Mar 19, 2020 Misdemeanor SIS expansion coming in VA says Fairfax criminal lawyer
Misdemeanor suspended imposition of sentence expansion awaits Virginia governor’s signature, says Fairfax criminal defense lawyer
Misdemeanor convictions can be more of a headache than thought at first blush, not only for a criminal defendant’s liberty, but also for reputation, security clearance, career and immigration purposes. As a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer, I know that a suspended imposition of sentence (“S.I.S.”) for a petty charge is better than a conviction, but also that Virginia’s S.I.S. statute mainly applies to property trespassing crimes and not to such other crimes as theft.
Virginia legislature passes law to make misdemeanor larceny eligible for suspended imposition of sentence dispositions
During the coming days, I will be blogging about several great criminal defense-friendly bills that have come out of this year’s Virginia legislative session. One of those bills is H.B. 660, which adds petty theft as a misdemeanor eligible for a suspended imposition of sentence, whereby a judge finds facts sufficient to convict, defers entering any conviction, and ultimately dismisses the case unless a probation violation is found, thus allowing the judge to enter a conviction and sentence the criminal defendant.
I expect the governor will sign it. This SIS option is particularly important when considering that Virginia’s Starrs case has been substantially narrowed to make suspended imposition of sentences and deferred disposition a valuable option under certain circumstances.
Another positive piece of news is that this legislative session, Virginia’s governor has approved a law increasing the Virginia petty theft threshold from $500 to $1,000. Consequently, on top of the S.I.S. possibility for those charged with shoplifting or other misdemeanor theft, Virginia petty theft statues means criminal defendants will also be more numerous who are eligible to seek their case to be dismissed by the commonwealth’s satisfaction and discharge law.
Suspended imposition of sentence is one step removed from a conviction, so beware jumping to accept an SIS
A dismissal or acquittal is better than receiving a misdemeanor suspended imposition of disposition. Nonetheless, my usual security clearance lawyer warns that a suspended imposition of sentence can be viewed as similar or close to a conviction for purposes of security clearance review authorities. An S.I.S. can also be seen as a conviction for immigration law purposes. At the same time, if the defendant’s case is likely going to result in a conviction, it can be better to obtain a suspended imposition of sentence than to have a record of a conviction. The defendant can wait to see if s/he gets convicted before seeking an S.I.S., although a judge sometimes or oftentimes is more favorably disposed to a favorable case disposition when the criminal defendant pleads guilty or no contest.
When and whether to seek a suspended imposition of sentence
When dealing with misdemeanor prosecutions, I usually want to wait until a Virginia state criminal court date before engaging in much settlement negotiation efforts. This way, I get to see the extent to which the prosecutor has his or her necessary witnesses and evidence ready to proceed that day with trial. For immigration purposes for non-United States citizens, at least, my understanding is that if an S.I.S. will be sought, it can be better to wait until the judge makes any guilty finding to then seek an SIS disposition, rather than negotiating a case resolution before the trial date.
Of course, some defendants convicted of a misdemeanor prefer the option of appealing their trial loss rather than getting involved with plea deals.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz is a highly-rated attorney pursuing your best defense for felony, misdemeanor, DUI, drug, and sex prosecutions. To discuss your court-pending criminal case wtih Jon Katz, please call his staff at 7 03-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.