Questionable Transgression: Answering Your Concerns About Criminal Charges and Defense
When you see the blue party lights in your rearview mirror, the "oh, no" feeling gradually turns to frustration and a sense of helplessness. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, we're here to help. Here are some frequently asked questions from our clients. Please remember, every case is different, so call us today for your free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case.
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If I’m charged with a crime, what are my plea options for defense?
During the criminal process, once you have been accused and charged with a crime but before the actual trial proceedings, you have the option of pleading guilty or not guilty at your arraignment. This plea is extremely important and will influence the rest of the trial—as well as your future. Therefore, it is extremely important that you’re aware of your plea options.
A good defense attorney will always advise that you initially plead not guilty (even if you did commit the crime), as it opens up possibilities for your defense and allows for wiggle room when determining sentencing or acquittals. Otherwise, if you plead guilty from the start, the judge has no option but to sentence you right then and there, without leniency.
However, even though your initial plea should be not guilty, there are several different plea variations that can be used as a defense throughout your trial.
The Right Plea Can Protect Your Future
During the criminal process, you have an option to change your plea depending on how your case is progressing, the evidence presented, and the advice of your lawyer. Depending on the circumstances of your case, any one of these pleas can result in an acquittal or keep you from serving “hard-time” and penalties.
These plea options are as follows:
Non-guilty pleas: completely innocent of the crime
- Innocent until proven guilty. Since the law states that you’re innocent until proven guilty, you can simply plead innocent and hope that the prosecutor is unable to convince the judge or jury that you’re guilty
- Innocent proven by alibi. Pleading innocent on the grounds that you have a reliable alibi, proving that you could not have committed the crime
- Innocent based on reasonable doubt. If you believe that the prosecutor doesn’t have enough reliable evidence, or that your defense attorney can prove doubt in the prosecutor’s case, you should plead not guilty. In order for a conviction to be successful, the prosecutor must prove beyond a doubt that no one but you could have committed the crime. If your defense attorney can show the prosecution cannot meet its burden of proof, you should be found innocent.
Non-Guilty Guilty Pleas: you committed an illegal act but shouldn’t be held liable, accountable, or responsible
- Self-defense. This strategy involves confessing that you committed the crime as a result of protecting yourself. Although this defense can be powerful, it requires you to establish that you were the victim in the situation, not the aggressor.
- Insanity. You claim that although you committed the crime, due to mental instability you didn’t know what you were doing at the time. Since most crimes require a notion of intent, the insanity defense relies on the fact that you didn’t understand what you were doing and therefore couldn’t have had the necessary intent to cause harm
- Entrapment. You committed the crime because a government official induced, forced, or coerced you into doing so. This defense won't work if the judge or jury believes you were predisposed or willing to commit the crime on your own.
- Pleading guilty as a result of a plea bargain. The prosecutor may provide you with an incentive if you agree to plead guilty. These offers may include such things as a reduced sentence, probation rather than confinement, or an option for lower-security imprisonment.
- Cooperative guilty plea. The prosecutor may allow you to plead guilty to lesser charges if you provide information or evidence about other crimes or people. If your information leads to an arrest or another crime being solved, the prosecutor may accept a guilty plea for a lesser charge.
- Pleading guilty for damages but not for crime. Here, you accept liability but refute the criminal charges.
Defenending Against Criminal Charges in Virginia
Can I get my DUI charge expunged in Virginia?
In the state of Virginia, if you have been charged or convicted of a DUI, it becomes a matter of public record. Information about your arrest and conviction will stay around forever, and it will appear on routine background checks conducted by:
- University admissions departments
- Potential employers, especially for jobs working with children, elderly people, or disabled individuals
- Non-profit organizations seeking volunteers
- Landlords and other leasing agents
- Lenders, including banks and credit card companies
- Professional licensing organizations
Depending on the situation, having a DUI on your record in Virginia can be very damaging and limit your opportunities. It can even affect your ability to get a job and provide for your family.
Expungement Is an Option in Some DUI Cases
Expungement is the process of getting a criminal charge or conviction erased from your record. This means that police and court records related to the DUI will be permanently sealed and shielded from public access (including background checks). After expungement, the only way someone can gain access to the information is by Court Order.
If you are convicted of a DUI in some states, you can take steps to have your record expunged after a specific length of time has passed. In Virginia, however, your eligibility for expungement after a DUI charge is severely limited. If you pled guilty to a DUI charge or were convicted of DUI, you are not eligible to seek expungement in Virginia. You may only seek to expunge your record under the following circumstances:
- The DUI charges against you were dropped
- The DUI case against you was dismissed
- You were found not guilty of a DUI
The stakes are high after a DUI arrest in Virginia. Whether you are interested in pursuing expungement for a prior DUI arrest or you have recently been arrested on suspicion of a DUI, experienced criminal defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your unique situation. Are you ready to get started? Contact our office, or start a live chat with us now.
What is Guaranteed Representation™?
Defendants facing misdemeanor criminal charges in Virginia are tried in the District Court. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that they have an absolute right to appeal their case to the Circuit Court. This can be a very important right, yet some lawyers never mention anything about an appeal.
Guaranteed Representation™ means that the attorney’s fee for representation includes an appeal to the higher level trial court. When the attorney includes this appeal at no additional charge, it provides a very strong incentive to get the right result the first time. We do not want to return and try a case again without getting paid, but it’s worth it when it means the difference between a guilty finding and a reduction, or jail time versus freedom.
Lawyers who do not provide Guaranteed Representation™ can charge their client another fee (often a higher amount) to take the case up on appeal. In other words, if the client is unhappy and wants to appeal, the lawyer can earn more money. It isn’t hard to see which lawyer will be motivated to get the best possible result in trial.