Legal Question in Criminal Law in Virginia

I got charged with possession of methamphetamine in prince William county Virginia I took a plea deal to be sentenced within my guidelines which are 1 year minimum - 2 years 4 months maximum if the judge sentenced me to the minimum of 1 year is it still possible to get some of that time suspended or is it mandatory to serve atleast 1 whole year

Asked on 7/25/19, 1:08 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jonathon Moseley Jonathon A. Moseley

Any plea deal is a RECOMMENDATION to the judge. The judge does not have to agree with it. Often the judge will take the recommendation. And it will be hard to say you want less than 1 year if you agreed to it.

But you should give a presentation at sentencing that convinces the judge to give you less than 1 year.

Don't be surprised if the judge just rubber-stamps the plea deal.

But you do have a chance to TRY to get less.

So, no the judge could sentence you to less than 1 year and could suspend part of whatever the total sentence is so that you actually spend a lot less than 1 year in jail.

Again, the judge is likely to just rubber-stamp the plea deal and give you 1 year.

But you DO have a chance to convince the judge to give you less.

Sentencing is HIGHLY sensitive to your past criminal record and to a much smaller extent all factors in general.

There is a strong tendency in the courts to encourage people getting their life on track and to come down hard on people who "don't seem to be getting the message" (that's the way they think about it, don't take that personally at all).

The reason they suspend some or all of a person's sentence is because it works as an incentive for the person to not break the law again. So judges like to give you a strong reason to not re-offend. If you violate the law again then all of the previously suspended sentence can be re-imposed and you would have to serve all of the original sentence.

As a result, you should make sure there is nothing in accurate on your criminal history (which is tricky to obtain) that would make it look worse than it is.

You should try to pay off any outstanding fines or fees to make your history look better on record.

You should also collect information and documents to show your overall situation in a positive light. You might possibly bring witnesses about your circumstances.

DON'T think of these as "character witnesses." That really doesn't work in the way people think.

What the judge will be looking for and may be persuaded by are hard facts -- not subjective opinions -- about why you have strong influences and reasons to get your life right and stay on track. For example, people who are depending on you. Your work or business involvements that give you an incentive to stay straight. Anyone who is like a mentor or "accountaiblity partner" to help you stay straight.

You will be ordered to take training against drugs through ASAP. If you have some time before the sentencing, you might be able to go ahead and take some anti-drug training on your own before the sentencing date, if there is time.

If you have plans to study for a career or better job or something like that, you should get as far as you can in the time remaining to get started and set up.

Anything that convinces the judge that "this person is TRYING to get their life back on track."

And very much the judge will be looking for "Has he INVESTED in a better future? Does he have something at stake in staying straight and staying legal?" Do you have skin in the game for keeping legal?

Those things will have a very great impact on your sentence and are far more important (in Virginia State court -- not like federal court) than any automatic or formula sentencing.

WARNING THOUGH: When you get any sentence where you serve less than 100% of the time

THERE WILL BE CONDITIONS that you have to comply with.

For example, completing ASAP training.

Submitting to random drug tests (which can be a huge pain the way they notify you at inconvenient times).

If you don't do EVERYTHING that they order you to do, almost perfectly, then they can allege that you violated the terms and try to send you to jail for ALL of the original time sentenced.

SO if you make ONE mistake on the terms of the sentencing it can cost you badly.

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Answered on 7/25/19, 4:21 pm

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