An Educated Client is the Best Client - Get Your Virginia DUI Questions Answered Here
Many people who have been cited for reckless driving or arrested for drunk driving in Virginia have common questions, and our Manassas DUI defense lawyers developed this section on our website to educate, inform and help you through this difficult time. When you are facing a challenging case, look for your answers here. If you cannot locate the answer to your specific question, please give us a call, and our qualified Northern Virginia criminal defense attorneys will answer your legal questions.
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Can I expunge my Virginia DUI conviction?
Virginia does not allow for expungement of DUI convictions. In fact, Virginia does not allow expungement of any convictions. Expungement proceedings in Virginia are limited to records relating to offenses which were eventually dismissed - and only some of those are eligible for expungement.
If you have entries on your criminal record which you would like to have expunged and you would like to speak with a Virginia Criminal, DUI / DWI & Traffic Defense Lawyer to learn whether Virginia law will allow it, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 and we'll be happy to discuss your situation with you in more detail.
Can I expunge my Reckless Driving conviction?
Generally speaking, in Virginia, records relating to misdemeanor offenses which were dismissed may be expunged if the person accused does not have any criminal record unless the government convinces the court there is a good reason to not do so. However, in Virginia, in order to be granted expungement of records relating to felony offenses which were dismissed the burden is on the person seeking expungement to prove to the court that the continued presence of the information will cause prejudice.
Does the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assess demerit points for accidents?
No. Demerit points are not assessed by the Virginia DMV simply for being involved in an accident. The Virginia DMV assesses demerit points after receiving notice of a conviction for a moving violation. The amount of demerit points assessed for any particular moving violation depends on the severity of the violation.
Moving violations in Virginia are divided into 3 point offenses, 4 point offenses and 6 point offenses. Virginia does not have 1 point, 2 point or 5 point offenses. If you are involved in an accident but not cited for any violation, demerit points will not be assessed by the Virginia DMV. However, if as a result of the accident you are accused, and eventually convicted of a moving violation such as Reckless Driving, Following Too Closely, Failure to Yield, etc., the Virginia DMV will assess demerit points for the specific moving violation.
If you have been issued a summons, or were arrested and taken into custody, and are accused of a DUI / DWI, Criminal or Traffic violation and would like to speak with a Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic Defense Lawyer, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 and we'll be happy to discuss your situation with you in more detail.
If I am licensed in Virginia and my privilege to drive is suspended in another state, can I continue to drive in Virginia?
Yes, at least temporarily. In the USA, each individual state honors licenses to drive issued by sister states. This allows you to drive in states other than your home state even though you don't have a license in that particular state. For example, if your license was issued by Virginia, that license allows you to drive in every other state as long as it remains valid, assuming you have not had your privilege to drive in some other state revoked. If you have had your privilege to drive in some other state revoked, then your Virginia license allows you to drive everywhere except that state.
On the other hand, the suspension or revocation of your privilege to drive in some other state has no immediate effect on your Virginia license. In theory, word of that out-of-state suspension will be communicated to Virginia eventually and chances are good that the Virginia DMV will take some action against your Virginia license at that time. However, until such time as you are notified that the Virginia DMV has taken some action to suspend or revoke your Virginia license, it remains valid despite your privilege to drive being suspended in another state.
Contact a Traffic Law Attorney If Your License Is Suspended in Another State
If you have been arrested or ticketed and accused of Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License, or some other Criminal or Traffic violation and would like to speak with a Virginia DUI / DWI Criminal & Traffic Defense Lawyer, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 and we'll be happy to discuss your situation with you in more detail.
If am licensed in another state and my privilege to drive in Virginia is suspended, can I continue to drive in the state in which I am licensed?
This is a question which needs to be answered by a lawyer licensed to practice in your home state, but it makes sense to me that the answer would be- yes, at least temporarily. Virginia courts can only take away the ability to drive in Virginia. If you have a license issued by another state and your privilege to drive in Virginia is suspended, your license is still valid and you may continue to drive everywhere except Virginia - until you are notified that your home licensing state has taken some action against your license.
