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Types of Misdemeanors in Virginia

Generally, crimes are categorized as either misdemeanors or felonies in Virginia. Both misdemeanors and felonies have their own classes, which determine the crime’s severity and penalties. Misdemeanor crimes are separated into four classes, with class 1 misdemeanors being the most serious and class 4 being the least severe.

Class 1 Misdemeanors

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the Fairfax County General District Court, your first court appearance may be your arraignment. An arraignment or “advisement” hearing is the court’s opportunity to explain your charge, ask if you understand the charge, explain your right to an attorney and schedule your next hearing. Your next hearing will be your Information on Attorney date or “IAD.”

Your arraignment is waivable, so long as you hire an attorney in advance. If you hire our Fairfax criminal lawyers before your arraignment date, we will submit the necessary documents with the court to remove your arraignment from the docket. Because the purpose of an arraignment is to advise the defendant, he or she will not need to attend it once an attorney is hired. It is the criminal lawyer’s job to advise his or her client, which is why the court waives the arraignment.

You are not required to hire an attorney prior to your arraignment. If you choose to attend your arraignment pro se (without a lawyer), the judge will give you a deadline for you to hire an attorney. This deadline is a scheduled hearing known as your Information on Attorney date. The IAD is waivable if an attorney is hired beforehand.

By Andrew Criado, Senior Attorney

The four most important words in criminal law: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. What does that mean? It means that a person charged with a crime cannot be convicted and punished unless the prosecution can prove the defendant’s guilt in court beyond a reasonable doubt. The government’s evidence has to erase all reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. What if, at the end of the prosecution’s case, there remains some doubt about whether the defendant committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. What if the prosecution proves that the defendant probably committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. In a criminal case, any conclusion other than proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires that the charge be dismissed—forever.

The government gets one shot at proving its case. This concept is important because it makes clear that a criminal case is about whether the government can prove the crime rather than whether the crime actually happened. There are many cases where the evidence shows that the defendant most likely committed the crime but the charge is nonetheless dismissed because the evidence does not meet the high burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fairfax County has a special program designed specifically for petit larceny and other misdemeanor theft cases. This is called the OAR program. The general requirements to be eligible for the program are a) this must be your first offense, and b) you must be charged with only one offense. The program consists of completing 1) your are required to plead guilty or no contest to the charge, 2) 50 hours of community service, 3) the shoplifter’s prevention course, and 4) a period of probation. Upon completion of all requirements the charge is dismissed.

There some problems with this program. First, the charge is not expungeable, which means that it will stay on your record as a dismissed charge permanently. This means that it is something that you will most likely have to explain to employers. This can also have an impact on both qualifying for and maintaining security clearances. Second, if you are not a United States citizen, this will still count as a conviction for immigration purposes. This is due to the fact that under Federal Law, a plea of guilty or no contest is sufficient for the conviction itself. Therefore, even though the charge is dismissed, it can still have a negative impact on your immigration situation. We at Robinson Law can assist you in managing your case to determine the best outcome for your specific situation and work towards achieving it.

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