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
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.