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 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.

     

  • I was arrested for counterfeiting in Virginia. What penalties might I face?

    Counterfeit Charges Button on a ComputerCounterfeiting is a forgery crime in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is a serious felony offense. If you are convicted of this white collar crime, you may be sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence and ordered to pay hefty fines.

    Counterfeiting Crimes and Penalties in Fairfax

    Counterfeiting involves the making of fake money, which can be either bills or coins. There are several counterfeiting crimes in Virginia:

    • Counterfeiting. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-170, it is a crime to forge a note, coin, or bill of a banking institution with the intent to defraud. It is also illegal to make a coin, bill, or note that purports to be of a banking company that is not in existence. This is a Class 4 felony with a possible sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
       
    • Uttering counterfeit money. You can be charged with uttering counterfeit money under Virginia Code § 18.2-172 for intentionally trying to pass it off or “utter” it as if it were real money. This crime is a Class 5 felony. Your sentence if convicted can include between 2 and 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $2,500.
       
    • Possessing counterfeit money. Possessing counterfeit coins, bills, or notes, whether or not you also forged them, with the intent to pass them off as real money is also a white-collar offense under Virginia Code § 18.2-173. It can be charged as a Class 3 misdemeanor if you possess less than 10 forged bills or coins or as a Class 6 felony if you have more than 10 coins or bills. If convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor, the penalty is a fine not to exceed $500. A Class 6 felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.

    If you have been charged with a counterfeiting crime in Fairfax or Northern Virginia, you cannot afford to take the charges lightly. In addition to the harsh penalties you face, you would have a permanent criminal record with long-term consequences on your ability to obtain a job and other aspects of your life.

    Let our experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyers help you build a strong defense to the charges you face. Call our Fairfax office or start an online chat to learn more about how we can assist you.

  • When can I be charged with felony murder and what penalties might I face in Virginia?

    Police Car Picking up a Felony Murder SuspectFelony murder is the killing of a person while in the commission of a felony crime in Virginia. It is also referred to as felony homicide. A person can be charged with this crime even if he did not intend to murder. If convicted, the punishment can be decades in prison.

    What Is Felony Murder?

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-33, felony murder is the accidental killing of a person in the commission of certain felony crimes. This crime can be committed if the victim dies immediately or after the accused person has left the scene of the crime. It is often charged and punished as second-degree murder.

    However, if the felony is an especially serious one, felony murder can be charged as first-degree murder. These offenses include:

    • Rape
       
    • Arson
       
    • Robbery
       
    • Burglary
       
    • Abduction
       
    • Penetration by an inanimate or animate object

    In order to be convicted of felony murder, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes proving the following:

    • The act that caused the victim’s death was committed by a person involved in the felony crime.
       
    • The actions that caused the victim’s death were in furtherance of the underlying felony.
       
    • An action of the accused person was the cause of the victim’s death.

    What Are the Penalties for Felony Murder?

    The penalties for felony murder will depend on the type of felony the person is charged with committing and his prior criminal record. However, the punishment for felony homicide is between 5 and 40 years in prison if it is charged as second-degree murder.

    We Can Help You Defend Against Felony Murder Charges in Fairfax

    If you have been charged with felony murder, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to fight the very serious charges you face. Even if you are guilty of felony murder or the underlying felony, you may have strong defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

    Our skilled and dedicated lawyers are here to mount the strongest defense possible to the charges you face. We will aggressively fight for the best possible outcome in your case and are not afraid to take your case to trial if this is in your best interests. To learn more about how we can assist you, call our Fairfax office or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation.

  • What penalties might a teen face for sexting?

    Young Teen Girl Sexting on Cell PhoneSexting is the sending of nude or sexually suggestive photographs to others through a text message. This is becoming an increasingly common practice among teens. However, sexting is a crime in Virginia. While some states have enacted laws making the penalties less harsh when the sexting is between teenagers, this is not the case in Virginia.

    What Is the Crime of Teen Sexting?

    There is no specific crime of teen sexting in Virginia. Instead, a teenager would be charged with a state or federal child pornography offense. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-374.1:1, it is a crime to be in the possession of or to distribute child pornography. This includes creating, possessing, sending, or resending sexually explicit pictures of minors under 18 years old through text messages. There is no distinction between adults and juveniles under this law.

