All states are incorporated into the Constitution with respect to the scope of their statute system and proper compliance with criminal defense rights of those who are accused of crimes. The federal government also extends the states significant latitude when establishing those laws that govern behavior within their state. The state of Virginia is one of the original ratifiers to the Constitution, and many of the old original criminal laws are still on the books. Of course, Virginia has continually built its criminal code for approximately 300 years, amassing a comprehensive and contemporary statute base that is applied when crimes are committed. States also have the right to establish a uniform court system structure as well, and Virginia is unique in some aspects including the two-tiered local court systems. Legislators have also classified crimes in a standard misdemeanor and felony structure that indicates the seriousness of a charge according to specific case factors being brought before the court. This, in turn, often means that defendants will need an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight charges that are not always as they are presented by the prosecution.
Misdemeanors are the general level of prosecution in the Virginia court system. Misdemeanors are assessed by class for serious nature of the charge, and will also have set minimum and maximum penalties based on the evidence. Evidence can still be questioned on misdemeanor charges, but defendants are rarely successful when attempting to defend themselves the contesting validity of any piece of evidence or officer testimony. Convictions on misdemeanors do not usually mean jail time, but most carry a significant fine.
Serious crimes in Virginia are all classified as felonies, with certain non-violent crimes being prosecuted as felonies as well. Violent crimes are usually Class 1 or 2 and carry major prison sentences upon conviction. Other criminal acts are classified through Class 6, which is the first-class above a Class 1 misdemeanor. They carry a minimum of one-year incarceration along with the potential for fines, which means that all defendants will be required by law to have a criminal defense attorney.
Criminal defense can be complicated, and the state of Virginia has broad authority to interpret what they claim is criminal behavior. However, the state is not entitled to a conviction without proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did what the state has formally classified and charged. Having an aggressive criminal defense attorney is always necessary in many cases for an acceptable case settlement because charges can be overstated or include inadmissible evidence an attorney could have dismissed from consideration.