Loudoun Co. Prosecutors Re-Focus On Violent Crimes
In March 2023, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors reversed course and gave Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj additional discretion regarding nonviolent misdemeanors.
Earlier that year, Biberaj said her office would no longer aggressively prosecute non-fatal hit and run, traffic infractions, or reckless driving under 90mph. Other crimes the office might defer include property damage, eluding police, trespassing, petty larceny, possession of certain drugs, violations of ordinances, first offense driving with a suspended license, registration and titling offenses, drunk in public cases, underage possession of alcohol, noise complaints, failure to appear in court, and trials in absence.
In response to criticism, Biberaj said her focus on violent crime was working. “Violent crime is down by 31 percent since 2019,” she observed. “I will continue to do everything in my power to keep Loudoun County safe,” she added.
Pretrial Misdemeanor Resolutions
Usually, a non-aggressive prosecutor is an oxymoron, like hot ice, cold fire, military intelligence, or honest lawyer. But these prosecutors are becoming more common. Increasingly, many prosecutors, and not just the ones in Loudoun County, do not pursue nonviolent crimes, or at least don’t pursue them very assertively.
As a result, a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer is often able to engineer a pretrial settlement like pretrial diversion, even if the defendant has a criminal record. Additionally, prosecutors often offer pretrial diversion even if the defendant doesn’t have a legal defense. Such resolutions stress the rehabilitative nature of criminal punishment, an emphasis that’s attractive to many prosecutors.
Legal defenses in misdemeanors usually include procedural and substantive defenses. Procedural defenses usually mean Fourth or Fifth Amendment violations. Officers usually need warrants before they seize contraband, and officers must read defendants their rights before they ask any questions. Substantively, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Circumstantial proof usually isn’t enough to clear this bar.
Program requirements vary in different courts. Usually, if the defendant stays out of trouble for about three months, pays restitution if appropriate, and completes counseling, community service, and other such requirements, prosecutors dismiss the case.
The arrest record remains on the computer. But most employers, lenders, and other decision makers only care about convictions. If someone asks about the arrest, a true-enough answer like “I hired a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer and the lawyer took care of it” usually satisfies their curiosity.
Record expungement or sealing may also be available. That’s often a good idea if the defendant was charged with drug possession or another crime of moral turpitude. These offenses have severe collateral consequences, including possible immigration consequences.
Misdemeanor Resolutions at Trial
Procedural and substantive defenses are usually available at trial. These defenses are also effective leverage during plea negotiations. Only about 2 percent of criminal cases go to trial.
Because of the political environment, prosecutors almost always offer deferred disposition, even if the defendant is charged with a violent crime and has a criminal record.
Basically, deferred disposition is a combination of pretrial diversion and regular probation. The defendant pleads guilty and receives probation. But during the plea, the judge doesn’t enter a judgment of guilt. Instead, the judge defers that finding until the probation ends. At that point, if the defendant successfully completed probation, the judge dismisses the case.
There’s a difference between successful completion and perfect completion. If the defendant hit a few bumps in the road, the judge usually dismisses the case anyway.
Deferred disposition has some significant benefits, and it also has some significant risks. If the defendant violates probation, the gloves are off. The judge could sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum under the law, which in a misdemeanor is usually a year in jail. Therefore, in some situations, accepting such a plea deal could be a bad idea, despite the obvious benefits.
A Fairfax criminal defense lawyer should always thoroughly review the pros and cons of every proposed plea deal, so defendants can make the best possible choices for themselves and their families.
Reach Out to a Hard-Working Loudoun County Lawyer
There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. Convenient payment plans are available.