    Because sexting is charged as a child pornography offense, it is a felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If convicted, a teen may face these penalties:

    • First offense. A first offense of possession of child pornography is a Class 6 felony. Upon conviction, a person may face up to five years in prison.
       
    • Second offense. A second or subsequent violation would be a Class 5 felony. The sentence may include a prison sentence of 1 to 10 years and a fine of up to $2,500.

    A teenager charged with sexting may be prosecuted in Virginia’s juvenile court system rather than the adult criminal court. In this situation, the judge would have more discretion in the punishment imposed if a teen is convicted.

    Contact Our Experienced Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help

    Has your teenager been charged with a child pornography offense for sexting in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? We represent clients facing both state and federal charges. Our skilled criminal defense lawyers can put on a strong defense to the charges he faces so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our Fairfax office or fill out our convenient online form to schedule a free consultation today to find out more about how we can assist you.

  • How does the Commonwealth of Virginia define date rape?

    A Couple on a Date Having Drinks at a BarDate rape is a serious offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia that can result in severe penalties and long-term consequences. It is also commonly known as “acquaintance rape.” If you have been charged with this crime, you need to retain an experienced sex crimes defense attorney in Fairfax as soon as possible to help you get the best possible result.

    What Is the Crime of Date Rape in Virginia?

    Date rape is a rape crime under Virginia Code § 18.2-61. This law defines rape as any act of sexual intercourse against the victim’s will through the use of force, threat, or intimidation or by use of the victim’s mental or physical incapacity. Some unique factors in date rape crimes include:

    • The alleged victim and perpetrator know each other. They can be new acquaintances who have just met, long-term romantic parties, friends, or spouses.
       
    • The date rape does not need to be performed with the use or threat of force or intimidation. The allegation may be that the victim was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was physically incapacitated or mentally incapacitated.
       
    • A major issue when someone is charged with date rape is whether the victim consented or was capable of consenting to sexual intercourse. In some cases, there may be an honest misunderstanding where the person charged with date rape believed that consent was given and did not have any understanding that he may have been committing a crime.

    Penalties You Face If Convicted of Date Rape

    Date rape is a felony offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the punishment upon conviction is the same as for other rape crimes. The possible sentence someone charged with date rap faces is a minimum mandatory prison sentence of five years to up to life in prison. If convicted, the offender would have a permanent criminal record and be required to register on Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry.

    If you are being investigated for date rape or have been charged with this crime in Fairfax or Northern Virginia, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you take proactive measures for a strong defense so that the charges against you are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our office or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • What charges can I face if I am arrested for distributing drugs to a minor?

    In Virginia, any violation of controlled substance laws is prosecuted aggressively. Being charged with distributing drugs to a minor is a serious felony offense, and the punishment can include a lengthy prison sentence and a large fine. If you have been arrested for this crime, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

    What Is the Penalty for Distributing Drugs to a Minor?

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-555, it is a felony crime to distribute controlled substances to a minor. Here are ways that an individual who is 18 years old or older can violate this law:

    • By intentionally or knowingly distributing any drug classified as a Schedule I-IV drug or marijuana to a person under 18 years old who is at least three years younger than him.
       
    • By intentionally or knowingly causing a person under 18 years old to assist in the distribution of a Schedule I-IV controlled substance.

    If convicted, an individual faces harsh penalties that include a mandatory minimum prison sentence. Here are the potential sentences for violations of Virginia Code § 18.2-555:

    • The sentence for distributing drugs to a minor or causing a minor to assist in distributing them is a prison sentence of not less than 10 years and not more than 50 years and a fine not to exceed $100,000.
       
    • If the conviction is for a Schedule I or II controlled substance or one or more ounces of marijuana, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Examples of Schedule I and II drugs include heroin, PCP, ecstasy, cocaine, and opium.
       
    • If the conviction involves less than one ounce of marijuana, there is a two-year mandatory minimum sentence. 

    It is also a crime to distribute to or cause a minor to assist in distributing an imitation controlled substance. This is a Class 6 felony with a sentence range of one to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

    Are you being charged with a drug offense in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? Call our office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys to learn about your options and how we can help you put on a strong defense to the charges you face.

  • Do I need to report my reckless driving conviction on a job application?

    Prospective Employee Filling Out a Job ApplicationWhen you are charged with reckless driving, it is not just a traffic ticket. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, and you will have a permanent criminal record if convicted. Because of this, you may have to disclose your conviction on job applications, which may impact your job prospects when hunting for a job in Fairfax and throughout Northern Virginia.

