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Frequently asked questions

Q:  What happens at a preliminary hearing?

A.  Please see “criminal process” on this website.

Q:  What is the most jail time I can get on a particular charge?  And the most fine?

A:  It depends upon whether it is a misdemeanor or felony.  According to Virginia Code
§ 18.2-10:
Class 1 Misdemeanors can be zero to one year and up to $2500.00 fine
Class 6 Felonies are one to five years in jail and up to $2500 fine
Class 5 Felonies are one to ten years in jail and up to $2500 fine
Class 4 Felonies are two to ten years in jail and up to $100,000 fine
Unclassified Felonies are up to twenty years in jail
Class 3 Felonies are five to twenty years in jail and up to $100,000 fine
Class 2 Felonies are up to life in prison
Class 1 Felonies carry a death sentence in certain situations.

Q:  Is it better to have a bench trial or a jury trial.

A:  As always, it depends.  If the evidence against you is overwhelming and it is likely that a jury will find you guilty, you may be better off with a judge trial because the judge will likely sentence you according the Virginia Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines which usually carry less jail time than what the jury is allowed to give [see answer directly above].

If you believe that you have a strong defense, it may be wise to have a jury trial as you will have twelve people who will decide whether you are innocent or guilty instead of just one [the judge].

Q:  If the prosecutor offers to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor charge, should I accept the offer?

A:  You guessed it.  It depends.

If you have a strong defense and you will always be miserable that you plead guilty to something – even a misdemeanor – against which you had a strong case, you may want to take the felony charge to trial. 

If the case against you is fairly strong and the prosecutor offers you a misdemeanor instead of a felony, even if jail time is involved, you may be better off taking the misdemeanor if you believe that the “baggage” that goes with being a convicted felon is something that you cannot possibly live with.  That “baggage” is that it is very difficult to get most jobs and impossible to get some jobs [in security or handling money and more] as a convicted felon.  Also, you won’t be able to vote, hold many public offices, serve on a jury, obtain federal funding for certain activities, etc.  Receiving a felony conviction will, in all likelihood, change the course of your life in ways that will be very difficult for you.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, documents, comments, answers, emails, or other communications should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information on this website is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Administration

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