The Answers You Need to Many Common Legal Questions

Often, our clients have little experience with the law, and they share many questions and concerns when faced with a legal matter. The attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro PC understand you need answers, and we offer many of them here. Hear our thoughts on issues relating to criminal charges, traffic charges, real estate transactions, civil litigation, personal injury cases, business disputes, administrative hearings, and more.

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  • What is a forcible sodomy charge in Virginia?

    Scales of Justice With an American Flag in the BackgroundForcible sodomy is a felony offense in Virginia that is similar to the crime of rape. If convicted, your punishment may be extremely harsh—up to life in prison.

    What Is Forcible Sodomy?

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-67.1, it is considered forcible sodomy to engage in the sexual acts listed below with another person, or to cause one person to engage in these acts with another person:

    • Fellatio, which is the oral stimulation of a penis.
       
    • Cunnilingus, which is the stimulation of the female genitals with the tongue or lips.
       
    • Anilingus, which is the sexual stimulation of the anus with the tongue or lips.
       
    • Anal intercourse.

    Like rape, there is also a second element to this crime. The sexual acts listed above must have been engaged in under one of these circumstances:

    • The victim was a child who was under 13 years old.
       
    • The sexual actions were performed through the use of force, threats of force, or the intimidation of the victim or another person.
       
    • The victim’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness was exploited.

    Penalties for Forcible Sodomy​

    The punishment for forcible sodomy is five years to up to life in prison. A mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison applies if the forcible sodomy involved a victim under 13 years old and the following conditions are met:

    • The offender was more than three years older than the victim; and
       
    • The forcible sodomy occurred as part of an abduction, kidnapping, burglary, or aggravated malicious wounding, entering a home with the intent to commit a rape, or entering a dwelling with the intent to commit assault and battery or another felony.

    If the offender was 18 years old or older and the victim was under 13 years old, the mandatory minimum sentence is life in prison. In addition, anyone convicted of forcible sodomy must be registered with the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.                                                                           

    If you have been charged with forcible sodomy, rape, or another sex crime, you need to retain an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer in Fairfax as soon as possible to help you build a strong defense to the charges you face. To learn about our legal team’s extensive experience defending clients facing these and other serious felony charges and how we can assist you, start an online chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • I’ve been charged with shooting in the attempt to commit a felony. What penalties might I face if I’m convicted?

    Man Shooting a Firearm While Committing a Felony CrimeIn Virginia, shooting, stabbing, cutting, or otherwise wounding another person in the commission or attempted commission of a felony is a very serious felony offense with harsh penalties that can include a prison sentence and a fine. These punishments would be in addition to those for the underlying felony.

    Shooting While Committing a Felony Can Be Charged for the Use of Many Types of Weapons

    Virginia Code § 18.2-53 makes it a crime to unlawfully shoot, stab, cut, or wound another person while committing or attempting to commit a felony. Although the title of this code section refers to shooting, the statute makes it a crime to use a variety of weapons. You may be charged with this offense if you do any of the following to another person while committing or attempting a felony:

    • Shoot
       
    • Stab
       
    • Cut
       
    • Wound

    What Are the Penalties for Shooting While Committing a Felony?

    Shooting, stabbing, cutting, or wounding while committing or attempting to commit a felony is a Class 6 felony. This crime is a separate offense from the underlying felony. If you are convicted of both crimes, you will face two separate sentences. The sentence you may face for this offense can include:

    • Prison sentence of one year to up to five years, or
       
    • Jail sentence of up to 12 months, or
       
    • Fine of up to $2,500.

    You will also have a permanent criminal record that includes a felony conviction. This can make it much more difficult for you to get a job, find housing, and more throughout your life.

    If you have been charged with shooting while committing a felony or another crime in Virginia, it is essential to start building your defense right away. To mount an effective defense, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. To find out how our legal team can help, call our Fairfax office to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • Is it a crime to discharge a firearm in a home or other building in Virginia?

