Certain words and phrases are thrown around within the legal world, including in the news and in popular culture, and you might have little time to ever really learn what those legal terms mean. Understanding what certain legalese means becomes crucial should you or someone you love face a criminal accusation in Virginia.
A basic legal word that you have probably heard is "misdemeanor." Maybe someone is charged with a misdemeanor -- rather than a felony. Some might even phrase it as, "Oh, he is only charged with a misdemeanor." But when it comes to winding up in the criminal justice system, there is no "only" level of seriousness. Misdemeanors can have a serious impact on your life.
A misdemeanor can cover all types of criminal charges in Virginia. The following are just some examples of the kinds of offenses that can be classified as misdemeanors: domestic assault, DUI, drug possession, theft, reckless driving and more. The repercussions for a first misdemeanor conviction might be relatively minor, maybe a $250 fine. Once someone is convicted of a subsequent offense, however, punishment can become significant. Jail time might even be part of the sentencing.
Paying a fine and serving time are serious potential consequences. The consistent, steady consequence of any misdemeanor conviction, though, is a conviction comes with a criminal record. Even if someone wasn't found guilty of a felony charge, a misdemeanor conviction still marks someone's criminal record and threatens career, education and licensing opportunities.
Avoiding a criminal conviction of any kind, of any level, is ideal. If you are faced with what you might think is a "no big deal" kind of misdemeanor charge, get a criminal defense lawyer who can clarify and potentially mitigate the honest severity of the legal situation.