Overview of Virginia Sentencing Guidelines
If you are convicted or plead guilty to a felony in Virginia, the next phase of your case is sentencing where a court orders jail time, fines, probation, and other penalties. When issuing a sentence, judges refer to the Virginia Sentencing Guidelines, a booklet prepared by officials to ensure consistency in handing down criminal penalties. In general, the approach is to assign points related to a crime: The more points you accumulate, the more severe your punishment. Still, the guidelines grant judges considerable leeway in determining your punishment. In addition, since the rules are not mandatory, you can still benefit from retaining a skilled Virginia criminal defense attorney to represent your interests.
The worksheet that accompanies the guidelines means a court will focus on four primary factors, including:
● Primary Offense: The principal factor in assigning points is the main crime for which you were convicted. There are different levels of felony in Virginia, ranging from the most serious at Class 1 to the least serious at Class 6. If you committed multiple crimes, the highest level will be considered the primary offense.
● Additional Offenses: If you are charged with crimes alongside the underlying offense, you will also accumulate points for them. For instance, if you were convicted on burglary charges for breaking and entering, and also committed assault while inside a structure, these points are added to the total.
● Mandatory Minimum Sentencing: Some Virginia crimes include a mandatory minimum sentence, which means a judge cannot depart from the punishment that the statute requires. This aspect of the sentencing guidelines applies to both the primary and additional sentence.
● Weapons: You will also accrue points if you used a weapon, and for the type of device. A knife or firearm are obvious examples, but even a motor vehicle may be considered a weapon. Also, note that a simulated weapon can add points to your sentencing worksheet.
● Criminal History: This section of the worksheet focuses on past criminal activity, whether your record includes a felony, misdemeanor, or juvenile offenses. The court will review the details of the previous sentences for convictions and time served in jail, on probation, or on parole. If you committed the current crime while on probation for another offense, these circumstances will also add points.
Discuss Sentencing with a Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
You might assume that your need for experienced representation ends once you are convicted, but a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can still provide advice and counsel through the sentencing phase. For more information on Virginia Sentencing Guidelines, please contact Shannon & Bedois, P.C. at (757) 228-5529. You can also visit us online to schedule a consultation at our Chesapeake, VA office.