Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Your "RIGHT" to a jury trial in Virginia

Andre Hakes
If you are charged with a crime in Virginia, you have a constitutional right to a jury trial.  However, Virginia’s justice system is carefully structured to discourage you from exercising that right.  Here’s how it works.

You are accused of possessing 1 gram of cocaine with the intent to sell it, in violation of Code of Virginia §18.2-248.  You have a clean record, and no other charges.  Your attorney calculates your sentencing guidelines at 12 points.  She looks it up in a chart and tells you that means if you waive your right to a jury trial, and you plead guilty or are convicted by a judge without a jury, your guidelines sentence comes out to one year.   But -- your “Nonviolent Risk Assessment” (also part of the sentencing guidelines) recommends an “Alternative Punishment,  so in reality, you’ll probably get PROBATION. 
However, your attorney is not allowed to even tell a jury that sentencing guidelines exist.   The statutory range of punishment for the crime is FIVE TO FORTY YEARS.  So – if a jury finds you guilty, that’s what you’ll get.
Wow!  Some right, huh?  You have this right – it’s absolutely 100% guaranteed by the Constitution.  Of course, if you use it we will hit you with this Great Big Stick.  No, wait — we’ll MAKE the jury hit you with it!
The right to be tried by a jury of your peers is something we were taught in grade school.  What we are not taught until law school is how it really works.  Years of “tough on crime” lawmakers and their political appointment of judges has resulted in the severe erosion of the rights of ordinary Americans.  Hopefully, most of us will never be targeted by the system, but if you ever are – a good lawyer is your best defense.   
Andre Hakes
Criminal Defense Attorney
Tucker Griffin Barnes
Charlottesville, VA (434-973-7474)


1 comment:

Jack M in the Kingdom of Louisa said...

Well said!