If you are charged with a criminal offense in northern Virginia, whether you are innocent of the crime or guilty as charged, it is essential to discuss your legal rights and options as quickly as possible with the right Fairfax criminal defense attorney.

If you are convicted of a criminal offense in this state, in some cases, it’s possible that you may not have to serve time in a jail or prison. A good criminal defense attorney will work hard on your behalf for reduced or alternative sentencing.

Many convicted criminal offenders in Virginia are able, through alternative sentencing, to keep their jobs and remain in their communities. Other alternative sentencing programs offer counseling and treatment to those who are dealing with alcohol and/or drug dependency issues.

Who is Eligible for Alternative Sentencing?

Who qualifies for alternative sentencing in this state, and under what circumstances? What are the sentencing alternatives offered by Virginia courts, and what do they entail? Keep reading this brief discussion of alternative sentencing in Virginia, and you’ll find some important answers.

If you are innocent of the crime that you’re accused of, fight the charge with help from a good attorney. But when the state’s case against you is strong, and when your conviction is inevitable, your lawyer can negotiate for a sentencing alternative that may keep you out of jail or prison.

What Are Virginia’s Alternative Sentencing Options?

For those who are convicted of criminal offenses in this state, their eligibility for alternative sentencing will depend on a number of factors such as the specific crime, the details of the charge, and the offender’s own criminal history. Alternative sentencing in Virginia includes:

1. House arrest: Sometimes called electronic monitoring, house arrest lets a convicted offender live at home and remain employed. Those who are sentenced to house arrest are required to wear an electronic monitoring device and to pay for using the device.

2. Community service: Convicted criminal offenders may be ordered to perform community service as an alternative to a jail sentence. Judges determine how many hours of service will be required based on the nature and details of the offender’s conviction.

3. Work release: In some jurisdictions in Virginia, some convicted offenders will qualify for work release. They are allowed out of jail for work, but they must return to jail each day after working.

4. Weekend jail: Some jurisdictions allow short jail terms – of thirty days or less, in most cases – to be served on weekends, from Friday night through Sunday night or Monday morning. You must already be employed to qualify for weekend sentencing.

5. Probation: For many convictions, offenders may be sentenced to probation rather than jail or prison. However, if a probationer violates the terms of probation, the probation may be revoked, and the remainder of the sentence may be served in a state prison or county jail.

What is Required of Probationers?

Virginia courts may impose probation after any criminal conviction. The conditions and terms of probation are different for every probationer, but those conditions and terms usually include:

1. avoiding drug and/or alcohol consumption
2. submission to random drug and alcohol testing
3. obtaining and maintaining employment
4. avoidance of any criminal acquaintances
5. regular meetings with a supervising probation officer

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy organization, more than 55,000 convicted offenders were on probation in Virginia in 2017, while fewer than 38,000 were serving their sentences in jails or penitentiaries.

Alternative Sentencing for Felony Convictions

A felony conviction means that you could serve a year – or much longer – in a Virginia state penitentiary. Convicted felony offenders may qualify for several alternative sentencing programs such as a drug court program, a Detention and Diversion program, or in-patient rehabilitation.

Drug courts in Virginia are operated by a partnership among judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and law enforcement agencies. A drug court program’s purpose is to rehabilitate convicted felony offenders who are dependent on or addicted to drugs.

Depending on the convicted felon’s progress in the program, a drug court program can last up to two years. In some Virginia jurisdictions, only those offenders who are convicted of probation violations and drug-related felonies will be eligible to participate in a drug court program.

What is Detention and Diversion?

Detention and Diversion is an alternative sentencing program operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections for non-violent felony offenders. The Detention Center program is a five-to-seven-month program with military discipline, physical labor, and limited privileges.

The Diversion Center program is a five-to-seven-month program that provides non-violent felony offenders with employment skills and training. It also includes medical, psychological, employment, and substance abuse counseling.

When it is appropriate for a particular felony offender, a Diversion Center program also offers Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups, basic education and GED Preparation classes, parenting classes, and classes that teach independent living skills.

How Can a Defense Lawyer Help You?

If you are charged with a crime in the Fairfax area, arrange at once to meet with a Virginia criminal defense lawyer who knows which sentencing options may be available to you. Exercise your right to remain silent, and don’t agree to any plea deal before consulting with your attorney.

A Fairfax defense attorney will fight aggressively for a client’s freedom. Your lawyer will try to have the charge against you dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the judge. If those options are not available, your case may go to trial and your lawyer will seek your acquittal.

But when none of those options are possible, your lawyer may recommend that you agree to a plea bargain and accept an alternative sentence that lets you avoid a jail or prison term. In every case, your defense lawyer will work to bring the matter to its best possible outcome.

What’s Important to Remember?

Alternative sentencing is an expression of the state’s leniency. It means that a Virginia judge believes you can be rehabilitated. If you receive alternative sentencing, take advantage of the opportunity that it offers – and prove that the judge was right about you.

The most important thing to remember is this: If you are arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Virginia, you must arrange at once to meet with a Fairfax criminal defense attorney.