a $500 court fine or both. Your sentence will be increased to twelve years if you have a prior drug crime conviction.

Sterling Violent Crimes

Victims of violence suffer significantly, whether the violence was a one-time event or continuous mistreatment. Domestic violence, assault, gun crimes, battery, and murder are examples of violent crimes that are harshly punished. Prevalent violent offenses include:

  1. Murder

Subsection 18.2-32 defines murder or homicide as the illegal killing of someone else with malice aforethought. Murder falls into two categories, with the first degree being the severest. The prosecutor charges you with this offense when you incarcerate the victim before ending their life, starve the victim to death, lying in wait, or poison the victim. Consequently, you will face first-degree homicide charges if the death of another person happens in a robbery, rape, arson, or burglary incident.

Capital and 1st-degree murder differ because the prosecutor must demonstrate that your behavior was intentional and premeditated under capital. 1st-degree homicide is a Class 2 felony whose guilty verdict attracts at least twenty years of prison incarceration and a fine not exceeding $100,000.

On the other hand, you will face second-degree homicide charges if you kill someone because of your reckless conduct or disregard for others' safety. The premeditation element is absent from these charges, so you face a lesser sentence of 5 to 40 years when found guilty.

A murder or homicide conviction will dent your reputation. Even when you leave jail, it will be challenging to start over. For this reason, you must hire an attorney early in the case to prevent a conviction.

  1. Voluntary Manslaughter

You face voluntary manslaughter when you take someone’s life without malice aforethought. The offense lacks premeditation and malice aforethought, which are the main elements in murder charges. If the court finds you guilty of manslaughter, you will face no more than ten years in prison and a court fine of $250.

When faced with these charges in Sterling, Virginia Criminal Attorney can defend you. Some of our attorneys' defenses include self-defense, accidental killing, actual innocence, and insanity.

  1. Kidnapping

Per subsection 18.2-47, you will face kidnapping charges when you use force and deception to hold and move someone else to deny them freedom. The statute, nevertheless, does not focus on police officers performing their duties. Kidnapping or abduction is a Class 5 felony that attracts harsh penalties upon sentencing.

Sterling Sex Crimes

Offenses like rape, solicitation, lascivious acts, sexual assault, and forcible sodomy are serious sex crimes that can have life-altering consequences. These crimes are further discussed below:

Sexual Battery

Under subsection 18.2-68.4, it is illegal to use force or threats to sexually touch someone’s genitals. The crime is a felony whose conviction attracts no more than 12 months in jail and a fine of at most $2,500. Sexual battery or assault is a felony if the victim is committed to a facility.

Virginia Rape

Under subsection 18.2-61, rape involves non-consensual sexual intercourse with a person of legal age. When the victim is a minor, the sex crime known as statutory rape is harshly punished upon conviction. The prosecutor must demonstrate that you accomplished the sexual intercourse using force, intimidation, and violence.

Infected Sexual Assault

It is illegal to engage in sexual penetration or anal sex with another person knowing that you are infected with a sexually transmitted disease with the intent to spread the disease. This offense is a Class 1 felony whose sentence results in a prison sentence, court fines, and the obligation to register as a sex offender. Being a registered sex offender has many negative consequences that can change your life completely, so you should partner with an attorney to help you prevent a conviction.

Action to Take When Charged With a Crime in Sterling

You need help from an experienced Sterling defense attorney to fight criminal allegations in court. However minor the offense seems, you should take it seriously because a conviction could have life-altering consequences.

Do not entrust a public defender with your case because they have many cases to handle simultaneously. The only effort they will make is to secure a plea bargain, which could result in harsher penalties. Instead of taking the first deal on your side, talk to a private attorney about the specifics of your case to develop defenses that will ensure a favorable outcome.

Sterling Criminal Arrests

Generally, police make arrests when they reasonably believe a crime has happened. Apprehensions happen when law enforcement finds you commissioning a crime or after a court issues an apprehension order. An arresting cop needs reasonable suspicion or probable cause, based on the case’s circumstances, to make an arrest. Reasonable suspicions like swerving lanes, public stumbling, and running away with stolen goods can warrant an officer stopping you in public for a frisk. All they need is reason to believe you have committed a crime.

However, it would help if you understood that even when a cop stops you in public, that does not mean you have been arrested. The officers will hold you shortly for interrogation, but this does not mean you are under arrest.

The cop needs a reason to believe criminal activity has happened or evidence that you have committed a crime to place you under arrest or request an arrest warrant.

Probable cause is more complex to satisfy than reasonable suspicion. Therefore, the investigating officer must connect you, the alleged perpetrator, to the crime. If police engage in misconduct during arrest, you can file a motion to suppress, to have the evidence obtained illegally withdrawn from the case.

If you have an attorney, your constitutional rights will be protected, increasing your chances of successfully going through justice. A good attorney will even have the charges against you dropped or dismissed.

Find a Knowledgeable Criminal Attorney Near Me

When apprehended for breaking the law, you will face felony or misdemeanor counts. The likely crimes you could face charges for are drug offenses, DUIs, violent crimes, and sex offenses. You risk life-altering consequences if the court finds you guilty of these offenses. Thankfully, not all apprehensions result in convictions. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we can assist you in building valid defenses against the charges for the best result. Call us today at 703-718-5533 for a zero-obligation consultation.