Facing an arrest and criminal charges is a nerve-wracking experience. The consequences of a criminal conviction are serious and sometimes life-changing. In Virginia, crimes are charged as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history. Misdemeanors are serious offenses with a maximum of one year in jail as punishment. Felony charges, on the other hand, are reserved for serious and violent crimes. A felony conviction attracts lengthy incarceration and hefty fines.
You can be arrested and charged with various offenses, depending on your conduct. These could include sex crimes, drug crimes, violent crimes, firearm crimes, and driving offenses. Seeking the guidance of a reliable defense attorney is a critical step in fighting your charges and avoiding a conviction.
At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we understand a criminal conviction's impact on your freedom and life. Our Vienna criminal lawyers will help protect your rights and build a solid defense against your charges.
Violent Crimes in Vienna
Under Virginia law, violent crimes result in a victim's severe injury or death. Most of these offenses attract felony charges, and a conviction can have severe legal and collateral consequences. Violent crimes with which you could be charged include:
Under Virginia Code 18.2-58, robbery involves using force or violence to take another person’s property against their will. Robbery is one of the most severe theft offenses with which you could be charged. This is because the crime threatens the property and safety of the alleged victim. You will be convicted of robbery if the prosecution can prove that:
- You took property that belonged to another person.
- You took the item in the presence of the victim.
- you took the property without consent from the owner.
- You used force, fear, or violence to carry out the act.
- You intended to permanently or temporarily deprive the person of its use.
Depending on the circumstances, robbery can be classified as first- or second-degree. First-degree robbery is a felony punished by a maximum sentence of ten years. If you face second-degree robbery charges, you may spend up to five years in prison.
Virginia law defines carjacking as the intentional seizure of a vehicle in another person’s immediate presence against their will. You could be charged with carjacking if you use force or violence against someone else to take their vehicle or motorcycle. The prosecution will, however, need to show your intention to deprive the vehicle owner of its use.
Carjacking is a serious offense that attracts a prison sentence of up to fifteen years. If you have a prior carjacking or felony conviction, you cannot testify in your case. Virginia law is strict on repeat offenders. Therefore, you will face harsher penalties for a repeat offense.
Under Virginia Code 18.2-61, the tape is the non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person accomplished through fear or violence. Whether or not you are married to an alleged victim will not affect your case. Any sexual acts accomplished with a non-consenting individual will attract criminal charges.
Children and individuals who are mentally incapacitated cannot consent to sexual intercourse. Therefore, engaging in such an act with them will result in your conviction under rape laws. Rape is a felony that can see you spend up to 25 years in prison. The punishment will be harsher when the victim is a minor under thirteen.
Besides incarceration, defendants convicted of rape in Virginia will be registered as sex offenders. Being labeled a sex offender can ruin your reputation and career prospects.
You could be arrested and charged with arson for intentionally and maliciously burning property or a structure. Arson is a serious offense charged under Virginia Code 18.2-77. This statute applies to individuals who burn other people’s property for revenge or burn personal property for insurance gain. A conviction for arson requires the prosecuting attorney to show that:
- You burned or set fire to property.
- Your actions were willful. This element helps ensure you are not charged with arson for accidentally burning property.
- You acted with criminal intent. The prosecution must establish your criminal intent to show you are guilty of this offense.
The punishment you face after an arson conviction will depend on whether or not the property was occupied. Arson in an inhabited dwelling is punishable by a sentence of five years to life imprisonment. You could spend two to ten years in prison if the property were not occupied.
Virginia law defines murder as the malicious killing of another person. You can be charged with first- or second-degree murder, depending on the facts of your case. First-degree murder charges arose when your actions against the victim were premeditated or you killed them while committing a serious felony like rape or sodomy. Other forms of murder will be treated as second-degree crimes.
If the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you killed the victim and your actions were malicious, you could be found guilty of murder. A conviction for murder in Virginia will result in life imprisonment or capital punishment.
