Criminal hearings can be stressful without the confusion of what certain legal terms mean. To help ease the legal process, here are a few helpful vocabulary terms.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitation, in a criminal case, refers to how long the state has to prosecute a case. For example, for an assault and battery case the Commonwealth has a year, from the date of the incident, to bring charges. Once the statute of limitations “runs out” the Commonwealth can no longer bring charges.
A summons is a legal document alerting the defendant that charges have been filed and where and when he/she will need to appear to respond to the claims.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
Though there are different levels of misdemeanors, a misdemeanor is considered a less serious offense than a felony. The maximum sentence for any misdemeanor is a year in jail and a fine of $2,500 dollars. Common misdemeanors in Virginia include reckless driving, assault and battery, and simple possession. The statute of limitations for most misdemeanors, with the exception of petit larceny, is one year.
Felonies are considered the more serious crimes. The punishment for a felony can range from death to a term of imprisonment of not less than one year. In addition, for some felonies, there is no statute of limitation.
Dismissal vs. Not Guilty Finding
If your case is dismissed, this means that the action was disposed of without a trial. For example, the Commonwealth may find that there is not enough evidence to continue pursuing the matter and choose to dismiss it instead. A not guilty finding means that your case was heard and the judge or jury found there was insufficient evidence to find you guilty.
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