The holiday season is upon us once again. It is a time for mirth and merriment: friends and family gatherings, office parties, community celebrations. Alcohol flows freely at many of these events. So along with the joy of the season comes the increased opportunity for a person to drink and drive—which may well bring unwanted interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. For Virginia residents, or anyone driving in Virginia, what exactly constitutes drinking and driving as a criminal offense?
First things first: if you have consumed any alcohol and need to get to another location, find a designated driver! There are services in almost every locality to give you a sober ride from a restaurant bar, your office or another person’s home; so, if you don’t have someone you know volunteering to be the designated driver, at a minimum … Read More »
For a small number of specific offenses, Virginia law allows a person accused of committing a first violation to avoid trial and receive a dismissal of the charge– with something called a “deferred disposition.”
In a deferred disposition of a criminal charge in Virginia, several things happen: (a) the judge takes a plea (which can be guilty, not guilty or no contest); (b) the judge determines that the facts would be sufficient for a finding of guilt; (c) the judge, with the agreement of the defendant, withholds an actual finding of guilt for some set length of time; (d) the defendant is placed on some form of probation to complete some terms and conditions; and (e) if the conditions are satisfied, the judge will dismiss the charge at some future date.
Offenses eligible for deferred disposition in Virginia include the most commonly known “first offender” programs, such … Read More »
In 2013, instant interpersonal contact no longer means face-to-face or telephone contact with another person. Text messaging and social media have made nonpersonal instant communications commonplace. I confess, I have sent a message to my wife through a text or via social media while she was in another room in our house. But the modern prevalence of this technology also makes fraud easier than ever before. You may not know what the terms “catfishing” and “spoofing” are, but the chances are high that you’ve heard of Manti T’eo and his “fake girlfriend.” We often mock those who are fooled by people using fake Facebook or Twitter accounts and falsified e-mail addresses, and we shake our heads in disdain at those perpetrating the fraud—but we often place these things in the category of prank, rather than crime. At the end of … Read More »
In my last blog posting, I provided a short overview of several new laws that take effect in Virginia on July 1, 2013. Rarely have I received so many questions as I did regarding the new law in Virginia against texting while driving– from colleagues, friends and family. There is little argument that distracted driving can be dangerous, and that the proliferation of smartphones in the hands of drivers raises legitimate public safety concerns. But, is the Virginia ban on texting while driving the solution? And what exactly is prohibited by the new law?
In this article, I will address the most important aspects of the new Virginia law against texting while driving, including the many questions raised or left open by the statute, before offering up my educated guess as to how things will most likely play out with the … Read More »
In its latest session, the Virginia General Assembly passed many new laws that will affect Virginia residents– most of which go into effect on July 1, 2013. Here are brief summaries of five that might interest or impact you the most:
Texting While Driving. As of July 1st, Virginia Code Section 46.2-1078.1 will make it a traffic infraction punishable by a $125 fine to “[m]anually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person” or “[r]ead any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.” Exceptions are carved out for texting while lawfully parked or stopped, or using a GPS. Prior to this new law going into effect, … Read More »
The most important role of a parent is in the instruction of a child so that he or she may enter adulthood as a well-adjusted and contributing member of society. One of the biggest frustrations of many parents is finding the appropriate method for disciplining a child. Does corporal punishment play a role in modern parenting? Is spanking legal in Virginia? If it is legal, are there clear boundaries in the law so that parents do not commit a crime in disciplining their children?
Corporal punishment is defined as “physical punishment” according to Dictionary.com, more specifically, “physical punishment, as spanking, inflicted on a child by an adult in authority.” Spanking is a legal form of discipline from a parent to a child. However, not all spankings are created equal. Parents who use physical punishment to discipline their children can sometimes be charged with assault … Read More »
Have you ever felt that there is never a cop around when someone else is violating a traffic law, but the one time you go slightly above the speed limit or make a rolling stop through a stop sign, there’s sure to be an officer watching? An officer who just can’t wait to pull you over and write a ticket?
Traffic violations are often no respecter of persons. Many fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizens receive them. They are not generally a reflection on one’s moral quality. But it feels that way when we receive them, and we want to have a way to redeem ourselves to avoid the stain of that mark against our driving record. We don’t want the points, and we don’t want the insurance premium increase.
So instead of prepaying the offense, we take time from work or school, we … Read More »
In Prince William County, petit larceny is anything but petty. Petit Larceny is a misdemeanor offense under Virginia Code Section 18.2-96. It is the wrongful taking from another person of less than $5, or of another person’s property with a value less than $200, without that owner’s permission with the intent to permanently deprive that owner of said property. In common terms, it can be referred to as petty theft or stealing. A close relative of this offense is “concealment,” more commonly known as shoplifting, under Virginia Code Section 18.2-103. The maximum punishments for both petit larceny and concealment or shoplifting are 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Petit Larceny and concealment are in the same misdemeanor class as DWI/DUI, simple assault and battery, and trespassing; however, theft crimes are treated much more harshly than those other crimes in … Read More »
“Rashness belongs to youth; prudence to old age.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
As citizens, we often give allowance for a certain amount of misconduct by juveniles. We recall our own indiscretions, perhaps, or we just simply understand that maturity and experience often come after a failure or misstep. Virginia’s criminal justice system also provides for some latitude in giving juveniles an opportunity to learn from, and move past, mistakes or conduct that land them in front of a judge. One of the most common methods for achieving this, and perhaps the most misunderstood, is the automatic expungement of juvenile records pursuant to Virginia Code Section 16.1-306.
The common misconception about juvenile records is that they are always secret. This is untrue. Juvenile records are generally non-public, but a variety of exceptions provide for certain individuals or agencies to access juvenile records. Another … Read More »
What is the concealed weapon law in Virginia all about, and what are the requirements for a concealed carry permit? What does it mean to conceal a weapon anyway?
For the answer to those questions, one must start with the Virginia concealed weapon statute, which is Virginia Code Section 18.2-308. It is one of the longer criminal statutes on the books, so I will not go into every detail here, but you may read through the entire section for yourself online. Section 18.2-308 makes the following kinds of weapons unlawful for a person to carry concealed, subject to a variety of exceptions:
(i) any pistol, revolver, or other weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind by action of an explosion of any combustible material; (ii) any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete, razor, slingshot, spring stick, … Read More »