Huguely was indicted for both first-degree murder and felony murder in connection with Love's May 2010 death. Prosecutors allege that Huguely brutally beat Love, 22, to death in her apartment near the Charlottesville campus.
Jury selection is slated to start Monday.
To prove first-degree murder, prosecutors must show that the killing was "willful, deliberate and premeditated." A felony murder is an accidental killing committed during some other felonious act -- in Huguely's case, prosecutors say he broke into Love's apartment and took her laptop.
"These are two very different charges," said Anne Coughlin, a U.Va. law professor. "That gives the state some leeway with the jury."
For their part, Huguely's lawyers have challenged a medical examiner's finding that Love died from blunt force trauma to the head. Huguely admitted during police questioning that he shook Love and her head hit a wall, documents say. The defense says Huguely did not know Love was dead when he left the apartment and contends that she died from an irregular heartbeat partially caused by mixing an attention deficit disorder medication and alcohol.
But if prosecutors can't prove that Huguely intended to kill Love, the felony murder charge could give them another path to a conviction.
"If they have strong evidence of the commission of the burglary and the causing of the death, that's a tough charge for him to contest," Coughlin said.
The Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney's Office declined to comment for this story. Defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence did not respond to requests for comment.
After Love's death, friends described a sometimes-tumultuous relationship between the couple, who dated on-and-off for a year-and-a-half. Huguely, a Chevy Chase resident and graduate of the Landon School in Bethesda, had also previously faced charges for threatening a police officer and possessing alcohol as a minor. He was once rescued from the Atlantic Ocean after jumping from a yacht during a fight with his father.
The trial could also be influenced by the publicity surrounding the high-profile case. Attorneys are planning to question 160 prospective jurors over two days to seat the 12 jurors and three alternates who will decide Huguely's fate. Typically, two or three dozen potential jurors are brought in, said David Heilberg, a longtime Charlottesville criminal defense lawyer. That publicity could make it tough to find jurors who can be impartial, Heilberg said.
"It sways the public, fair or not," he said. "People are still influenced by what they remember reading."
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.