Fairfax County, Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney & Trial Lawyer: Ready to Help You Now!
Criminal behavior in Virginia encompasses a massive spectrum of conduct. A dog off of a leash in Fairfax County is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine. Being intoxicated in pubic is also a criminal offense punishable as a misdemeanor. More serious matters - like Robbery, Murder, Rape, Arson, Felony Assault - are major crimes that carry severe penalties. No matter how small or big the offense, if you are facing prosecution you need an attorney who knows the justice system in the Commonwealth. George Freeman was a Fairfax County Prosecutor for nearly a decade and is now a Fairfax County Criminal Defense Attorney.
To defend a case, you must understand what the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Understanding the elements and, as importantly, what evidence the Commonwealth has against you is necessary before assessing what defenses you may have. For example, if you are aware that the Commonwealth lacks a "testimonial witness", your defense is a legal one - their case is legally insufficient. If the Commonwealth has her witnesses, then the issue may become an interpretation of what the facts mean.
Criminal Defenses: An Overview
- No Crime - This is a common defense for financial crimes but can be applicable to any offense. An allegation that a crime has been committed does not mean this is so. False Pretenses, as an example, is often charged when the matter is actually civil in nature.
- Self-Defense - This defense arises in assault contexts. Similar to a "no crime" defense, a claim of self-defense admits that the "assault" occurred but no crime actually resulted because the assault is either excused or justified under the law of self-defense. Self-Defense is known as an affirmative defense and requires the defendant to establish evidence.
- Identity - Not only does the Commonwealth have to prove every element of an offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, they must also prove identity of the defendant as the perpetrator beyond a reasonable doubt. Identity arises most often in cases that involve people who do not otherwise know each other. Identity can be proven by circumstantial evidence, so this defense requires a thorough analysis of the facts known. DNA evidence can be crucial in a criminal case where identity is at issue.
- Consent - This defense most often arises in sexual assault cases. Consent is an absolute bar to a conviction for a sexual assault unless the victim is legally unable to consent. In a defense of consent, the defendant essentially acknowledges the conduct but claims what occurred was not against the will of the complaining witness.
- Mistake - This defense typically arises with crimes that require specific intent, though not always. For example, if you leave a store with merchandise that you did not pay for you will be likely charged with theft. But, if you did not intend to actually steal, meaning you honestly forgot to pay for the item, you may not be guilty of theft.
- Accident - This defense arises in situations where your action is not done purposefully. In some instances, this may be what absolves you of criminal liability. However, if the offense does not require purposeful action, but only requires criminal negligence, i.e. - reckless disregard, then an accident defense may not be viable. Reckless discharge of a firearm, for example, could be the result of an accident and also the result of recklessness. However, accidentally dropping a vase would not constitute intentional destruction of property because it would be an accident and whether reckless or not is immaterial to that charge.
- Insanity - Insanity is an affirmative defense which involves the defendant essentially admitting he did what the Commonwealth accuses him of doing, but is not criminally responsible because, while suffering from a mental defect or disease and as a result thereof, he did not know right from wrong or the nature, character or consequence of his actions, or he suffered from an irresistible impulse. Be cautious - if you are found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity you will be indefinitely committed to a state mental hospital. Because this is an affirmative defense, the defendant must produce some evidence of insanity.
- Voluntary Intoxication - Under Virginia law, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to any crime except first degree premeditated murder. If the defense is successful, you will likely be found guilty of Second Degree Murder.
- Involuntary Intoxication - Intoxication is involuntary when it comes about in a person without his willing and knowing use of alcohol, drugs or other substance. This defense is again premised, at least in part, on admitting you committed some wrongful act. The intoxication must so unsettle your ability to reason that your fail to understand the nature, character and consequences of your actions or are unable to distinguish right from wrong. Involuntary Intoxication is a form of legal insanity. Don't count on this defense if you are given a drink that turns out to be stronger than you expected. Fraud, accident, mistake, and physician error are often the cause of involuntary intoxication.
- Duress - Duress involves a threat of physical harm to inflict imminent death or serious bodily injury, in the mind of a reasonable person, unless they commit a violation of the law - a crime. Duress cannot be used as a defense if the crime committed is killing another in order that you or another not be killed. Duress is an affirmative defense meaning you admit the conduct alleged by the Commonwealth but assert it is justified because of being under Duress.
- Necessity - Necessity involves committing a crime in an emergency situation not brought on by the defendant and results in injury or harm less severe than if the defendant had done nothing. Necessity is an affirmative defense meaning you admit the conduct alleged by the Commonwealth but assert is it justified because of the Necessity brought about by another person or event beyond the defendant's control.
- Alibi - This defense says whatever happened by whomever, I was not present. Alibi defenses require the defendant to establish that at the place and time of the crime at issue, they were not present. For example, a defendant may present evidence that shows on the day of the Burglary in Fairfax he was in Italy on vacation.
- Sufficiency - Although not an actual defense, sometimes the best course is to challenge the sufficiency of the Commonwealth's evidence. In other words, challenging whether the Commonwealth can meet her burden beyond a reasonable doubt. Remember, suspicion or probability of guilt is not enough to convict.
As you can see, some defenses involve admitting at least some of the Commonwealth's allegation. Some defenses involve denying the allegation entirely. Strategy matters in a criminal defense case. It can be a perilous journey if you submit to a jury, for example, two different defense theories. A defendant can submit as many defense theories as he chooses. But envision this - A defendant argues I did not do it because I was not there (Alibi), but if I did do it, it was self-defense. Likely such an inconsistent defense will cause a loss of credibility. Throwing everything at the wall to see what may stick may mean nothing sticks! Choose your defense strategy wisely.
If you need an experienced Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer and Trial Attorney, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation - we will gladly discuss your case. George Freeman has tried hundreds of criminal cases and is familiar with the elements, applicable defenses and procedural maneuvers available.
Penalties ranges for criminal conduct vary. Some offenses have their own unique penalty range. Such offenses are known as unclassified felonies or unclassified misdemeanors. However, most offenses are classified. Here are the penalty ranges for misdemeanors and felonies that are classified:
- For Class 1 felonies, death, if the person so convicted was 18 years of age or older at the time of the offense and is not determined to be a person with intellectual disability, or imprisonment for life and a fine of not more than $100,000.*
- For Class 2 felonies, imprisonment for life or for any term not less than 20 years and a fine of not more than $100,000.*
- For Class 3 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than five years nor more than 20 years and a fine of not more than $100,000.*
- For Class 4 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $100,000.*
- For Class 5 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years or confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.**
- For Class 6 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years or confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.**
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.**
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.**
For Class 3 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $500.
For Class 4 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $250.
*For these offenses imprisonment and a fine or imprisonment only must be imposed; a fine only option is not available.
**For these offenses it is possible to be given only a fine upon conviction.
Unless an offense has "mandatory minimum" requirements, a judge can suspend the imposition of active incarceration and order probation or other terms deemed appropriate.
Fairfax County, Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney & Trial Lawyer: Ready to Help You Now!
George Freeman has tried hundreds of cases in every Court in Fairfax County. If you need an experienced Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer, contact Mr. Freeman today!