What does "released on summons" mean?
Many people equate being arrested with being taken into custody, but in Virginia after a person is arrested, the police make a decision regarding whether to take the person into custody and transport the person to jail or give the person a ticket / summons and let the person go. What people call a ticket in Virginia is actually a Virginia Uniform Summons and it is an official document which provides notice to someone that he or she has been accused of a specific offense and provides information about the date and time the matter will be heard by a Court.
In certain situations, Virginia law allows officers to give someone a ticket / summons, rather than taking the person into custody. When this happens, the person is said to have been "released on a summons." For example, if you have ever been stopped by police and given a ticket for Speeding, Disregarding a Stop Sign or some other traffic infraction, you may not have even realized it, but you were arrested and released on a summons. Most times when someone is released on summons it is due to a misdemeanor charge.
We Represent Those Charged in Virginia
If you have been issued a ticket / summons and are accused of DUI / DWI or some other Criminal or Traffic violation and would like to speak with a Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic Defense Lawyer, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 and we'll be happy to discuss your situation with you in more detail. You can also fill out a contact form here and we will be in touch with you shortly.
Can any Virginia lawyer claim to practice Criminal Defense or is some level of expertise required?
Many Virginia lawyers will be upset with me for revealing this to you, but you deserve to know the truth. In Virginia, any lawyer can advertise and hold himself / herself out to the public as a Criminal Defense Attorney as long as the lawyer can handle a criminal case with a minimal degree of competence. In Virginia, no level of experience or expertise is required. There is no test a lawyer must pass or certification processes a lawyer must complete before the lawyer can claim to practice in a particular area of law. To put it in perspective, essentially all that is required is for the lawyer to be able to provide D+ representation - because that's all it takes to pass.
To illustrate this point further, consider the following: even though I have never handled a medical malpractice case, I could advertise and market myself as a medical malpractice lawyer - as long as I learned enough about it to be barely competent to handle the case. Of course, not being an expert in that field, one would expect the representation to fall well short of being top-notch and it is highly unlikely that the case would end up with the best possible result for the client. But as long as I can be minimally competent at medical malpractice, I am able to claim to be a medical malpractice lawyer.
So don't be fooled. The fact that a lawyer advertises and claims to be a Virginia DUI / DWI or Criminal Defense Lawyer does not mean the lawyer has any education, training or expertise in that area of law. Being a "jack of all trades and master of none" lawyer, who dabbles in several areas of the law and excels in none of them, is allowed in Virginia - and is quite common. Since you probably don't want to end up with that kind of lawyer, it is up to you to do your homework so you can separate those lawyers who have some expertise in DUI / DWI & Criminal Defense from those who dabble in several areas of law. After all, it's your life, your freedom and your future that is on the line, and you need a "master" lawyer instead of the "jack of all trades and master of none" lawyer.
If you have been charged with a DUI / DWI, Criminal or Traffic offense in Virginia and the outcome of the case is important to you, The Wilson Law Firm may be just the firm you need. The Wilson Law Firm is focused on helping clients accused of DUI / DWI, Criminal and Traffic offenses all across Virginia. The Wilson Law Firm has successfully handled thousands of DUI / DWI, Criminal and Traffic cases all across Virginia - and we would love to help you, too. Call us now at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944.
I've been arrested and accused of a crime and I have to go to court for an arraignment. What should I expect at an arraignment in Virginia?
The term arraignment is a general criminal law term which means different things in different states, and even means different things in different courts within a given state.
What an Arraignment Means in Virginia
Procedurally, in Virginia the term "arraignment" is commonly used to refer to the first appearance an accused will make before the Court. If the accused is held in jail after being arrested, the arraignment in Virginia (first appearance) usually takes place the next day the court is open. In some jurisdictions, the inmates are brought over to the courthouse for the arraignment, and more commonly arraignments are being done via video conferencing with the inmates remaining at the jail. On the other hand, if the accused is released from custody, by being released on his or her own recognizance, by posting bail or by using the services of a bail bond agent, the arraignment is typically scheduled for several days later.
