WHAT HAPPENS AT A PLEA OF GUILTY ON A FELONY CHARGE IN ARLINGTON COUNTY VIRGINIA?
If you are reading this, you or a loved one are likely looking at a plea on a Felony charge. An experienced criminal attorney Arlington VA or any other jurisdiction in Virginia, should painstakingly explain each and every right that you have and what rights you are giving up. In addition, you and your Virginia criminal law attorney should discuss in detail the charges against you, what the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, your defenses and the likelihood of winning at trial. After all of these discussions, if you decide to plead guilty, here are the things that the Judge will discuss with you prior to accepting your plea.
At your plea, there will be a form you have to sign. This form is designed to make sure that you know your rights. It is also designed to make sure that you are of sound mind and that you are not being forced into this agreement. Consult the actual form for the full list, but the most important features of this form are statements that you understand the following:
- You understand the charges against you, the elements of the offense that the government must prove, and any defenses that you may have.
- While you have discussed with your attorney about your decision to plead guilty, the decision is your decision. And that you are pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty.
- You understand what your punishment range is. For example, a Class 5 Felony is 0 – 10 years in prison. This is perhaps the most important discussion you need to have with your Criminal Attorney Arlington VA. Your attorney should explain the full range of the possible sentence and how the Sentencing Guidelines will be used to give the Judge guidance at what your sentence will be within the range of punishment. Also, there may be a mandatory minimum sentence. For example, using a case I recently had, if a charge is a Class 5 Felony with a mandatory minimum of one year, and the Sentencing Guidelines say 7 months to 2 years 4 months, that means that while the Guidelines say a minimum of 7 months, in reality the minimum is 1 year because of the mandatory minimum. And the maximum recommended by the Guidelines is 2 years 4 months. The Judge could give up to 10 years, but to go over the 2 years and 4 months, the Judge needs to justify it by documenting aggravating factors.
- That you can receive up to 3 years of probation after being released from prison.
- You are giving up your right to trial by jury, right not to incriminate yourself, right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you, and right to defend yourself and to use the power of the court to obtain evidence and witnesses.
- You are giving up your right to appeal. This basically means that if you do not like the decision of this court on sentencing, you do not have a right to ask another court to overturn that decision. This decision will be final.
- Whether there is a Plea Agreement as to Sentencing or no plea agreement as to sentencing. A typical Plea Agreement between the Criminal Attorney Arlington VA and the Prosecutor can include (a) a deal that nolle prosses (Latin for “not prosecute) some charges in exchange for a plea to others, (b) a reduction of a charge from a harsher possible penalty to a lesser penalty, (c) an agreement as to what the punishment will be. A Plea Agreement can include one, all or any combination of (a), (b) or (c) above. If there is no agreement to the sentence, then the Prosecutor can ask for whatever punishment he wants.
- No one, including the Police, Prosecutor, Sheriff, nor any other person has threatened for forced you into pleading guilty.
- Court will most likely continue this case for a Pre-sentence Report and sentence you on another day in the future.
- If you are not a US citizen, the plea may result in deportation or exclusion from the US. If you are not a US citizen, you should consult an immigration attorney. It is highly unusual for a Criminal Attorney Arlington VA to be experienced in both immigration and criminal law.
In Arlington, the Prosecutors use a longer more extensive Plea Agreement form. The above list is the standard form that comes from the Supreme Court. Arlington uses their own incredibly detailed form. That form includes all sorts of minute details about the Plea Agreement and usually includes a statement about the facts of the crime. For example, one case I had in the past, the Plea Agreement form did not say that the Judge could not dismiss a charge. When we went to Court, the Judge agreed to dismiss a drug possession charge. The Prosecutor objected stating that it violated the Plea Agreement. I countered that this was not in the Plea Agreement, and the Judge agreed with me. Now there is a paragraph in the Arlington form stating that if a Judge dismisses a charge not included in the Plea Agreement, that the agreement is void. Obviously, you are much better off with an experienced Criminal Attorney Arlington VA trusts on your side.