A misdemeanor in Virginia is defined as a criminal offense which is punishable with a jail sentence of up to twelve months. There are four classes of misdemeanors in Virginia. The most serious class of misdemeanor is the Class 1 misdemeanor. The least serious class of misdemeanor is the Class 4 misdemeanor.
Misdemeanors are not as serious as Felony charges, which may result in prison time of more than one year. Felony convictions in Virginia result in loss of the following rights of citizenship: right to vote, right to own or possess a firearm, inability to hold public office, disqualification for notary public duties, etc. Misdemeanor convictions do not involve loss of these rights but may result in loss of sensitive employment, revocation of security clearances and damage to immigration status. Attorney Yeargan seeks to help clients charged with these crimes get them dismissed outright, deferred for dismissal with community service, or reduced to lesser non-criminal offenses such as traffic infractions or civil fines.
Types of Misdemeanors in Virginia
Below are the classes of each misdemeanor and the punishment range that may be imposed (from Virginia Code §18.2-11):
- For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve Months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both. (Examples of this type of charge are Trespass, Reckless Driving, Disorderly Conduct and Underage Possession of Alcohol)
- For Class 2 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000, either or both. (Examples of this type of charge include No Valid Operators License, 1st Offense, Pointing Laser at Law Enforcement Officer)
- For Class 3 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $500. (Examples include Posting No Trespass Signs on the Land of Another, Trespass by Spotlight, Trespass by Hunters)
- For Class 4 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $250. (Examples include Public Swearing or Intoxication, Pulling Down Fences or Leaving Open Gates of Another)
Reducing Misdemeanor Penalties
Misdemeanor statutes which have no specified punishment are presumed to be Class 1 misdemeanors under §18.2-12 of the Virginia Code. All misdemeanors are criminal charges. The General District Courts and Juvenile and Domestic Relations General District Court first hear misdemeanor charges. These courts are "Courts Not of Record" and do not have juries to hear the cases. The cases are decided by a judge, who sits and hears the evidence presented by the prosecutor and defense.
Often an agreement is made by the defense and the prosecution, and this agreement is presented to the judge for approval and entry. This agreement could involve dismissal of the charges, a reduction of the charges, conviction, or deferral for dismissal arrangement. Sometimes, the parties cannot come to an agreement and the defendant decides to plead not guilty to the charges in a trial before the judge.
When a person is convicted and their appeal period ends, misdemeanors cannot be expunged from the permanent criminal record. A Defendant must appeal to avoid a permanent conviction. The General District Courts have a very short appeal period for these charges (only 10 days). Appeals from the General District Courts are heard in a court of record called the Circuit Court. The appeal is heard "De Novo", meaning that no weight or deference is given to the lower court decision. It is a fresh trial. The Circuit Court is a "Court of Record" and hears jury trials for misdemeanor appeals, unless both the Defendant and the prosecuting attorney waive the jury and agree to a bench trial. Misdemeanor jury trials are "petit juries" and comprised of only seven jurors in this state. Defendants conducting misdemeanor trials in Circuit Court must provide their own court reporter to transcribe the events of trial for any further appeal.
Most of the cases that this law office handles do not have to go through the appeal process. Appeals are rarely used except in very difficult cases. Cases that are often appealed include violent crimes, high speed Reckless Driving cases, and DUI cases that involve exceptionally high Blood Alcohol Content. However, it is important for the client to know their options and long term strategy for the case.
It is important for someone who is charged to retain an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. With experienced counsel, the charge may be dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense. There are deferral procedures available for some misdemeanors that may result in dismissal. Attorney Yeargan also routinely negotiates informal deferrals for dismissal, so that the client is eligible for expungement of the arrest. This may involve payment of restitution, completion of community service hours, and counseling treatment with good behavior.
Contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
For assistance with misdemeanor criminal charges, please contact Attorney Wilfred Yeargan for a free initial consultation. He will discuss the facts of your case and any potential defense to the charges. A comprehensive defense strategy will be developed and explained in detail to the client.
Call The Law Office of Wilfred W. Yeargan directly or send an online message to discuss your case and legal defense options today.