Substantively, this sort of first appearance arraignment in Virginia is a brief administrative hearing at which the Court will typically:
- inform the accused of the allegation / accusation
- make sure the accused understands the allegation / accusation
- inform the accused of the right to be represented by a lawyer
- ask whether the accused plans to hire an attorney of his / her own choosing, request the court to appoint the Public Defender or a private court appointed attorney, or proceed without the assistance of an attorney
- inform the accused of the next court date
In many Virginia Circuit Courts the term arraignment is used in the more formal sense to describe the stage of a criminal case at which the accused is formally advised of the charge and asked to enter either a guilty or not guilty plea. In some Virginia jurisdictions, this arraignment process occurs immediately before the trial is scheduled to begin, and in other Virginia jurisdictions it happens much earlier in the process and further proceedings are scheduled depending upon the particular plea which is entered by the accused.
We Represent You in Court
If you have been accused of a DUI / DWI, Criminal or Traffic offense in Virginia and have a question about an arraignment or some other aspect of your case, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944 and our knowledgeable, experienced and successful Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic Defense Lawyer(s) will be happy to discuss the arraignment process and other matters of Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic defense with you in more detail. You can have our firm call you by filling out a contact form on this page.
What happens after a suspect is arrested and taken into custody by police in Virginia?
In Virginia, after someone is arrested and taken into custody by police / law enforcement, the suspect is typically transported to a jail where he or she will appear before a magistrate who will make a determination about whether the suspect can be released from confinement pending trial, and if so, on what conditions.
The magistrate will consider many things when making this decision, but they fall into two broad categories - the degree to which the person presents a danger to the public and the degree to which the person is a flight risk. Essentially, the magistrate tries to determine (1) whether the accused will get in more trouble while awaiting trial if released and (2) whether the accused will come back to court for the trial if released. If the magistrate believes the accused presents a low risk of getting in more trouble and is likely to return for the trial, then the accused will likely have the opportunity to be releaed from jail pending the trial.
If the magistrate decides an accused does not need to be held in jail pending trial, the magistrate will come up with a set of conditions which must be met in order to be released. The accused may be released with nothing more than a signature promising to appear for the trial. This is commonly referred to as PR - personal recognizance. The person may be released on an unsecured monetary bond, which means no money has to be paid at that time, but if the accused violates the conditions of release he or she owes the amount of the bond. In this situation you may hear a court say a $500 unsecured bond. As charges become more serious, magistrates utilize secured monetary bond. You may hear a court say $5,000 cash or corporate surety bond. In this scenario, the accused must either pay the entire amount of the bond to the Court or utilize the services of a bail bonding agent. Bail bonding agencies typically charge a fee of about 10% of the total bond and then assume responsibility for making sure the accused comes to court when required to do so.
If you or someone you know has been arrested and accused of a DUI / DWI, Criminal or Traffic Offense in Virginia, and you have questions about the process to get released from jail, or any other matter relating to the case, call The Wilson Law Firm now at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944 and a knowledgeable, experienced and successful DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic Defense Lawyer will be happy to discuss these matters with you in more detail.
If I am arrested and taken to jail, do I have to stay in jail until my trial or can I get released before trial?
Whether an accused is held in jail or released pending trial in a Virginia DUI / DWI or other Criminal case depends on many factors, including the facts and circumstances of the particular case, any criminal record of the accused, whether there is a statutory presumption against granting bond, how far away the trial date will be scheduled and of course, the particular lawyer representing the accused. The lawyer you choose can be the difference in the outcome of your case.
In Virginia, the decision whether or not to release an accused from custody pending trial is initially made by a magistrate. The magistrate will consider many things in an attempt to determine the degree to which the person presents a risk to the public and a risk of flight, and will then make a decision to hold the accused in jail or release the accused on certian conditions.
