Misdemeanor Criminal Defense
Misdemeanors are violations of the law in Virginia that are not punished as severely as felony crimes, but people who do not take them seriously are making a mistake. A misdemeanor conviction can still end with incarceration, fines or supervised probation. The criminal record that remains is another reason why people arrested on misdemeanor charges need the dedicated and seasoned criminal defense attorneys at the Hampton offices of Riley Law, PLLC, to aggressively fight on their behalf.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
There are three types of violations of the law in the commonwealth:
- Infractions usually involve violation of the traffic laws, such as making a right turn without coming to a complete stop at a red light, and are not classified as crimes. An infraction does not result in a person being left with a criminal record.
- Misdemeanors are violations of the law that are more serious than infractions. For example, speeding is usually an infraction, but a person caught driving in excess of 20 mph over the posted speed limit can be charged with a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are crimes and leave the offender with a criminal record.
- Felonies are the most serious forms of criminal conduct and have the most severe penalties associated with them.
Infractions are usually punishable by payment of a fine. Misdemeanor and felony convictions can lead to imprisonment, substantial fines and a criminal record. The primary distinction between misdemeanors and felonies is that a felony conviction is normally punishable by a prison sentence in excess one year, but the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is one year in a local jail.
Classes of Misdemeanors and the Penalties Possible Under Each of Them
Misdemeanors are separated into four classes depending upon the seriousness of the conduct engaged in by the person charged with the crime. The classes and penalties associated with each are as follows:
- Class 1: Misdemeanors in this class are considered by the commonwealth to be the most serious violations of the law, so judges are authorized to impose the harshest penalties on those who are convicted of violating them. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, petit larceny, and domestic assault are Class 1 misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
- Class 2: Possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of Schedule IV controlled substances, and driving without a license. Driving without a license as a second offense can be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
- Class 3: Possession of a Schedule V controlled substance is an example of a Class 3 misdemeanor. Misdemeanors in this class are punishable by fines up to $500.
- Class 4: The least serious of the misdemeanor charges, Class 4 crimes are punished by fines up to $250. An example of a Class 4 misdemeanor is public intoxication.
Because they are crimes, a guilty plea or conviction after trial of any class of misdemeanor leaves the offender with a criminal record. Courts and prosecutors could be influenced by the existence of a criminal record if the person were to get into trouble again. The result could be a longer sentence imposed by a judge or a refusal to plea bargain by prosecutors.
Traffic Offenses and Misdemeanors
Drivers can be caught off guard by the fact that some driving offenses are actually misdemeanors. Among the traffic offenses that can be charged as misdemeanors are the following:
- Speeding: Speeding in excess of 20 mph above the posted speed limit can be charged as the misdemeanor of reckless driving.
- License violations: Driving without a license, driving with a suspended license and driving with a revoked license are misdemeanors.
- DUI: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
- Failure to report an accident: Leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it is a criminal offense. Depending upon the value of the property damaged in the accident or whether a person was injured or killed, the charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Get Help from Experienced Hampton Roads Criminal Defense Attorneys
Criminal convictions are serious and can take away a person’s freedom. Let the seasoned Virginia misdemeanor defense lawyers at Riley Law, PLLC, review the charges and the facts and develop an effective defense strategy. Contact them today at 757-251-3888 to schedule a consultation.