Misdemeanors carry less severe penalties and typically carry less severe collateral consequences. In Virginia, the maximum jail penalty for a misdemeanor is 12 months; the maximum fine is $2,500.00. On a misdemeanor conviction you will not be sent to prison, even if you are given the maximum penalty. Upon conviction of a misdemeanor, you will not lose your right to vote or other civil rights. You may, depending on the charge and circumstance, lose some of your rights to either possess or transport a firearm. Also, some misdemeanors, that are sexual in nature, require registration on the sex offender registry. This typically requires either prior sexual misdemeanors of a like offense to be on your record or involves a very young victim. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney today. Attorney George Freeman has extensive experience handling misdemeanor cases.
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In Virginia, there are four classes of misdemeanors and unclassified misdemeanors.
- Class 1 Misdemeanor - punished by confinement in jail up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500.00, either or both.
- Class 2 Misdemeanor - punished by confinement in jail up to 6 months and a fine of up to $1,000.00, either or both.
- Class 3 Misdemeanor - punished by a fine of up to $500.00.
- Class 4 Misdemeanor - punished by a fine of up to $250.00.
- Unclassified Misdemeanor - punished by whatever the particular statute indicates, but not a punishment in excess of a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
There are other direct consequences of a misdemeanor conviction aside from the possibility of confinement or imposition of a fine. A person convicted of a misdemeanor may be placed on probation, ordered to undergo mental health or drug treatment, ordered to complete community service, prohibited from contacting certain individuals, and, for certain offenses, have their license suspended or revoked.
Do I need a Criminal Defense Lawyer if there is no prosecutor handling the Misdemeanor case against me?
There is a trend in some Northern Virginia jurisdictions, namely Fairfax County, wherein the Commonwealth's Attorney and his prosecutors are withdrawing from prosecuting misdemeanor cases in the Fairfax General District Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. There are exceptions - for example, prosecutors will still prosecute DUI and Domestic Assault between intimate partners and have discretion to prosecute any misdemeanor. But most misdemeanor cases will not have a prosecutor handling the case. One may fairly ask, "Do I need a defense attorney if there is no prosecutor on the other side?" That decision is up to you, but here are some points to consider:
- In a case with no prosecutor, the judge will still hear from the complainant (usually a police officer) and from any witnesses the complainant brings to court - this is testimony.
- The judge will also receive evidence, such as photographs or other documents, if it is offered.
- Hearsay statements - statements made out of court offered to prove some fact at issue - are generally inadmissible. But those statements must be properly objected to. Most non-lawyers are not familiar with the rules of hearsay and may not know when to object.
- Evidence is generally admissible unless it is properly objected to. A defendant without a defense attorney may not know that testimony or evidence being offered is objectionable, and therefore inadmissible.
- There are procedural motions, and pre-trial motions, a defense attorney may make or file. Understanding the complexity of the court system requires being familiar with that system.
- In many cases, there are constitutional issues. If there is a First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth or 14th Amendment violation or issue a defense attorney would be best at determining this versus a non-lawyer. A lawyer would also be best at filing a necessary motion to suppress or motion to dismiss versus a non-lawyer.
- The Rules of Evidence apply in cases even without attorneys. Unless an individual is familiar with the rules, a defense attorney may be very helpful in trying to keep out inadmissible evidence. The judge will not do the objecting for you.
- A defense attorney also will know how to present and offer evidence, if that becomes necessary.
- Each offense has elements that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. A lawyer familiar with Virginia criminal law may be very helpful in analyzing whether the proof of the elements is legally sufficient. If the evidence is legally insufficient, then a proper motion to strike must be made during the trial.
- A defendant has the right to remain silent, but he also has the right to testify in his own behalf. Wise legal counsel can advise on which decision is best in a particular case.
Whether to hire an attorney in any given matter is a personal choice. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, a lawyer familiar with the criminal justice system can certainly help you as you navigate turbulent and unfamiliar waters.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor and need a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney, contact George Freeman today. Mr. Freeman is an experienced, seasoned trial attorney and has handled thousands of misdemeanor cases over the past decade, both as a prosecutor and now as a defense lawyer.