How is Probation Determined in Virginia?


Virginia has recently enacted several changes to its probation system and how people convicted of crimes are sentenced. These changes, which went into effect in July of 2021, were made with the following goals in mind: having fewer people with convictions for non-violent crimes in jail, limiting probation terms, decreasing the number of people on probation generally, and preventing those on probation from being sent back to jail for minor violations.


If you have recently been charged with or convicted of a crime in Virginia, it is crucial to understand these recent reforms and how they could affect your case. Not only is probation more widely available for non-violent offenders, but the lengths of probation sentences have been severely curtailed. The skilled Virginia criminal defense lawyers at Pincus Goodman P.C. have extensive experience in helping those on probation. Keep reading to learn more about how recent changes to state law could impact you and your future.


When Can Judges Sentence Someone to Probation in Virginia?


The probation reform measures passed as part of House Bill 2038 in 2021 put new limits on how long someone can be on probation and also changed when someone can be sentenced to probation. Here are a few key points to be aware of:


  • According to Section 19.2-303.3 of the Code of Virginia, anyone older than 18 who is convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony, who receives a jail sentence of a year or less, can be sentenced to community-based probation instead of jail time.
  • Section 19.2-303.3 also states that anyone convicted of a felony can be sentenced to probation if the judge determines the offender would benefit from probation and is capable of being a “productive citizen” when kept out of jail.
  • The changes made under HB 2038 state that someone convicted of a misdemeanor can be sentenced to a maximum of one year of probation. Those convicted of a non-violent felony can be sentenced to probation for no more than five years.
  • Anyone sentenced to probation cannot be sent to jail for a first-time “technical” violation of their probation. For second-time technical violations, the maximum jail sentence is limited to 14 days.


What Factors Determine Whether You Are Sentenced to Probation in Virginia?


Judges use several factors to determine whether or not you will be sentenced to probation, including:


  • The nature of your offense — If you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you are generally more likely to be sentenced to probation than if you are convicted of a felony. If you are convicted of a felony, you are more likely to receive probation for a non-violent offense than for a violent crime.
  • Your prior criminal history — If you have not been charged or convicted of a crime in the past, you are more likely to receive probation. Although someone who has an existing criminal record can also be sentenced to probation, the likelihood of a probation sentence depends on how many times you have been charged or convicted, along with the particular crimes in your past.
  • Your likelihood of reform — Judges are more likely to give someone probation if they believe the offender is unlikely to commit another crime and will be a law-abiding citizen. You are more likely to receive probation if you can demonstrate that you would benefit from probation instead of jail.
  • Your flight risk — If a judge believes there is a chance you will flee the state if you are sentenced to probation, they will most likely order you to spend time in jail instead.


Contact a Virginia Probation Lawyer Today


Do you have questions about probation in Virginia, or are you facing a possible jail sentence after being convicted of a crime? If so, contact Pincus Goodman P.C. today. Our Virginia probation lawyers could help make a strong case before the judge to increase your chances of avoiding a jail sentence. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help with your case.


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