However, even if the magistrate decides to hold the accused in jail at that time, a Virginia DUI / DWI & Criminal Defense Lawyer can file a motion (the lawyer word for "request") with the Court asking the Court to hold a hearing (commonly referred to as a Bond Hearing) to review the matter and make an independent decision. At that hearing, the Virginia DUI / DWI Criminal Defense Lawyer will present evidence and arguments designed to persuade the Court that the accused is not an unreasonable risk to the public or of flight so a bond should be granted. The prosecuting attorney is generally present at these bond hearings and will argue for whatever position he/she believes is in the best interest of the government and the public. In some cases, the Virginia DUI / DWI & Criminal Defense Lawyer and the prosecuting attorney can reach an agreement regarding an appropriate bond, and when that happens the Court will often times sign off on that agreement. At the conclusion of the Bond Hearing, the court will announce a ruling (decision) regarding whether the accused can be released from incarceration pending trial, and if so, on what conditions.
If you have questions about pre-trial detention, bond hearings or some other matter relating to Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic Defense, call The Wilson Law Firm now at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944 and a knowledgeable, experienced and successful Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer will be happy to discuss these matters with you in more detail.
What factors do Virginia magistrates look to when deciding whether to release someone from pre-trial incarceration, and if so, on what conditions?
In Virginia, magistrates and judges look to a variety of factors when determining whether an accused should be released from pre-trial confinement, and if so, on what conditions. These factors are set out in Section 19.2-120 of the Virginia Code (set out below) and include the nature and circumstances of the alleged offense, the history and characteristics of the accused including character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, any drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, membership in a criminal street gang and record of appearance at court proceedings.
However, the two major concerns of Virginia magistrates and Virginia judges are the risk of flight and the danger to the public. In fact, section 19.2-120 of Virginia Code indicates people held in custody pending trial shall be admitted to bail, unless there is probable cause to believe:
· The accused will not appear in court when directed to do so, or
· Releasing the accused presents an unreasonable risk to the accused or the public
This same section of the Virginia law relating to Admission to Bail goes on to say magistrates and judges in Virginia shall presume that if the accused is alleged to have committed certain offenses, then no combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the accused in a Virginia court or reasonably protect the safety of the public. Essentially, this means that if an accused is suspected of committing one of the enumerated offenses in Virginia, the magistrate should hold the accused without bond, and the Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer will be fighting an uphill battle when trying to persuade the Virginia judge to allow the accused to be released on certain conditions.
The offenses for which the law in Virginia mandates an initial presumption against release on bond are quite serious offenses. They include certain violent offenses, offenses for which the maximum sentence if life imprisonment or death, certain drug offenses, certain firearm offenses, felony offenses if there are certain other convictions in the person’s history, felony offenses committed while the person is out on bond for another offense, and certain sex offenses, certain offenses involving child pornography and soliciting children, certain offenses involving criminal street gangs, certain DUI offenses, certain protective order violations, and Assault and Battery against a family or household member. (See below)
If you or someone you know has been arrested and is facing DUI / DWI Charges, or any other Criminal Charges, call The Wilson Law Firm now at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944 and a knowledgeable, experienced and successful Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer will be happy to discuss these matters with you in more detail.
§ 19.2-120. Admission to bail.
Prior to conducting any hearing on the issue of bail, release or detention, the judicial officer shall, to the extent feasible, obtain the person's criminal history.
A. A person who is held in custody pending trial or hearing for an offense, civil or criminal contempt, or otherwise shall be admitted to bail by a judicial officer, unless there is probable cause to believe that:
