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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Can you get a jury trial on a VA misdemeanor?

From a Comment Board I am a member of:
Do I have the right for a jury trail for a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia? Also, what legal process can I do when some one comments perjury to get me arrested?

Great questions! VA has a two step judicial system for misdemeanors. The first step is called the "district court". It is not a court of record, and it does not have a jury. You can read about this in the Virginia Constitution at Article I, Section 8 which outlines the process for misdemeanor hearings in district court. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the district court case, you can request a hearing de novo in Circuit Court. That's step two! Circuit court is the next level up from district court. Circuit Court is a court of record, and when appropriate, you can request a jury trial.

Jury trials are appropriate when the case is not "petty". Generally, the Supreme Court has ruled that means >180 days in jail is possible. Although Virginia technically allows a jury trial for all offenses (even that parking ticket!), as a practical matter, it will be extremely difficult to get a jury trial for anything below 180 days. Check with your local court for procedures on this, as you don't want to make the Court and the judge angry by demanding the ridiculous.

Because a class 1 misdemeanor carries a maximum of 1 year in jail and/or a sentence of $2500, you would be eligible for a jury for most 1st class misdemeanors in VA (such as what you asked about). Note, however, that juries are not always advisable. In VA, if you elect to proceed with a jury trial (or the Government decides to demand it -- in VA, the prosecutor can ask for a jury trial, too!), the jury provides the recommended sentence to the judge. The jury is not permitted to suspend time, making the maximum and minimum penalties for a particularly crime the absolute guideline as to what your sentence will be. A judge, however, may suspend time, or craft a solution that fits the particular facts of the crime.

As to your question regarding perjury, when the trial is over, you can go after the perjurer for submitting a false police report. Remember, though, this won't work if you merely say the person lied about you. He-said-she-said is not enough, and often unless you have compelling evidence of mistruth (for example, you can prove you were in Florida when they accused you of breaking into their house in Virginia, and they knew it), the Courts won't entertain the action.

Do you have questions about false reports or jury trials? Ask us! We're happy to discuss your case. 703-402-2723 or

Hanover Law, PC
Offices in Fairfax, VA and Washington, DC
2751 Prosperity Ave, Ste 150
Fairfax, VA 22031
Sean R. Hanover, Esq.
Stephen Salwierak, Esq.

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