Any time a weapon is involved in a crime, the consequences of a criminal conviction are serious. For the crime of shooting in an attempt to commit a felony, this holds true. A conviction means a felony and with that all of the labels and consequences that come with it.
The crime covers more than just the use of a firearm and is charged alongside other felonies. These charges will not merge, meaning you could be subject to multiple punishments for the same acts. It is important to understand not only your rights under this law but how to defend your underlying felony as well.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with shooting in an attempt to commit a felony in Virginia, Bryan J. Jones can provide you with the advice you need to protect your rights. You do not have to plead guilty just because you are charged with a crime.
Shooting in Committing or Attempting a Felony
Va. Code § 18.2-53 states:
"If any person, in the commission of, or attempt to commit a felony, unlawfully shoot, stab, cut or wound another person he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony."
This means that although the title of the statute primarily considers a "shooting" in the commission or attempted commission of a felony, you can also be charged if you unlawfully:
- Cut, or
a person during the commission of the crime which is the underlying felony.
The statute uses broad language by including the word "wound" in its definition. If you cause serious harm which meets the legal definition of a wound, you can be charged or convicted of this offense.
Understanding the facts of your unique case can be difficult without knowledgeable legal counsel. With the help of an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney, you can fight your charges to preserve your rights.
The Issue of Double Jeopardy
One way to describe Double Jeopardy is prosecution of a person twice for the same offense. The United States and Virginia Constitutions generally forbid prosecution of multiple crimes for the same criminal acts. This constitutional protection is an important part of your legal rights but is not absolute.
Virginia courts have determined that charges arising from Va. Code § 18.2-53 can be prosecuted in addition to the underlying felony on which it is based. The courts have held that the Virginia legislature intended to impose additional punishment for the conduct prohibited in the statute, above and beyond the other felony charge.
This means that you face increased penalties as a result of any possible conviction.
Penalties for Shooting in Committing a Felony
If convicted of the crime of shooting in committing a felony, you face the penalties of a Class 6 felony, which include:
- Term of imprisonment of not less than one year,
- Term of imprisonment of not more than five years,
- Confinement in jail of not more than 12 months,
- A fine of not more than $2,500.
In addition, you will face the penalties of the underlying felony offense. This means that your penalties will be increased because of the punishment you face from the other felony. This can lead to longer prison time, higher fines, and other consequences unique to the other felony offense.
Defenses to Shooting in Committing a Felony Charges in Virginia
While every case is different, and different defenses may apply to your case, your Virginia criminal attorney can analyze the unique facts of your case to present the best defense. Some of the following could be used to prevent or reduce your conviction.
Present Reasonable Doubt
The Virginia prosecutor is required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each and every element of the charge of shooting in committing a felony. Your criminal defense attorney can show that there are inconsistencies in the prosecutor's case, creating doubt in the mind of the jury. Your attorney can also attempt to show that you were not the guilty party, or you did not shoot, stab, cut, or wound another person in the commission of an offense.
Challenge the Underlying Felony
To be charged with shooting in committing a felony, the Virginia prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed or attempted to commit another felony. Your defense attorney can challenge the prosecutor's case on the underlying felony. Failure by the Commonwealth to prove you committed the underlying offense may cause your charge of shooting in committing a felony to be dismissed.
In many cases, eyewitness identification can simply be wrong. A suspect may be innocent and be accused of a crime only because he or she looks vaguely like the individual who actually committed the crime. With proper investigation and a challenge from your attorney, the jury can see the many problems with eyewitness identification.
Further, police line-ups must conform to specific constitutional requirements. If the line-up which was used to identify you was not properly performed, that evidence against you could be suppressed.
Suppression of Certain Evidence
Suppression is a legal mechanism which excludes evidence which was wrongfully acquired by the prosecution. If law enforcement did not follow the constitutional requirements for the collection of evidence, such as when a warrant is required, that evidence which was wrongfully obtained can be excluded from your case. In some instances, this can result in the dismissal of your charges, especially if the evidence excluded connected you in some way to the case.
Consult Your Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
A felony conviction for shooting in committing or attempting a felony has serious consequences including a felony record. Understanding the law which defines this charge is critical to your defense. An experienced Virginia attorney knows the law and will use it to defend your case. Even if the police and prosecutor treat you like you are guilty, you still have legal rights and defenses.
Contact Virginia criminal defense attorney Bryan J. Jones to fight for your constitutional rights throughout the criminal process. He represents clients in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and the surrounding counties.