A crime may occur for a variety of reasons. Something as a simple as a misunderstanding or an argument can escalate into a situation resulting in a criminal arrest. When that happens, it can be difficult to figure out how serious the matter is and what to do next.
A criminal conviction may have lasting consequences. For that reason, it is advisable to consult with a Fairfax criminal lawyer.
A defense attorney with thorough knowledge of criminal law and procedure can explain local criminal statutes and how they apply to the facts of your case. Your lawyer can then advise you how to proceed to work toward the best possible outcome.
Criminal Law Basics
A crime is an illegal action or failure to perform an action required by law that is considered an offense against society as a whole and is, therefore, punishable by the state. And unfortunately for some people, the old adage “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is generally accurate when it comes to most violations.
Overall, crimes are classified into two main categories. Misdemeanors are the less serious offenses, usually punishable by no more than a year in jail and a fine that varies depending on the crime. Felonies are more serious, with penalties that include a year or more in prison and more substantial fines.
Virginia criminal law further divides felonies and misdemeanors into different classes based on the severity of the crime.
Misdemeanors in Virginia
There are four classes of misdemeanors in Virginia that a Fairfax criminal attorney can help address. The most serious, Class 1 misdemeanors, include offenses such as assault, stalking, DUI, petty larceny and possession of certain controlled substances.
Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Other penalties may apply for some crimes, such as a driver’s license suspension for DUI and other traffic offenses.
Class 2 misdemeanors are also punishable by jail time and include such crimes as possession of certain drugs or paraphernalia and reckless driving or driving without a license. Those convicted may face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Misdemeanors in Classes 3 and 4 are punishable by fines but not imprisonment. Examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include destruction of property with intent to steal and possession of certain controlled substances. Fines for these crimes can be as high as $500.
Class 4 misdemeanors include public drunkenness and interfering with an animal control officer, and the penalties include fines of up to $250.
Felonies in Virginia
Not only are felonies more serious crimes, felony law is more complicated, with six different classes, special rules, procedures, and penalties, which is why the help of a Fairfax criminal lawyer can be an invaluable asset.
The most egregious, Class 1 felonies, are punishable by life imprisonment or even the death penalty, and a fine of up to $100,000. Murder arising from a drug distribution crime and murder of a law enforcement official are examples of this class.
Felonies in Classes 2, 3 and 4 are punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and prison terms that fit within a range. For instance, sentences for Class 3 felonies are set between 5 and 20 years. Examples of these offenses include malicious wounding and prostitution.
The least serious felonies are those in Classes 5 and 6, with penalties that include fines of up to $2,500 and imprisonment for 1-10 years. This class includes crimes such as battery and assault against emergency medical personnel.
Importance of a Criminal Attorney in Fairfax
In addition to fines and jail time, criminal charges can result in a host of other undesirable consequences such as loss of driving privileges and difficulty in obtaining employment and housing.
Top legal representation can make all the difference. An experienced Fairfax criminal lawyer can investigate all options, build the strongest possible defense based on the facts, and help you work toward the optimum result.