For a young person facing first-time charges, keeping a clean record ranks as a primary concern. In many cases, especially those involving relatively minor charges, going to trial hoping for a verdict of not guilty may not be the best option.
Virginia offers the options of general continuances and deferred findings as ways to resolve certain types of cases. Both of these have their own pros and cons. Consulting your own attorney is the best way to arrive at an informed decision that works best for you.
A general continuance is an arrangement the prosecutor and the defense attorney may agree upon. It is typically not something a court would just grant on a defendant's request.
Under this arrangement, the court will continue (put off) your case for an agreed-upon time, which can vary based on the type of case. During this period, you will have to complete whatever requirements your attorney agrees to with the prosecutor. Typical requirements include community service, completion of a program or restitution payments. If you hold up your end of the bargain, the prosecutor will drop your case at the end of the time period.
Possibility of expungement
A general continuance means the court does not make findings against you at any time, nor do you officially admit to anything. Under Virginia law, this can make it possible for you to obtain an expungement later. The chief disadvantage of seeking a continuance is that many prosecutors are reluctant to agree so it can be challenging to achieve.
Offenders facing specific charges may be eligible for a deferred finding, which requires the consent of the prosecutor as well as the judge. When it is time for you to enter your plea, the court will state it finds that if your case went to trial, you would be found guilty. Then the court puts off your case for a time period and may also set forth some requirements for you such as completion of a program or paying a fine. At the end of the time, if you have met the requirements, the judge will dismiss your case. Because the court does make a finding, generally you will be ineligible for expungement.