1. He will not appear for trial or hearing or at such other time and place as may be directed, or
2. His liberty will constitute an unreasonable danger to himself or the public.
B. The judicial officer shall presume, subject to rebuttal, that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person or the safety of the public if the person is currently charged with:
1. An act of violence as defined in § 19.2-297.1;
2. An offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death;
3. A violation of § 18.2-248, 18.2-248.01, 18.2-255, or 18.2-255.2 involving a Schedule I or II controlled substance if (i) the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more and the person was previously convicted of a like offense or (ii) the person was previously convicted as a "drug kingpin" as defined in § 18.2-248;
5. Any felony, if the person has been convicted of two or more offenses described in subdivision 1 or 2, whether under the laws of the Commonwealth or substantially similar laws of the United States;
6. Any felony committed while the person is on release pending trial for a prior felony under federal or state law or on release pending imposition or execution of sentence or appeal of sentence or conviction;
7. An offense listed in subsection B of § 18.2-67.5:2 and the person had previously been convicted of an offense listed in § 18.2-67.5:2 or a substantially similar offense under the laws of any state or the United States and the judicial officer finds probable cause to believe that the person who is currently charged with one of these offenses committed the offense charged;
8. A violation of § 18.2-374.1 or 18.2-374.3 where the offender has reason to believe that the solicited person is under 15 years of age and the offender is at least five years older than the solicited person;
10. A violation of § 18.2-36.1, 18.2-51.4, 18.2-266, or 46.2-341.24 and the person has, within the past five years of the instant offense, been convicted three times on different dates of a violation of any combination of these Code sections, or any ordinance of any county, city, or town or the laws of any other state or of the United States substantially similar thereto, and has been at liberty between each conviction;
11. A second or subsequent violation of § 16.1-253.2 or a substantially similar offense under the laws of any state or the United States; or
12. A violation of subsection B of § 18.2-57.2.
C. The judicial officer shall presume, subject to rebuttal, that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person or the safety of the public if the person is being arrested pursuant to § 19.2-81.6.
D. The court shall consider the following factors and such others as it deems appropriate in determining, for the purpose of rebuttal of the presumption against bail described in subsection B, whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the public:
1. The nature and circumstances of the offense charged;
2. The history and characteristics of the person, including his character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, membership in a criminal street gang as defined in § 18.2-46.1, and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and
3. The nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person's release.
E. The judicial officer shall inform the person of his right to appeal from the order denying bail or fixing terms of bond or recognizance consistent with § 19.2-124.
(1975, c. 495; 1978, c. 755; 1979, c. 649; 1987, c. 390; 1991, c. 581; 1993, c. 636; 1996, c. 973; 1997, cc. 6, 476; 1999, cc. 829, 846; 2000, c. 797; 2002, cc. 588, 623; 2004, cc. 308, 360, 406, 412, 461, 819, 954, 959; 2005, c. 132; 2006, c. 504; 2007, cc. 134, 386, 745, 923; 2008, c. 596.)
If the Virginia magistrate decides to hold me in jail without bond until my trial date, can that decision be reviewed by a Court?
Decisions regarding bond conditions made by Virginia magistrates are reviewable by Virginia judges. Magistrates have access to very little information when making the initial decision whether to hold someone in jail or set conditions of release. However, at a bond hearing a court will have access to far more information than the magistrate had to consider, so it makes sense that a court can make an independent determination and set conditions of release even though the magistrate held the person without bond.
Any Virginia DUI / DWI and Criminal Defense Lawyer should know how to file the proper motions with the court to get this matter on the court's docket for a Bond Hearing. During the Bond Hearing your Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer will try to persuade the judge to overrule the magistrate's decision and either allow release on certain conditions (if you were held without bond) or amend the conditions of release so that you can meet them and be released. The prosecuting attorney is usually present for these bond hearings and will try to persuade the judge to do whatever the prosecuting attorney believes is best.
Contact An Attoney If You Are Held With No Bond
If you have questions, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944 and a knowledgeable, experienced and successful Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer will be happy to discuss pre-trial confinement, bond hearings and other matters relating to criminal cases in Virginia with you in more detail.
In Virginia, to be released from pre-trial confinement, will I need to use the services of a bail bond agent?
Whether you will need to utilize the services of a bail bonding company in order to be released from custody while awaiting trial depends upon both the decision made by the magistrate or judge, and your personal financial position.
