When charged with certain crimes in Virginia, you may also face a possible conviction for lesser included offenses. For example, murder carries the lesser included offense of manslaughter, and malicious wounding includes assault and battery.
Any conviction is unfortunate, but sometimes a conviction for a lesser offense is the best outcome you can achieve. Lesser offenses generally mean reduced penalties. But a Virginia criminal conviction and its impact are something to discuss with your lawyer.
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, our Roanoke criminal defense lawyers always strive for the best-case resolution possible — typically through dismissal or acquittal. However, negotiating an outcome based on lesser included charges is an option to explore.
By intervening early, we will can give your case the best defense possible. Call us today at (540) 343-9349 for your free consultation.
Virginia Juries Must Be Instructed on Lesser Offenses
Many Virginia court battles have been fought over lesser included offenses, but the laws are now fairly established. Criminal defendants have the right to have the jury hear instructions from the Judge on lesser offenses, as long as the evidence supports it. If the jury can consider lesser offenses, they may choose to exonerate you on the primary offense and convict you on the less serious one.
Sometimes, including lesser offenses is mandatory.
If charged with a malicious shooting, stabbing, or wounding a person or causing bodily harm with the intent to maim or kill, Virginia 18.2-54 states that a jury may find you not guilty, but guilty of assault and battery–so long as the evidence supports it.
Therefore, if charged with malicious wounding, assault and battery is almost certainly included.
A Lesser Conviction Is Not Always the Best Outcome
An assault and battery conviction is obviously a better outcome than for malicious wounding. The former is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Malicious wounding is a Class 3 felony. It includes between five and 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
In addition, a felony conviction always carries more collateral consequences than a misdemeanor.
Accepting a negotiated plea agreement for the lesser offense of assault and battery would only be a good idea if the prosecutor’s case included irrefutable evidence that you made unlawful physical contact with the alleged victim. If your lawyer believes there are issues with the prosecutor’s evidence, or that an affirmative defense might apply, then it may be worth it to take your case to trial and seek a complete victory.
Even if your lawyer can’t convince the jury of your complete innocence, they may still hand down an assault and battery conviction.
The best choice depends on the facts specific to your case. If you are considering a plea for a lesser offense, you should consult with an experienced attorney. Despite what the prosecutor says, there could be severe deficiencies in their case . And a skilled lawyer can use them to your advantage.
You don’t want to settle for a lesser conviction if exoneration or dismissal is possible.
Ask a Roanoke Defense Lawyer About Your Options
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we have built our reputation on our ability to achieve favorable resolutions to high stakes criminal cases. When your reputation, freedom, and future are on the line, you owe it to yourself to seek the assistance of an experienced defense team.
If you have been charged with a violent crime in Virginia, call us today at (540) 343-9349 for a free and confidential consultation.