Hampton Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyer

For some people, the environment and circumstances of their lives seem to conspire against them, placing them on a path in which they seem almost destined for an arrest. Other people, through dramatically changed circumstance or a series of small, seemingly innocuous events, are shocked to find themselves under arrest. Regardless of the path that led to an arrest or criminal charge, every person is entitled to fair and effective criminal defense representation. A Hampton criminal defense and DUI lawyer is not here to judge, but to listen to his or her clients, and use every available resource to create a strong defense to vigorously protect the constitutional rights of the defendant.

Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Hampton General District Court, you deserve a tenacious and experienced attorney who is willing and able to give your case the attention it requires. Any criminal conviction can have a profound impact on your life, whether you are facing only probation, a few months in jail, or decades in prison. Finding a knowledgeable legal professional who understands the consequences conviction can have on your personal and professional life is necessary to achieve a positive attorney-client relationship and a quality defense.

Misdemeanor Cases

In Virginia, as in many states, criminal offenses are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are considered lesser offenses than felonies, but the conviction of even a misdemeanor can have a long-term impact.

Virginia misdemeanors are further categorized by class, ranging from a Class 4 misdemeanor, the least serious offense, to a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious of misdemeanor crimes. Maximum penalties for conviction of a misdemeanor are as follows:

  • Class 4 misdemeanor – $250 fine
  • Class 3 misdemeanor – $500 fine
  • Class 2 misdemeanor – 6 months in jail; $1,000 fine
  • Class 1 misdemeanor – 12 months in jail; $2,500 fine

The following offenses are frequently charged as misdemeanors in Virginia:

Criminal Lawyer in Hampton VA

A number of crimes can be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies depending upon certain variables of the crime, such as repeated offenses, the involvement of minors, the value of the property involved, or the injury of the victim. A well-practiced criminal defense and DUI attorney can help explain what factors make certain crimes felonies rather than misdemeanors in Hampton.

Felony Charges in Hampton

As with misdemeanors, the Code of Virginia classifies felony offenses according to their perceived severity. Class 6 felonies are considered the least serious felony offenses, and Class 1 felonies are the most serious. Penalties for each class of Virginia felony follow:

  • Class 6 felony – 1 to 5 years in prison; $2,500 fine
  • Class 5 felony – 1 to 10 years in prison; $2,500 fine
  • Class 4 felony – 2 to 10 years in prison; $100,000 fine
  • Class 3 felony – 5 to 20 years in prison; $100,000 fine
  • Class 2 felony – 20 years to life; $100,000 fine
  • Class 1 felony – Life in prison or death; $100,000 fine

Capital murder is the only Class 1 felony in Virginia. It includes acts of premeditated murder under special circumstances: murder-for-hire, murder committed during a kidnapping or rape, killing a law enforcement officer, mass murder, serial murder, and other acts of homicide defined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-3. Other felonies prosecuted in Hampton General District Court include the following:

  • First and second-degree murder
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Malicious wounding
  • Use of a firearm in the commission of a felony
  • Rape, statutory rape, and forcible sodomy
  • Aggravated sexual battery of a child under 13
  • Indecent liberties with a child under 14
  • Possession of Schedule I or II drugs
  • Drug distribution or manufacture

Many misdemeanor crimes, including DWI, petit larceny, and shoplifting, become felonies upon a third or subsequent conviction.

Benefits of a Hampton DUI Attorney

People who are facing charges of driving under the influence (DUI), are likely to be frightened and confused. For some individuals, this will be their first and only contact with the criminal justice system. For others, they may be hoping to avoid the mandatory jail sentence that accompanies a second or third conviction.

Virginia takes allegations of DUI very seriously. Not only is a conviction a criminal matter that will give a person a criminal record, but the Commonwealth offers no diversion program that may help a one-time offender avoid a conviction. As a result, it is imperative that defendants proffer a powerful defense in court.

A hardworking Hampton DUI lawyer could help individuals to present these defenses. They could also work to examine the facts that led to the arrest, to cross-examine any statements made by police officers at trial, and to dispute any scientific evidence presented in court.

Driving Under the Influence in Virginia Law

Driving under the influence does not just mean that a person drove while drunk. While this certainly does apply under VA Code §18.2-266, the law also states that a person commits an offense if they drive while under the influence of illicit drugs such as marijuana or cocaine. They may also commit an offense if prescription drugs affect their ability to drive, even when prescribed by a doctor.

Due to this, prosecutors have two means to secure a conviction. First, they may rely on blood samples taken by police after an arrest. In fact, all drivers give their consent to submit to these tests upon officer request whenever they get behind the wheel. If an officer has probable cause to make an arrest, they could order a driver to submit to a test. A refusal to do so is a separate criminal offense under state law.

Prosecutors may also base their cases upon an officer’s observations. If a police officer observes a driver swerving in a lane, driving well below speed limits, or without lights at night they could pull a driver over. When speaking with a driver, an officer may note the smell of alcohol, glassy eyes, or slurred speech. This can combine to allow an officer to infer that a defendant was under the influence. A steadfast DUI attorney in Hampton could fight back against whatever method a prosecutor uses to pursue a case.

What a Conviction for DUI Could Mean

Virginia’s laws concerning punishment for DUI are among the harshest in the nation. The Commonwealth does not use a diversion program that could allow a defendant to admit guilt but not have a mark on their criminal record. Instead, a defendant must prepare to fight the charges in court.

A first-time conviction for a DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor according to VA Code §18.2-270. This carries a mandatory fine of $250 and a jail term of up to one year. In addition, a driver’s license is suspended for one year. While many first-time offenders will avoid a jail sentence, the experience will still have a powerful negative effect on their life.

The situation quickly becomes more serious if a person has an elevated blood-alcohol level of above .15%. This carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five days upon conviction. In addition, a second or other subsequent conviction for DUI also requires a jail term if a court convicts a defendant. A well-versed Hampton lawyer could help defendants to understand the potential consequences for DUI a conviction.

Contact a Hampton Criminal Defense and DUI Attorney

The Virginia State Police, as part of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system, publishes an annual report entitled “Crime in Virginia,” which details crime rates and statistics across the Commonwealth. According to the 2013 report, Hampton had a crime rate of more than 6,980 incidents per 100,000 people, with a total of 9,815 crimes reported in the city. These crimes included more than 2,000 assaults, 122 robberies, 10 forcible rapes, and 22 acts of murder and non-negligent manslaughter.

Regardless of the severity of the offense with which you are charged, an experienced Hampton criminal defense and DUI lawyer could work diligently to craft a strong defense in an effort to bring your case to a successful resolution. That may mean a dismissal of charges, a plea agreement that allows probation or minimal sentencing, or an acquittal at trial.

While no attorney can ethically guarantee a dismissal or a not-guilty verdict, a skilled attorney should be willing to communicate with you about the most effective strategies for your case and should offer sound legal counsel to guide you to the best possible outcome.

Schedule a risk-free consultation today to discuss your case.