Initially, as discussed in other FAQs, in Virginia the magistrate will decide whether release from pre-trial confinement is an option for you, and if so, under what conditions. The judge can review and overrule the magistrate's decision after considering evidence and arguments presented at a bond hearing. After you have gone through the process there are three general results.
(1) You could be held in jail without possibility of release (without bond). If this happens, it means the magistrate and/or judge(s) in Virginia believed that no condition or combination of conditions would reasonably guarantee your return to court and reasonably protect the public. If you are held without bond you will remain incarcerated in a Virginia jail until your trial.
(2) You could be given a secured bond. If this happens, it means that the Virginia magistrate and/or judge believed that you did not necessarily need to be held in jail until your trial, but that certain conditions were necessary to reasonably guarantee your return to court and to reasonably protect the public. So, when you have been given a secured bond it means your release has been authorized if you meet certain conditions. Generally speaking, requiring security for the bond stems from the belief that a person will behave while awaiting trial and return to court for the trial if failing to do so would cause the person to lose a certain sum of money or something of value. Although property is occasionally used as security, in Virginia the most common term is "cash or corporate surety" - which means money. For example, a Virginia magistrate or Virginia judge may set bond at "$10,000 secured - cash or corporate surety."
This is the situation in which the services of a Virginia bail bond agent may be necessary. If your financial position is such that you can pay the entire amount of the secured bond then you will not need the assistance of a Virginia bail bonding company. If you pay the entire bond yourself, and meet all the other conditions while the case is pending, the entire amount will be refunded to you at the conclusion of the case.
On the other hand, if you are not able to pay the entire amount of the secured bond, you can enlist the services of a Virgnia bail bond company to help you. Generally speaking, instread of having to pay the entire amount of the secured bond, you pay a Virginia bail bonding company a non-refundable fee equal to approximately 10% of the secured bond, and the bail bonding company is responsible for making sure you appear in court.
(3) You could be released on an unsecured bond. If this happens it means your situation was such that the Virginia magistrate and/or judge determined that no security was needed to guarantee your return to court and the safety of the public, so you did not have to pay any money and you were released after promising to appear in court for all scheduled court dates. Sometimes this is called being released "on your own recognizance".
If you have questions about pre-trial confinement, bond hearing, the use of bondsmen or any other matter related to Virginia Criminal Defense, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944 and a knowledgeable, experienced and successful Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer will be happy to discuss these issues with you in more detail.
Do I need a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer to represent me in my Virginia criminal case?
If you have been accused of committing a criminal offense in Virginia, the consequences could be life changing. If you are convicted of a criminal offense in Virginia you will have a permanent criminal record, and depending on the severity of the offense, you could end up in a Virginia jail or state penitentiary. You could be ordered by a Virginia court to pay a substantial fine. You could have a Virginia court or the Virginia DMV suspend your license. You may suffer increased insurance premiums for several years. You may be forced to take time off from work or away from your family to complete counseling and/or perform community service work. You may have to report to a Virginia Probation Officer for the next several years, and may have to undergo drug and alcohol testing. You may be forced to pay restitution to the victim of the alleged offense. You may experience difficulty getting into schools or finding employment.
The list of possible consequences which can flow from a Virginia criminal conviction is seemingly endless. Therefore, the smart thing to do when you have been accused of a criminal offense in Virginia is to hire the best Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer you can afford to protect your rights, fight for you and help ensure you get the absolute best possible result.
If you have been arrested or have questions about Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal or Traffic Defense, call The Wilson Law Firm and a knowledgeable, experienced and successful Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer will be happy to discuss these matters with you in more detail.
Can I get a Public Defender or Court Appointed Attorney to Represent Me on My DUI Case in Virginia?
Maybe. Whether the situation is one in which the appoiontment of a Public Defender or Court Appointed Counsel is appropriate depends on the nature of the charge and the person's financial status.
Although a person can always hire someone to represent his/her interests, the appointment of a Public Defender or Court Appointed Lawyer is only permitted in cases in which the accused is facing the possibility of a jail sentence. Therefore, if a jail sentence is not authorized by law, or if the government has agreed not to seek a jail sentence even though the law would allow one to be imposed, the accused is not entitled to the appointment of a Public Defender or Court Appointed Attorney.
