Common Criminal Charges in Virginia         

While all criminal charges are serious and should be treated as such, certain charges appear much more often and are charged much more frequently. A Virginia criminal defense attorney is able to help you through the process of fighting such charges. Call today and schedule a consultation to begin building your defense as soon as possible.

Most Common Criminal Offenses

Some of the most common criminal charges in Virginia are traffic offenses, such as reckless driving and speeding, and also drug offenses, specifically possession of marijuana and other types of drugs.

Reckless driving is common in Virginia because Virginia is unusual in that it criminalizes speeds that would simply be considered infractions in other states.

In Virginia, there are two ways that you can violate the reckless driving by speed statute:

  • Driving over 80 miles per hour, regardless of the speed limit, and
  • Driving 20 miles per hour or more over the speed limit

These definitions make it extremely easy to be charged with reckless driving, and we see a lot of these charges show up in the general district court in Virginia.

Drug offenses, specifically possession of marijuana, are also very common in Virginia. A relevant factor here is that marijuana has been legalized in Washington, DC, and a lot of people don’t realize that this means they cannot bring their marijuana into Virginia. Then when someone is pulled over for another type of offense like speeding or reckless driving, he or she might be found to be illegally in possession marijuana. Yes, it was legal when the person was in DC, but bringing it into Virginia means that the person can now be charged with possession of marijuana in a Virginia court.

How An Innocent Individual May Be Implicated

In reckless driving specifically, there are times when a police officer is using an incorrectly calibrated radar or laser device to measure the speed of a vehicle. There are times when someone’s car might be next to the car that’s actually going the reckless driving speed and the wrong driver is mistakenly pulled over. Other times, the police officer’s judgment may simply be incorrect. This might happen if the police officer did what’s called pacing the vehicle, which involves driving behind the vehicle for certain amount of time and looking at his or her own speed to judge the speed of the driver’s vehicle.

Sometimes, officers are simply incorrect in their judgments or they didn’t pace the targeted vehicle for long enough. In other cases, drivers are caught up in reckless driving traps where they weren’t actually going a particular speed. Those are things that attorneys always have to check for whenever they have a reckless driving case.

For possession cases, whether it’s possession of marijuana or some other type of drug, the Virginia code has what’s called “constructive possession.” That means that if somebody is driving the car with a friend and the friend has marijuana, a police officer might charge the driver with marijuana possession even if he or she didn’t have the marijuana or didn’t even know that the marijuana was in the vehicle. It’s pretty easy to get swept up into these constructive possession cases even when the person being charged isn’t necessarily the person who had the marijuana.

Value of An Attorney Under These Circumstances

In cases where somebody is charged with reckless driving and was not recklessly driving or was not driving at the speed that he or she is accused of, a lawyer would first be able to check the calibration of the police officer’s speed detection device. Then the lawyer would be able to ask the police officer questions about how he or she was standing, how the device was used, whether or not the device was properly set up in the first place, whether or not the police officer’s vehicle itself was calibrated and other questions that would be designed to highlight the fact that the police officer simply could have been wrong. An individual charged with a crime might not know how to ask those questions, or might not be aware of the standard of evidence required in order to prove that somebody was recklessly driving or that the device was used correctly.

Similarly, for possession of marijuana or other illegal substances, a lawyer would be extremely valuable because he or she would be able to look at many different factors, including how the police officer first came in contact with the individual who’s being accused and whether or not that initial contact was appropriate. If it can be shown that the initial contact was flawed, the entire case might be thrown out.

Additionally, an attorney could look at whether or not constructive possession would even apply to a particular client or whether or not the client has any defenses against a constructive possession charge. Police officers must follow a lot of different legal rules when searching individuals and stopping vehicles, and an attorney can look at whether a police officer took the proper steps. If not, having an attorney to contest the evidence would be extremely valuable.