Will A Prior Minor Charge Aggravate A Current Criminal Charge?


Virginia is considered by most attorneys to be one of the toughest states in the country when it comes to criminal and criminal a traffic law; so the answer to this question is, yes! To a defense attorney, it seems like almost everything that a person can do in Virginia is “Criminal” in nature. While this is an overblown statement, it is more the case here in Virginia, than in most other states – that the number of things that can be engaged in Virginia, that may be criminal, and the degrees of criminality, are much more serious than other states.  That’s particularly true when Virginia is compared to Maryland or Washington D.C., in comparison, Virginia is brutal, tough, and almost unforgiving when it comes to the nature and scope of criminal and criminal traffic law.

Even a prior conviction for a very minor criminal charge, such as Drunk In Public, (Class 4 Misdemeanor) or possession of Marijuana, (Class U Misdemeanor), both of which are relatively low – level Misdemeanors, will be held against a person if they are subsequently charged with another crime during their lifetime.

Even a minor Juvenile Court Conviction 20, 30 or 40 years ago, can be held against you.

During our first interview with prospective the client on the phone, we will ask them if they have any prior criminal record anywhere, whether in Virginia or in another state. I ask them to be completely truthful and think back throughout their life. Even if they committed a minor criminal offense many years ago, the prosecutor will find out about it through the NCIC, and will hold it against them in their current case.  Even a minor Juvenile Court Conviction 20, 30 or 40 years ago, will now be held against them.

When I tell a potential client this, they can’t believe it. They have always heard that if a crime is committed when they’re a juvenile, then their criminal record will be sealed and never used against them by anyone.  This is simply not true. It is true that a person’s juvenile record is not available for public view and that prospective employers, apartment rental companies, security agencies, and such cannot get access to a person’s juvenile record anytime. But, a prosecutor or law enforcement officer can “pierce the veil” of juvenile court and are always able to obtain information about a person’s prior juvenile conviction to use against them in court, in Virginia.

This is usually a shock to our clients, and to almost everyone else. So, even if you’re 80 years old now, and you were charged with possession of marijuana when you were 14 and found “Involved” by a Juvenile court, the prosecutor can use it against you now. They do detailed criminal background checks on everyone who has a charged criminal charge [with the exception of criminal traffic charges, in which they only check Virginia DMV records].

For criminal traffic charges like : DWI; Reckless Driving; “Hit and Run”; etc. prosecutors will obtain a person’s 11-year personal DMV Driving Record and hold anything they find on the person’s 11-year driving record against them for the past 10 years.  Otherwise, for every other criminal charge, prosecutors obtain a printout from the NCIC, which has everything a person has ever been convicted of in their entire life. So, even if it happened -many years ago, in Virginia the prosecutor can use it against you, the same as if you had committed the prior crime yesterday!  Prosecutors will use it to decide whether to prosecute you; and to help decide how aggressively they may choose to prosecute you; or, how many charges they might choose to bring against you, if there is more than one charge they can bring.

In essence, everything will be is held against you the in Virginia courts.

If you do have a prior criminal record, the prosecutor will come after you much, more aggressively than if you didn’t have any criminal record at all. And, your prior criminal record is always held against you for “sentencing” purposes, if you are convicted, regardless of how long ago your prior convictions were; even if you were a 13 or 14-year old in juvenile court at that time.  In essence, everything you’ve ever done wrong or bad that has ended up in the criminal judicial system, anywhere in the country, will be is held against you the in Virginia courts.

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