Defense against Violent Crimes
The stakes are high for defendants facing charges of violent crimes in Virginia. However, a skilled Vienna criminal attorney can guide you in presenting the following defenses to your charges:
- Self-defense. Under Virginia law, you can use force against another person to protect yourself from immediate danger. For this reason, you can argue that your actions against the other person were in self-defense. When using the self-defense argument in your case, you must prove that your life was in danger and that you used force enough to protect and not harm the victim.
- Mistaken identification. Most violent crimes occur in secluded areas or when the perpetrator is masked. This makes it challenging for the victims to identify themselves in a lineup. You could be mistakenly identified if you have a similar appearance to the perpetrator.
- False allegations. Some criminal charges are based on false allegations. A reliable defense attorney can help you establish an alibi and uncover false allegations to avoid a conviction.
Theft occurs when you take property belonging to another person without their permission. This could include stealing goods, services, pets, or other items. The prosecution could charge you with petit or grand larceny, depending on the nature of the thing you took and its value.
Although some theft crimes are non-violent, a conviction for these offenses could attract serious legal penalties. Therefore, having a Vienna criminal lawyer by your side as you fight theft crime charges is critical. Common theft crimes with which you could be charged under Virginia law include:
A burglary occurs when you break into someone else’s property with the intention to commit a felony or a larceny act. The prosecution can charge you with burglary for entering another person’s dwelling. The prosecution will prove your liability under Virginia Code 18.2-89 by establishing these elements:
- You entered another person’s dwelling forcefully.
- The incident occurred during the night.
- You entered the dwelling intending to commit a theft crime or other felonies, like murder. arson, or rape.
The penalties for burglary vary depending on whether you face statutory or common-law burglary. A common law burglary is a felony punished by five to twenty-five years in prison. Statutory burglary, however, will result in a maximum of 25 years behind bars.
Under Virginia Code 18.2-103, shoplifting involves grabbing merchandise or goods from a store and failing to pay for them. These charges could also arise when you swap product price tags to secure the item at a lower price. The elements specific to shoplifting under Virginia law include:
- You willfully concealed merchandise from a trading establishment.
- You exchanged a price tag or altered the price tag in a store.
- You assisted another person in committing the acts.
Petit larceny is a class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year. Grand theft, on the other hand, can result in a punishment of up to twenty years in prison.
You commit the crime of embezzlement by using property or money entrusted to you for personal gain. Embezzlement charges are commonly filed against employees who misuse their employer’s money. The prosecutor must establish that the property owner entrusted it to you when you misused the money to secure a conviction against you.
Embezzlement can attract misdemeanor or felony charges based on the specific facts of your case. A misdemeanor conviction for this offense is punished by a maximum of one year in jail and fines of up to $2500. When you cause substantial loss to a victim, your crime will be a felony. In this case, your conviction will carry a sentence of up to twenty years in prison.
You commit a crime of identity theft when you use another person’s identification information., Instances of identity theft have increased with the increase of internet use for data storage. The following acts could result in identity theft charges:
- Obtain or access identification information belonging to another person.
- The use of another person’s identification information to obtain goods, money, or services without their consent.
- Obtain identification information while impersonating a law enforcement officer.
For identity theft, identification information could include name, social security number, birth date, biometric data, and credit card information. Identity theft can be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony based on the exact value of the loss caused to the victim.
Virginia has strict drug laws. Possession, sale, distribution, or transportation of a controlled substance attracts severe criminal penalties. A controlled substance is any drug whose possession and use are regulated by the government. You can be charged with the following drug crimes:
Possession of a Controlled Substance
Under VA Code 18.2-250, it is illegal to possess a controlled substance. Controlled substances could be illicit narcotics or prescription medications obtained without a valid prescription. In Virginia, drugs are classified into different schedules depending on their potency and impact on the user’s mental capacity.
The punishment you suffer when you are convicted for possessing a controlled substance varies depending on your criminal history and the type and quantity of the substance you possess. Instead of going to trial and facing a jail sentence for your crime, you can explore drug diversion programs. This program offers you the treatment and rehabilitation you need for your drug addiction.