    Hand on a Hun in Residential HousingDischarging a firearm in a home or other building is a felony offense in Virginia and can result in serious punishments upon conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you build a strong defense that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious crime, depending on the facts of your case.

    What Is a Firearm?

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-282, a firearm is any weapon that will, is designed to, or can readily be converted to expel a single or multiple projectiles by an explosion of combustible material. Ammunition is defined as a cartridge, pellet, ball, missile, or a projectile adapted to be used as a firearm.

    What Is the Crime of Discharging a Firearm in a Building?

    It is unlawful under Virginia Code § 18.2-279 for an individual to discharge a firearm within a building or dwelling house that is occupied by one or more persons in a manner as to endanger their lives. The circumstances surrounding the discharge of the weapon will determine whether a person is charged with a Class 4 or Class 6 felony. Here are the penalties for each:

    • Class 4 felony. If the firing of the weapon was malicious and there was an intent to cause harm, a person can be charged with a Class 4 felony. The possible punishment includes a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $100,000.
       
    • Class 6 felony. If the discharge of the firearm is unlawful but not committed with malice, the offense is a Class 6 felony. If convicted, a person can be sentenced to one to five years in prison. However, the judge or jury has the discretion to reduce the penalties to up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

    If someone dies due to the discharge of the firearm, the charges and penalties are more serious. They include:

    • Involuntary manslaughter. If the killing was unlawful but without malice it is treated as involuntary manslaughter. A person can be sentenced to 1 to 10 years in prison. However, the penalty can be reduced to up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine in the judge’s or jury’s discretion.
       
    • Second-degree murder. If the shooting was done maliciously and someone dies because of the discharge of the firearm in the building or home, the person can be charged with second-degree murder. The sentence can include 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
       
    • First-degree murder. If the homicide is willful, deliberate, and premeditated, the offense can be charged as first-degree murder. If convicted, a person would be sentenced to up to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

    Finally, Virginia Code § 18.2-279 makes it a class 4 felony to willfully discharge a firearm within or to shoot at any school building, whether or not it is occupied.

    The dedicated and skilled criminal defense attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro PC understand the long-term consequences a criminal conviction can have on a person’s life and are committed to mounting a strong defense to the charges our clients face so that they can achieve the best possible outcome. To learn how we can assist you, call our office to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • I’ve heard that the penalties are more severe if I am convicted of a cocaine-related crime. Is this true?

    Gloved Hand Holding a Bag of CocaineIn Virginia, possession or distribution of cocaine are very serious offenses. Cocaine and other controlled substances are divided into different schedules depending on their medicinal use, if any, risk of abuse, and danger of addiction. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which is one of the most severe classifications.

    Penalties You May Face for Cocaine Possession

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-250, it is unlawful for a person to knowingly and intentionally possess cocaine or other Schedule I or II drugs without a valid prescription. In order for you to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew or had reason to know that you were possessing cocaine.

    Possession of a Schedule II drug is a Class 5 felony offense. If convicted of possession of cocaine, you may be sentenced to 1 to 10 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.

    Penalties Are Increased for the Sale, Distribution, or Manufacture of Cocaine

    Virginia Code § 18.2-248 makes it illegal to sell, distribute or manufacture cocaine. This is a serious felony offense that comes with special penalties:

    • First offense. Five to 40-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $500,000
       
    • Second offense. Five years to life in prison, with a mandatory minimum three-year sentence, and a fine not to exceed $500,000
       
    • Third or subsequent offense. Mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison and a fine of not more than $500,000

    You may face even more severe penalties if convicted of distributing, or selling large quantities of cocaine. Penalties are based on the quantity of cocaine and include:

    • 500 grams. Five years to life in prison, with a five-year mandatory sentence, and a fine of up to $1 million
       
    • 5 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine, its salts, or isomers, or 2.5 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base. 20 years to life in prison, with a 20-year mandatory sentence, and a fine not to exceed $1 million

    Have you been charged with cocaine possession or distribution in Northern Virginia or Fairfax? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you develop a strong defense strategy so that you achieve the best possible outcome. Call our Fairfax office or start a live chat today to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • What can happen if you have a child in your car and are arrested for DUI?

