What are Virginia’s sentencing guidelines?

In Virginia, sentencing guidelines provide a framework for judges to determine appropriate sentences based on the circumstances of each felony. Aggravated factors increase the severity of a person’s sentence for certain factors. If you are charged with a felony in Virginia, a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer from Select Law Partners PLLC can examine the state’s sentencing guidelines to give you an accurate idea of what sentence a judge may recommend and to provide you with a starting point to negotiate plea agreements or reduced charges.

virginia sentencing guidelines

What are sentencing guidelines in Virginia?

Sentencing guidelines ensure offenders who commit similar crimes receive comparable and proportionate sentences. They list the minimum and maximum sentences for felonies based on the circumstances of an offender’s case and give judges a reference to help them determine how convicted criminals should be punished. Judges are encouraged to consider them when imposing sentences.

What are the main aspects of sentencing guidelines in Virginia?

The key aspects of Virginia’s sentencing guidelines include:

  • Offenses are classified based on their severity.
  • For each offense category, sentencing guidelines provide a minimum and maximum range of recommended sentences.
  • Aggravating and mitigating factors can influence where a sentence should fall in the guidelines.
  • The guidelines are advisory and not mandatory.
  • The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission (VCSC) is responsible for developing and maintaining the guidelines.
  • Judges are encouraged to consider the sentencing guidelines, but they are not bound by them. If they depart from the guidelines, they must explain their reasoning to the VCSC.

What are the factors that can lead to sentencing enhancements?

When you plead or are found guilty in a felony case, a prosecutor or probation officer will prepare a pre-sentence report for the judge by working through the details of your offense on a sentencing guidelines worksheet that considers specific relevant factors. Each factor has points that are accumulated to determine your sentencing range.

Judges in Virginia may consider the state’s sentencing guidelines worksheet when determining your sentence for a felony. If a judge’s sentencing exceeds or goes under the guideline recommendation, they must explain their reasoning for the departure to the Virginia Sentencing Commission. The worksheet considers the following factors:

  • Your primary offense: You will get more points if your offense is severe.
  • Any secondary offenses: You will get more points if you have additional offenses.
  • Mandatory minimum sentences: You will get more points if convicted of any offenses with minimum sentences.
  • Your use of weapons: You will get more points if you use a weapon in your offense.
  • Your criminal history: You will get more points if you have a prior criminal history.
  • Probation or parole: You will get more points if you commit your current offense while on probation or parole.

Your points will be added to get a total score converted to the recommended range in the sentencing guidelines. The more points you have, the more severe your sentence will be.

How can a criminal defense attorney use sentencing guidelines to help you?

Your experienced lawyer can complete the worksheet before your trial or sentencing to determine the recommended sentencing range if you are convicted so you can consider whether it may be worth entering into a plea agreement. We can negotiate with the prosecutor regarding your sentencing guideline factors. We can also try to convince the judge to give you a less harsh sentence than what is recommended by the sentencing guidelines.

Retain a criminal defense lawyer before you are sentenced

There is no possibility of parole in Virginia. As such, it is in your best interest to have a Fairfax criminal defense attorney from Select Law Partners PLLC run the state’s sentencing guidelines to help in your defense. Contact us today at (855) 541-4867 to schedule a consultation regarding how we may be able to negotiate a reduced recommended sentence.