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A family abuse charge (known as domestic violence in many other jurisdictions) in Virginia is serious business. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor and can potentially result in jail time. There are circumstances, however, in which the legal process can be seen as giving a person who has been charged with family abuse a second chance. The process is called deferred adjudication.

Typical Family Abuse Process

A typical family abuse case for assault and battery follows a standard process. First, the alleged abuser is charged, usually by the police at the scene of the incident. Next, the offender is booked through the criminal justice system and bail is usually set. If the offender can post his or her bail, he or she is released under the terms of their bail. The offender may have various court appearances along the way, including a hearing during which he or she enters a plea to the charges. 

Finally, the defendant has a day in court. If he or she is found guilty, they will either be sentenced on the spot or have a separate sentencing hearing. If jail time is ordered, the offender will do the time and, all things being equal, will then be released on probation. Some of the steps may be combined and some may be left out altogether, depending on the particular court and judge.

Deferred Adjudication

In Virginia, the process does not have to go this way. Virginia law provides an option of deferred adjudication. Deferred adjudication is a process in which the court agrees to defer hearing the case in exchange for the defendant entering a probation program administered in their community. In Virginia, to be eligible for deferred adjudication for family abuse, a defendant must:

  • Have been adult at the time of the offense
  • Have not been previously convicted of assault and battery on a family member in any jurisdiction
  • Have not had a previous charge of family abuse dismissed through deferred adjudication
  • Have plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendre to the family abuse charges and the court finds that there is sufficient evidence to find the person guilty
  • Agree to the deferral

The court will then require that the defendant participate in the probation program for a minimum of two years. Any violation of the terms and conditions of the program may result in the defendant being found guilty of the original charges and being punished accordingly. However, once the term of the probation is completed in a manner that is satisfactory to the court, the charges against the defendant will be dismissed. According to the law, a deferred adjudication does not count as a conviction except inasmuch as it makes a defendant ineligible for deferred adjudication in the case of a future family abuse offense and for purposes of Virginia’s concealed weapons law.

Deferred adjudication is not always the panacea that it appears. It may be suitable for some situations and not so beneficial in others. It does afford a chance for a defendant to “straighten up and fly right” and not allow one mistake to make a permanent black mark on one’s record. It is imperative, though, that you retain a skilled defense attorney to thoroughly analyze your case and your situation. Northern Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Jad Sarsour has years of experience defending clients in Northern Virginia in just such cases. Every situation is different and Jad knows how to navigate the law and facts to find out what your best course of action is. Give him a call today at (571) 316-2639 to set up your initial consultation. Your rights and your future are at risk so ensure you have the best representation available.

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