    Young Child Sitting in the Backseat of a CarIn some situations, you can face additional charges or have the penalties enhanced if you are pulled over and arrested for DUI in Virginia. One such circumstance is if you have a child under 17 years old in your vehicle when charged with DUI. If convicted, your sentence will include serious mandatory penalties.

    What Are the Punishments for Transporting a Child While Intoxicated?

    Driving when intoxicated with a child under 17 years old is considered a form of child endangerment in Virginia. Under Virginia’s DUI Child Endangerment Law, which is Virginia Code § 18.2-270(D), there are mandatory punishments in addition to those for DUI. For a first offense conviction, the sentence will include:

    • A minimum fine of $500 up to a maximum of $1,000

    • Mandatory minimum jail sentence of five days

    Under this law, mandatory minimum sentences are cumulative, and any mandatory minimum jail sentences must be served consecutively. If your DUI resulted in an injury to a child, you may face more serious charges and penalties.

    Being convicted of DUI while transporting a child can result in other long-term consequences in your life. For example, your custody and visitation rights may be limited or lost.

    Contact Our Skilled Lawyers If You Have Been Arrested for DUI

    Have you been charged with DUI child endangerment or another DUI offense in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? It is important to keep in mind that you may have strong defenses to the charges that can result in them being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense even if you are guilty.

    The experienced DUI lawyers at Greenspun Shapiro PC can identify your strongest defenses and create a strategy to help you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn more about how we can assist you, call our Fairfax office to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • If I refuse to take a breathalyzer test in Virginia, will I be convicted of DUI?

    Police Officer Holding a Breathalyzer in His HandIf you are stopped by the police for a possible DUI, the officer will most likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test on the street to measure the blood alcohol content ("BAC") on your breath. This test is done on a small hand-held device and is known as the preliminary breath test ("PBT"). A test on a larger device will then be administered when you get to the police station to measure your BAC again. Although it is not illegal to decline the PBT on the street, there may be additional consequences for refusing to take the test at the police station, in addition to those consequences you'll face for a DUI conviction. 

    Consequences of Refusing a Preliminary Breath Test Before a DUI Arrest

    In Virginia, you are not required to take a PBT on the street before you are arrested for DUI. The test is voluntary and would be used by the officer in a similar fashion as a field sobriety test to establish probable cause to arrest you for DUI.

    If you refuse the test and are later arrested for DUI, your pre-arrest refusal to take the breathalyzer test cannot be used against you. However, the police can still arrest you for DUI if he has other reasons to believe that you are intoxicated.

    Penalties for Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer Test Under Virginia’s Implied Consent Law

    Virginia Code § 18.2-268.2 is Virginia’s Implied Consent Law, and it provides that you impliedly consent to a breathalyzer test, blood test, or both if you are operating a motor vehicle and are arrested for DUI. This is in reference to the breathalyzer test at the police station. When you are arrested for DUI, the officer must explain the requirement to submit to a test under this law and the punishments for refusing to take it.

    A first offense refusal to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test is a civil offense under Virginia Code § 18.2-268.3. You would face these penalties under the Implied Consent Law:

    • First offense. Your driver’s license would be automatically suspended for one year and there would be no possibility of a restricted license. This is in addition to any suspension if you are also convicted of DUI.
       
    • Subsequent offenses. A second or third violation of the Implied Consent Law would be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Your driver’s license would be suspended for three years, and you may face a jail sentence and a large fine.

    In addition, you can still be convicted of DUI without the results of the breathalyzer or blood test. 

    If you have been arrested for DUI in Northern Virginia or Fairfax, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you build a strong defense—even if you refused to take a required breathalyzer or blood test. To learn more about your defenses and what you can realistically expect to happen in your criminal case, start a live chat to schedule a free initial consultation.

