Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William County Criminal Lawyers Suggestion:
Dealing with a Misdemeanor Charge
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Most people are aware of the fact that it is generally a financially devastating blow to most people when they are convicted of a felony. But what about misdemeanors? Are Class 1 misdemeanors any more serious than Class 2, 3, or 4? And, should a lawyer really be consulted when a person faces just a misdemeanor charge in Virginia? Finally, could a misdemeanor conviction or past arrest record be seriously hampering a person’s job search? As we shall discuss, all of these questions are related.
As a Northern Virginia Defense Attorney, I often make this point when lecturing others about criminal records in Virginia:
All misdemeanors in Virginia are criminal charges, and all criminal arrests and charges remain on a person’s record forever.
Some misdemeanors are probably a bit more potentially career-damaging than others. Regardless of the nature of the offense, however, a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail. A Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months. A conviction may lead to a $2,500 fine.
Should I Talk to a Defense Attorney About a Misdemeanor in Virginia?
The answer is yes, because there are many Northern Virginia criminal defense attorneys who offer free consultations. They will talk to you about your case at no cost. And with new technological advancements in recent years, some defense attorneys offer case evaluations online.
Our firm, Vincenzes Law, PLLC, is one such firm serving Northern Virginia. So, regardless of the seriousness or Class of misdemeanor, there is no reason why you should not at least talk to an attorney. Our criminal law firm, for example, is quite frequently consulted by those who want an idea about their case’s strengths, weak points, and possible defenses. Sometimes, the question involves potential jail time. Our local Fairfax and Prince William County defense attorney is happy to offer such guidance with no obligation, and assuming no conflict exists. Should an individual seek a price quote for legal representation, our local Northern Virginia criminal lawyer will offer an easy-to-understand flat-fee.
Could My Misdemeanor Charge Limit Future Career Opportunities?
Yes. A Virginia misdemeanor conviction (even a mere charge) can wreck havoc on a person’s employment opportunities. In the difficult job market we are currently experiencing in the United States, to have a criminal record — even just a misdemeanor record — is detrimental, an automatic setback for most. There is good news: there may be something you can do about a criminal arrest record (read more below).
Yes, it is true: a public record can hamper job-seeking efforts, cause potential employers to view an otherwise likeable person as a risky hire or no-fire, and may lead to other non-job related consequences….and keep in mind, misdemeanors can be very harmful business good-will as a well as an individual’s community reputation.
Consider the following Class 1 misdemeanors in Virginia…some are less likely to cause job-related issues, for obvious reasons…but they all can lead to jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI) (first offense)
- Reckless driving by speeding in excess of 80 mph
- Possession of marijuana (second offense)
- Disorderly conduct
- Possession of a concealed weapon
- Larceny (if value is below certain threshold)
Do you think the average employer would fire a great worker for a reckless driving charge, if it involved driving 81 mph in a 70 mph zone? Probably not, but it is possible that the person’s job involves driving (which would make the answer to this question different in many cases).
What if you were charged with a theft offense, like larceny? If your employer found out you stole something from a department store, or embezzled funds from another employer, do you think it would be possible to keep that job? Probably not. But do not be fooled by this example: there are many reasons why a person charged with reckless driving in Virginia should seek legal counsel. In some cases, a reckless driving charge leads to jail time. It all depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. For others, a reckless driving charge is very damaging due to the high number of demerit points assessed by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). After a certain number of demerit points, one forfeits the privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth.
Some people have asked,
“is it legal for a company to refuse to hire (or fire) me because of a misdemeanor conviction? I thought misdemeanors were not considered serious offenses?”
Employers conduct background checks of prospective and current employees from time to time. Not every employer does, but in today’s tough job market, there is an increased tendency to be extra-picky.
In some instances, a conviction can even lead to termination from a position; for others, there may be long-term consequences and/or setbacks related to a government security clearance. If facing a pending (current) charge, it is important to understand this next point:
Any criminal offense in Virginia will stay on an adult’s public record forever in two ways. There is something you can do about this, but only in some cases.