Distribution of a Controlled Substance to Minors
In Virginia, charges for distributing drugs or controlled substances to minors are serious. The offense is charged under VA Code 18.2-555 and has the following elements:
- You distributed a controlled substance to a child under eighteen years of age.
- You caused a person under eighteen years old to assist in drug distribution.
Distributing controlled substances to juveniles is a felony that could make you spend ten to twenty-five years in state prison.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Under VA Code 54.1-3466, drug paraphernalia is any item or equipment used to manufacture, consume, or inject a controlled substance. You could face an arrest and charges for possessing drug paraphernalia, such as water pipes, bonds, needles, and roach clips. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of twelve months and up to $2500 in fines.
Possession of a Controlled Substance with an Intent to Distribute
Possessing a controlled substance intended to be distributed to another person is a severe offense under Virginia law. Before your conviction, the prosecutor must prove you possessed the drug and establish your intent to distribute it. Some of the factors that show an intent to distribute the substances include:
- Packaging of the drugs.
- Quantity of the substance in your possession.
- The presence of drug paraphernalia that shows the distribution.
- The presence of large sums of money together, either the drugs.
Possession of drugs for distribution is a felony with a maximum prison sentence of forty years. In addition to incarceration, a drug crime conviction can taint your criminal record. Therefore, having a reliable Vienna criminal lawyer to help you beat the charges is essential.
Sex crimes are offenses that have a sexual element to them. Since most sex crimes are committed against minors and other vulnerable individuals, the crimes attract felony charges and severe legal penalties. Common sex crimes under Virginia law include:
Inanimate Sexual Penetration
You will be found guilty of object sexual penetration for penetrating the labia majora or anus of another person using a foreign object. The prosecution must prove that the alleged victim did not consent to the sexual acts. You must understand that children cannot consent to sexual penetration. Therefore, you cannot assert a consent defense when charged with object sexual penetration of a child. A conviction for sexual penetration will see you spend between three and five years in prison.
Carnal Knowledge of a Minor
Under Virginia Code 18.2-63, this offense involves using intimidation or tricks to engage in a sexual act with a minor under fifteen years old. Carnal knowledge could include oral sex, sexual intercourse, and anal intercourse. You will be found guilty of this offense when the prosecution proves that:
- You had carnal knowledge of another person.
- The victim was under fifteen years at the time of the act.
- Carnal knowledge was done without the use of force or violence.
Carnal knowledge of a minor can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the victim's age. As a felony, the offense is punished by a prison sentence of up to six years. A misdemeanor conviction, on the other hand, carries a sentence of up to twelve months.
Sexual battery is a non-rape sexual interaction between two individuals that is non-consensual. A slight touch of another person with an intent for arousal or sexual gratification will attract charges under VA Code 18.2-67.4. Sexual battery is a misdemeanor. You will face a jail sentence of up to twelve months if found guilty of the crime.
Find a Reliable Defense Lawyer Near Me
No one plans to be arrested or be a defendant in a criminal case. However, when you face felony or misdemeanor charges in Virginia, your freedom and livelihood may be at stake. After an arrest, the prosecutors will be aggressive in filing criminal charges and pursuing a conviction. You risk incarceration and hefty fines if convicted of a criminal offense. Your criminal conviction will also remain on your record and can impact other aspects of your life.
Fortunately, not all arrests for violating Virginia law will result in a criminal conviction. Some charges are based on false allegations, poor judgment, a mistake of fact, or mistaken identification. Depending on the exact statute under which you are charged, you could explore available defenses to beat your charges or negotiate for a reduced charge. Virginia's criminal law is complicated. Therefore, your choice of legal representation can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
If you or a loved one faces criminal charges in Vienna, VA, you will benefit from our top-notch legal insight at Virginia Criminal Attorney. Call us at 703-718-5533 today to discuss the details of your case.