Any time a person can serve jail time because of charges, the person is advised to get an attorney. If they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them. According to and article in the Virginia-Pilot:
No jail time. No attorneys. No need for the state to spend its scarce dollars.
At least, that was the thinking of some Virginia prosecutors who proposed a novel way to save money: They won’t seek jail time for misdemeanor charges and the judge won’t have to appoint a state-paid attorney to represent indigent defendants.
Supporters of HB1394 suggest that it will save Virginia several million dollars, although how much is unclear.
“I haven’t seen anything like this,” said Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Bryant, a supporter of the measure. “The funding situation is so serious that we’ll look for cases where we’ll say, ‘We’re not seeking jail time.’ ”
Commonwealth’s attorneys floated this idea as a way to prevent deeper cuts into their budgets and staff. Instead of laying off prosecutors, the state would pay less for court-appointed attorneys.
So is this a good way to save the Commonwealth of Virginia millions? Should we skip the jail time for drug users, drunk drivers and wife beaters and just fine them out the ying yang?
Further support of the bill is explained:
A supporter of the bill, Springfield Republican Del. David Albo, said that in many cases, people convicted of misdemeanors, such as first-offense marijuana possession or simple assault, aren’t sentenced to jail anyway. Prosecutors already have the authority to waive jail – this bill makes sure they do so when possible, he said.
Not everyone is on board with this bill, including the governor who also felt there could be unintended consequences for those who relied on court appointed lawyers to prove their innocence.