The good news is that there may be a chance you can expunge (or seal) your criminal record from public view. If you fit into one of the following categories, you may be eligible (either now, or in the future), for a Virginia expungement (note: list is not exhaustive):
- If you have a current Virginia criminal case coming up and have not been found guilty yet
- If you have already had a court date and…
- the case was dismissed
- you were found not guilty, or
- the charge(s) was dropped
There are two important records to be aware of:
- the arrest record
- the disposition record
The Arrest Record:
explained by our Fairfax County, Loudoun, and Prince William
Northern Virginia Defense Attorney
The arrest record is something that will be attached to a person’s name immediately. For example, if John is driving home and is stopped for reckless driving, then technically it is considered an arrest. Although it is not truly an arrest in the literal sense (sometimes the police will take an individual to jail for a reckless driving offense, but it depends on the circumstances. For a low-speed reckless-by-speed offense, a person will typically not have to go directly to jail). This arrest record is viewable online by anyone with an internet connection. It will remain on the person’s record unless it is later expunged.
How does expungement work?
If charged with a misdemeanor or any criminal offense in Virginia, always talk to a defense attorney well ahead of your scheduled court date. If you have excellent legal representation, then hopefully your case will result in a disposition favorable to expungement qualification (not guilty verdict, dropped charge, etc). You simply must wait until the case has been resolved. Then an attorney would need to assess your expungement process eligibility. If you qualify, then a certified copy of the record would be obtained by the criminal lawyer, who would then file a petition as well as other paperwork. The defense attorney would work with the client to obtain fingerprints, which then must be sent to a record location in Virginia. The police station will then let the court system know about a person’s criminal record, and if there are no issues, then the defense attorney next files an order for expungement. After the order, there should be a notice of hearing set, so that the Commonwealth’s attorney’s office is aware. The Commonwealth may challenge the attempt at expunging the record. After the defense attorney successfully explains to the court why the expungement should be ordered, then if the judge agrees, it shall be ordered. At that point, the record will not be public, and only a court order can operate to unseal the record.
In Other Words:
there are at least 2 big factors to consider when facing a Virginia criminal misdemeanor charge
1. Class 1 misdemeanor penalties in Virginia are harsh
Any Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia can result in a 12 month jail sentence, a fine of $2,500, and other long-term consequences. Whether or not a judge will sentence a defendant who is convicted to the statutory maximum depends on many factors, including prior record, nature of the case, aggravating factors (if any), effect of witness’ statements, and other evidence. But since the penalties are so potentially severe, we strongly encourage hiring a local Virginia or Fairfax County criminal defense attorney.
Some common Class 1 misdemeanors we have helped people with in recent months: reckless driving, trespassing, possession of marijuana, DWI, driving on a revoked license, illegal possession of a concealed weapon, assault, disorderly conduct, failure to appear, and more.
People are often surprised when I tell them,
reckless driving charge is on the same penalty-plane as a first-time DWI.
This usually one of these offenses sound worse than others, but in the eyes of the justice system, they are on the same level if both Class 1 misdemeanors.
2. Permanent Criminal Record
Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too, is the relative burden of any public legal blemish. For a trucker, a reckless driving conviction could be carry career-ending. On the other hand, a new teacher might not think much of a reckless driving conviction, but would do whatever possible to fight a DWI charge. And as a final way of example, many bright young adults who have been convicted of marijuana possession do not realize that by participating in a first-offender program to get the charge dismissed, they are forfeiting the ability to later erase (expunge) the deed. And like DWI arrests, too often a marijuana possession conviction or charge will be looked at negatively by employers and academic institutions. Instead of risking a conviction and trying to handle a misdemeanor all alone, it is important to hire a lawyer for the charge to start with.
Important Point: any time you have been arrested, have received a reckless driving ticket, or got a ticket for a misdemeanor charge (but may not have been taken to jail), a criminal record was born. Every alleged criminal offense remains on every adult American’s record. This is even the case if the charge is dropped, or dismissed, or where the person is found not guilty. How could this be so?
remember: there are two types of records for purposes of understanding this point about Virginia expungement. First, there are arrest records. Second, there are convictions, pleas, or otherwise a disposition of a case.
If you need to talk about an upcoming court case, or if you are curious as to whether or not your public record may be holding you back…
Call our Virginia Defense Attorney
703.665.3719 or 888.695.6565
or, Send a Message Online
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