In limited cases, the law in Virginia allows us to secure for our clients a resolution or disposition that avoids a conviction. How, you may ask? First, the client must be "qualified." Usually, this means that you have a clean record and this is your first offense - although the definitions of "clean record" and "first offense" are pretty nuanced. (We will need to go over your personal background in detail at a consultation, as there are too many factors to list out here.) IF you are eligible for this type of disposition, and successful with your obligations to the court, we can help you get the case dismissed- every client's dream!
In a deferred disposition, the following happens:
1: The judge takes our plea, which can be either guilty, not guilty, or no contest;
2: The judge makes a finding that there are facts sufficient for you to be found guilty, if the case proceeded to trial;
3: The judge then withholds a finding of guilt (meaning he/she does not enter the final conviction on the record and sets the case aside) for a set length of time;
4: Our client is told what his or her obligations during the "probationary time period" will be - this can be supervision by a probation officer, community service, substance abuse treatment, or other things;
5: At the end of the "probationary period", if the client performed the obligations as expected, the case is dismissed!
What offenses are eligible, by law, for deferred dispositions in Virginia?
- Underage Possession of Alcohol (VA Code 4.1-305(F));
- Assault and Battery Against a Family or Household Member (VA Code 18.2-57.3)
- Possession of drugs (VA Code 18.2-251)
- Destruction of Property
- Other misdemeanors found in VA Code 18.2-119 through 18.2-152.
What happens to my record after my deferred disposition?
Most people wonder what will happen to their record after their case is dismissed. The criminal record will show that you were charged with a crime, and will also show that the case was dismissed. Sometimes, depending on which database is checked, it will show that you received a deferred disposition. Without question, the record will illustrate that you do NOT have a conviction for the offense, and you can confidently report that you do not have a conviction.
However, for most of the charges eligible for deferred disposition, you will have had to be fingerprinted. Therefore, you will have a record within the criminal history database as having been charged.
Can the charge be expunged? Unfortunately, no. Because each of these types of deferrals requires the judge to make a finding that there are facts sufficient for a finding of guilt, the expungement process is not available. The benefit of the deferred disposition is that you get a chance to avoid a conviction on your record. The law does not provide for you to completely hide what happened from public and law enforcement view.
If you find yourself charged for the first time and are willing to do whatever it takes to avoid a conviction - call us right away so we can consult about your particular situation. In addition to the above, there are "unofficial" deferred dispositions that can sometimes be negotiated with prosecutors in special cases. As experienced criminal defense attorneys familiar with the judges and prosecutors in Northern Virginia, we can render advice about all likely outcomes in your case. And just as importantly, we will advise you about the risks and benefits of accepting a deferred disposition if you would also have a strong case at trial.