In addition to the charge itself being one for which the accused is facing jail, only those deemed to be indigent are entitled to have a lawyer appointed to handle the case. Virginia has strict financial guidelines for determining whether someone is eligible to have a Public Defender or Court Appointed Lawyer and those seeking appointed counsel must fill out a financial questionnaire regarding assets, and do so under oath and penalty of perjury.
Virginia Public Defenders Have A Large Workload
Some jurisdictions in Virginia have an Public Defender office and other jurisdictions do not. Jurisdictions which do not have a Public Defender office have a list of private lawyers who have agreed to be appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants. So, if you are found to be eligible for appointed counsel in Virginia, you may get a Virginia Public Defender or a private Court Appointed lawyer. Virginia Public Defender offices are government offices staffed by government employees who are paid by the Commonwealth of Virginia - just like the people working in the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney. Virginia Public Defenders are paid a salary and have the seemingly imcomprehensible task of handling essentially every case involving an indigent criminal defendant, regardless of workload. They simply don't have the option to say they are too busy and can't handle another case. Instead, they have to take on all the cases that come in and do the best they can to provide the best possible representation.
Incentive To Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer
On the other hand, private Virginia Court Appointed lawyers are not government employees, but rather lawyers who work in the private sector and have agreed to represent indigent criminal defendants in Virginia for embarrassingly low compensation. For example, a private Court Appointed Lawyer who handles a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal case in the General District Court will routinely be paid only $120.00. If you think that's bad - consider this: a private Court Appointed Lawyer who handles a murder case, for which the client might receive a sentence of imprisonment for life, may be paid as little as $1,235. (See VA Code 19.2-163) When the fee for Court Appointed representation on a very serious felony offense such as murder is less than many lawyers charge for a simple, routine misdemeanor offense, one can't help but wonder about the quality of the representaion provided. As you may have guessed from these figures, Virginia has long been at or near the bottom of the list in terms of compensation for Court Appointed Counsel.
If you are accused of an offense in Virginia for which you could be sentenced to jail and you would like to be represented by appointed counsel - whether a Virginia Public Defender or a private Virginia Court Appointed Attorney - you will need to go to the court and provide the necessary financial information to see if you qualify for the appointment of counsel.
A Virginia DUI Attorney Fights For You
Of course, understanding the seriousness of the situation and the possible life changing consequences, you may decide to do whatever it takes to hire the lawyer of your choosing rather than seeking appointed counsel.Call toll free at (800) DUI - LWYR or (703) 361-6100 and get your legal questions answered. We will fight hard for your rights. Also, download your FREE copy of DUI/DWI Arrest Survival Guide - The Guilt Myth, written by attorney T. Kevin Wilson.
Under Virginia Criminal Law, in what circumstances are law enforcement officers authorized to arrest a suspect without an arrest warrant?
Virginia Criminal Law and Virginia Criminal Procedure relating to the authority of Virginia law enforcement officers to arrest a suspect in situations where they do not have an arrest warrant is complicated and is not necessarily what one would expect. Perhaps that is why, in my experience many police officers, prosecuting attorneys and judges do not understand the law in this area. I've heard officers and prosecutors say, and I've had judges rule, that Virginia law allows officers to arrest (without an arrest warrant) and take into custody any person - for any criminal offense - as long as the officer has probable cause. This is simply not true. (See Sections 19.2-74 and 19.2-81 of the Code of Virginia)
Generally speaking, Virginia law authorizes law enforcement officers to take action and arrest suspects who are believed to have committed misdemeanor criminal offenses in the presence of the officer, and felony criminal offenses whether in the presence of the officer or not. In Virginia, police officers are generally not authorized to arrest persons suspected of committing misdemeanor criminal offenses outside the presence of the officer, but there are a few important exceptions to that general rule.
