Virginia's violent crime rate has decreased dramatically in recent years. The 2009 rate is the 7th lowest in the nation. The nearby States North Carolina and Maryland have rates that double the rate in the Commonwealth.
Crime rates are affected by personal behavior, economic conditions, and employment availability. In an unfavorable or declining economy, crime increases. Crime rates rise or fall according to the volume of crimes actually reported. This volume may be affected by differences in how police identify or target crimes and their patrol or investigation behaviors, as well as citizen willingness to report crimes.
While personal behavior has a major impact on crime, Virginia's judicial system has had a significant influence on violent offenders. The reduced crime rate is not an accident. Virginia laws on violent offenses are some of the toughest in the nation. Prosecutors vigorously pursue crimes such as murder, rape, road rage, malicious wounding, aggravated malicious wounding, and even assault. Commonwealth's attorneys' often ask courts to order that people accused of these offenses stay in jail while they await trial. Additionally, the conviction of use of a firearm in relation to violent offenses often requires that an offender serve mandatory jail time after his sentence for the violent crime.
Unlike "victimless" offenses (such as drug crimes, obstruction, or traffic infractions), violent crimes strike fear in the public conscious. Accordingly, these crimes frequently receive media attention and charges, trials, and court results are regularly reported in print and television. This added scrutiny adds to prosecutorial and judicial apprehension when dealing with these matters. Well-meaning prosecutors occasionally blur the line between desired justice for the injured and excessive zeal.
The heightened prosecutorial and judicial focus must be met with an equally aggressive defense. There is a litany of strategic responses available to persons accused of violent offenses. In certain circumstances, violent conduct may be legally excused or justified. Specifically, a claim of self-defense in Virginia allows criminal defendants to present evidence not admissible in any other case.
I have tried hundreds of cases involving violent crimes. As a criminal defense specialist, I am uniquely qualified to craft appropriate defenses in these matters. If you are accused of such a crime, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Richmond criminal defense attorney.