     

  • Why was I charged with driving too fast for traffic and road conditions in Fairfax?

    Speeding Car on a Rural Virginia RoadIn Virginia, there are at least 15 separate offenses that fall under the crime of reckless driving. Many would be charged as less serious traffic violations in another state, such as failing to yield the right of way or not using a turn signal. Driving too fast for traffic and road conditions is a common reckless driving offense that you may be charged with in Virginia—even if you are driving at or below the speed limit.

    What Is Driving Too Fast for Traffic and Road Conditions?

    Under Virginia Code §46.2-861, you can be charged with reckless driving for exceeding “a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.” What is considered a reasonable speed is in the discretion of the police officer who pulls you over.

    Driving too fast for road and traffic conditions is frequently charged when there has been a motor vehicle accident. Other circumstances where an officer may stop you for driving too fast for conditions include:

    • Weather, such as fog, rain, snow, ice, or sleet
       
    • Slowed traffic due to an accident
       
    • Road construction
       
    • Taking a curve too fast
       
    • Driving too fast on gravel
       
    • Other emergency conditions

    What Are the Penalties for Driving Too Fast for Road and Traffic Conditions?

    Like other reckless driving charges, driving too fast for road and traffic conditions is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face these punishments:

    • Jail sentence of up to one year
       
    • Fine of up to $2,500
       
    • Potential driver’s license suspension of 10 days to six months

    In addition, six demerit points would be added on your driving record, which may increase your vehicle insurance costs significantly. You would also have a permanent criminal record.

    Have you been charged with reckless driving in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? Our experienced reckless driving attorneys can help you develop a strong defense strategy so that the charges against you are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To find out more about how we can assist you, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • What are the penalties for forging a drug prescription?

    Prescription Drug Bottles That Were Obtained by Forging PrescriptionsIt is a felony offense to engage in prescription drug fraud, such as forging a physician’s prescription in order to obtain opiate-based painkillers or other medications. This crime is prosecuted aggressively in Fairfax and Northern Virginia as one way to combat the increasingly prevalent problem of prescription drug abuse. If you have been charged with forging a drug prescription or a related offense, it is imperative that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you develop a strong defense strategy to the charges you face.

    Forging a Drug Prescription Offense and Penalties

    Virginia Code § 18.2-258.1 makes it a crime to forge a drug prescription and to engage in a wide range of activities in an effort to obtain drugs through deceit, forgery, or fraud. This law makes it illegal to:

    • Forge, use, or attempt to use a fake prescription
       
    • Use a false name or ID to get or fill a prescription
       
    • Use a fake prescription label
       
    • Steal prescription drugs or prescriptions from an employer
       
    • Give false information about one’s health to a physician to obtain a prescription

    Forging a prescription and other related-crimes under Virginia Code § 18.2-258.1 are charged as a Class 6 felony. If convicted, you may be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. In addition, your license would be suspended for six months. However, there are also potential outcomes to avoid a felony conviction for first time offense prescription fraud charges. It is important to speak to an attorney determine the best outcome in your case. 

    Penalties You May Face for Aiding in Illegally Obtaining Prescription Drugs

    It is also a crime to aid someone in illegally obtaining prescription drugs under Virginia Code § 18.2-258.2. In order to be charged with this crime, a person must be paid for the assistance and know that the prescription drugs were being illegally obtained. The payment can take many forms, such as money, favors, or goods. A first offense is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, but a subsequent conviction would be Class 6 felony.  

    Have you been charged with forging a drug prescription or a related crime in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you fight the charges so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. If this is your first offense, we may be able to assist you with other options to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor offense. To learn more about your options and how we can assist you, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • What is credit card fraud and what penalties might I face?

    Credit Card Being Used for Credit Card FraudThere are a number of credit card offenses in Virginia that are aggressively prosecuted. One serious crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony is credit card fraud. If you are facing these charges, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you create a successful defense so that you reach the best possible outcome given your circumstances.