In Virginia, if I am suspected of committing a crime, will I be given a ticket (Virginia Uniform Summons) and allowed to go on my way or will I be taken into custody and transported to jail?
Under Virginia criminal law relating to the method of effecting an arrest, the answer to whether a person will be given a ticket (Virginia Uniform Summons) and released or taken into custody is a complicated one which depends on the specific circumstances. A few general rules are listed below.
If you are suspected of committing a crime in Virginia, you most likely will be taken into custody if:
- you are suspected of a felony offense in Virginia
- you refuse to sign a ticket (Virginia Uniform Summons) in Virginia
- you refuse to stop the illegal behavior in Virginia
- you are believed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Virginia
- you are suspected of a crime of violence in Virginia
- you are suspected of a crime in another jurisdiction and Virginia authorities are alerted
For a more detailed explanation of when Virginia law requires release on a summons, click here.
How are misdemeanor criminal offenses punished under Virginia criminal law?
Under Virginia criminal law, misdemeanor criminal offenses are categorized, for purposes of punishment and sentencing, into 4 classes: Class 1 misdemeanor punishments are the most serious and Class 4 misdemeanor punishments are the least serious in Virginia.
The punishment for Class 1 and Class 2 misdemeanor offenses in Virginia includes the possibility of a jail sentence, but under Virginia criminal law the punishment for Class 3 and Class 4 misdemeanor offenses does not include the possibility of a jail sentence.
Specifically, the possible punishments for the different classes of misdemeanor criminal offenses in Virginia include the following:
Class 1 Misdemeanor
- Up to 12 months in jail and / or a fine of up to $2,500
Class 2 Misdemeanor
- Up to 6 months in jail and / or a fine of up to $1,000
Class 3 Misdemeanor
- A fine of up to $500
Class 4 Misdemeanor
- A fine of up to $250
Any offense designated as a misdemeanor criminal offense under Virginia law and for which no punishment, or no maximum punishment is prescribed, shall be treated as a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense.
The experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Wilson Law Firm can discuss this, and other Virginia criminal law matters, with you in more detail.
For more Frequently Asked Questions, click here.
How are felony criminal offenses punished under Virginia criminal law?
Under Virginia criminal law, felony criminal offenses are categorized, for purposes of punishment and sentencing, into 6 classes: Class 1 felony punishments are the most serous and Class 6 felony punishments are the least serious in Virginia.
Virginia felony offenses are all punishable by incarceration in a state penitentiary / prison for at least one year, and as the severity of the specific felony offense increases, so does the punishment, all the way up to the possibility of being sentenced to death.
Specifically, the possible punishments for the different classes of felony criminal offenses in Virginia include the following:
- Class 1: death or imprisonment for life, and a fine of up to $100,000
- Class 2: imprisonment for life or any tern not less than 20 years, and a fine of up to $1,000
- Class 3: imprisonment for 5 to 20 years, and a fine of up to $100,000
- Class 4: imprisonment for 2 to 10 years, and a fine of up to $100,000
- Class 5: imprisonment for 1 to 10 years, or up to 12 months in jail and / or a fine of up to $2,500
- Class 6: imprisonment for 1 to 5 years, or up to 12 months in jail and / or a fine of up to $2,500
The experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Wilson Law Firm can discuss this, and other Virginia criminal law matters, with you in more detail.
For more Frequently Asked Questions, click here.
Whatare the differences between a felony criminal offense, a misdemeanor criminal offense and traffic violation under Virginia criminal law?
Every jurisdiction has a code of conduct making certain behavior illegal. The various offenses set forth in any particular set of laws are generally classified as Criminal Offenses or Traffic Violations. Criminal Offenses are further broken down into either MISDEMEANOR criminal offenses or FELONY criminal offenses, with misdemeanor offenses being less serious offenses which have less severe punishments and felony offenses being more serious offenses which have more severe punishments.
For information about the specific punishment scheme for criminal and traffic offenses in Virginia, click here.
For more Frequently Asked Questions, click here.