    What Is Credit Card Fraud?

    Virginia Code § 18.2-195 makes it a crime for a person to knowingly use a credit card to obtain something of value with the intent to defraud. There are many ways that a person can commit this crime. Some examples include:

    • Knowingly using a stolen, lost, expired, or revoked credit card or credit card number
       
    • Using another individual’s credit card without his permission
       
    • Using an un-issued credit card to obtain something of value
       
    • Obtaining money over the card’s credit limits with the intent to defraud
       
    • Getting control of a credit card or credit card number as security for collateral for a debt

    A person who is authorized to provide goods, services, or anything of value upon the presentation of a valid credit card can also commit credit card fraud if he does any of the following with the intent to deceive the card’s issuer:

    • Gives another individual goods, services, or anything else of value when he knows that the credit card was stolen, expired, or revoked
       
    • Tells the credit card issuer that goods, services, or other things of value were provided to the cardholder when they were not
       
    • Charges a credit card with more than was authorized by the cardholder

    Penalties You May Face If Convicted of Credit Card Fraud

    Credit card fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the goods, services, or other things of value fraudulently obtained. A person may face these penalties:

    • Class 1 misdemeanor. If an individual defrauds another of less than $500 within a six-month period, the offense is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, the person may be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
       
    • Class 6 felony. If the value of the goods, or services is $500 or more within a six-month period, the credit card fraud would be charged as a Class 6 felony. The punishment may be a prison sentence of one to five years and a maximum fine of $2,500. However, the judge or jury deciding the case has the discretion to reduce the sentence to a jail of sentence of up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

    Conspiracy to Commit Credit Card Fraud

    It is also a crime to conspire with or help another person to commit credit card fraud under

    Virginia Code § 18.2-195 whether the crime is committed in or outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This crime is a Class 6 felony, and the penalties are the same as for a felony credit card fraud offense.

    Have you been charged with credit card fraud? Our experienced white collar crime attorneys understand the complexities of these cases and can help you mount a strong defense to the charges you face. To learn more, call our Fairfax office to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • What are defenses to forgery charges in Virginia?

    Gavel Engraved With Forgery TextForgery is a serious felony offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia no matter the value of what is forged. If convicted, you may be sentenced to significant prison time and a hefty fine. To avoid these harsh consequences, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can assist you in defending against the charge.

    Common Forgery Crimes in Virginia

    There are a number of forgery-related crimes that you can be charged with committing in Virginia. Three common forgery-related crimes are:

    • Forgery. Virginia Code § 18.2-172 defines forgery as the creation of a false document or alteration of an existing one with the intent to injure or defraud another. This is a Class 5 felony with a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
       
    • Uttering. Uttering is a crime under the same code section as forgery and is often charged with it. However, uttering is a separate offense. It is the use of a false document. If convicted, the sentence is the same as for forgery.
       
    • Forgery by false pretenses. Forgery by false pretenses is also a criminal offense under Virginia Code § 18.2-172. This crime involves obtaining the signature of a person with the intent to defraud him. This is a Class 5 felony with the same penalties as for forgery and uttering.

    Defenses to Forgery Charges

    In order for you to be convicted of a criminal offense, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, the elements of the crime of forgery include the act of making or altering a document and the intent to defraud another. Here are some defenses that you may be able to raise if charged with a forgery crime:

    • No intent. Evidence that you did not intend to defraud or deceive another, which is a key element of the crime, is a possible defense.
       
    • Consent. Proving that you created or altered a document with the permission of the alleged victim may be a defense that can result in the charges against you being dismissed.
       
    • Not a forgery. Another possible defense is that the document has not been forged. If you are raising this defense, you may need to hire a handwriting expert to verify the item’s authenticity.

    Have you been arrested for forgery in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? Let our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers aggressively fight the charges you face so that you achieve the best possible outcome given your circumstances. To learn more, call our Fairfax office to schedule a free consultation.