    When Do You Need to Disclose a Reckless Driving Conviction on a Job Application?

    More and more employers are conducting a criminal background check or asking about a person’s criminal record on their job applications. When deciding whether you need to disclose your criminal record when applying for a job, it is important to read the question very carefully. You may be asked about your criminal background in a few ways, and this will affect how you answer. Here are some possible questions:

    • Have you ever been charged with a crime? If you are asked this question, you would need to answer yes, because reckless driving is a criminal offense.
       
    • Have you been convicted of a crime? If you were convicted of reckless driving, you would answer yes to this question. If the charge was dismissed or was reduced to a traffic violation that is not a misdemeanor, you most likely can answer no. However, if the charges were dismissed based on you completing community service or a driving school course, you do not have to disclose your reckless driving charge as long as it was dismissed or reduced to another offense after you completed the deferral conditions.
       
    • Have you been convicted of a felony? Reckless driving charges are misdemeanors. However, in certain situations the same behavior that would be reckless driving could also be a felony. Depending on what you are charged with, you may or may not have to answer yes to this question.

    It is important to keep in mind that reckless driving is most often a misdemeanor, not a felony. Many employers will consider a misdemeanor conviction in a much different light than if a person was convicted of a felony. In addition, some employers only ask about convictions for the last 10 years. If your conviction occurred earlier than that, you would not need to mention it in this situation.

    However, a reckless driving conviction may prevent you from obtaining employment in certain professions that require driving. For example, driving instructors at schools and individuals with commercial licenses may not be able to keep their jobs. Likewise, it may be difficult to gain employment at jobs where driving is required by the employer (e.g. construction jobs, Uber/Lyft).

    What Happens If You Fail to Disclose Your Reckless Driving Conviction?

    If you are required to disclose your conviction and fail to do so, your employer may discover it when doing a criminal background check. Your answer would most likely be considered untruthful and may be grounds not to hire you or to terminate you. Employers are typically more concerned about deceit than the fact that you were once convicted of reckless driving, especially if it occurred years ago.

    You can avoid some of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences of a reckless driving conviction by retaining an experienced reckless driving attorney in Fairfax. To learn how we would aggressively mount a defense to the charges you face, fill out our convenient online form to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • Am I pleading guilty if I sign a reckless driving ticket?

    Reckless Driving Court Date Circled on a CalendarWhen you are charged with reckless driving in Fairfax, it is different than being charged with other crimes. Typically, you are not handcuffed and taken down to the police station to be booked and jailed. Instead, the police officer gives you a ticket (called a summons) and asks you to sign it.

    Should You Sign the Reckless Driving Ticket?

    Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. While an officer can arrest you for the offense, they usually do not. Instead, you are asked to sign the summons, which is a promise to appear in court. Below is some information you may find on your summons and an explanation of the legal effect of signing the summons.

    • You are not pleading guilty to reckless driving by signing the summons. It is only a promise that you will be in court. If you do not live up to that promise, then you could be arrested or otherwise brought to court to explain why you did not appear for your court date.

    What Happens If You Refuse to Sign the Summons?

    If you do not sign the summons, the police officer may assume that you do not intend to appear at future court hearings. He can arrest you and take you to the police station for booking as a result. 

    The police have discretion in deciding to arrest individuals charged with certain less serious offenses, such as reckless driving. Refusing to sign the summons can be enough of a hindrance or annoyance to the officer for them to justify your arrest. Additionally, by not signing the summons, you come across as rude and uncooperative, which is likely a factor that will play into resolving your case. Signing the summons is a good strategy to avoid these negative consequences.

    Contact Us for Help Fighting Your Reckless Driving Charge

    While you should sign the summons, it is not in your best interests to just plead guilty and accept your punishment. If convicted, your sentence may include jail time, hefty fines, driver’s license suspension, points on your driving record, and a permanent criminal record. Even if you are guilty of this crime, you may have strong defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

    Our experienced reckless driving attorneys will aggressively fight the charges you face so that you achieve the best possible outcome. Call our Fairfax law office or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • How Long Do I Have To Pay My Fines And Costs To The Court?

    Fairfax county court finesFines and court costs are technically immediately due once imposed.  However, Virginia Code § 46.2-395 allows up to 30 days for payment before the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend a driver’s license for failure to pay fines and court costs.  If you are unable to pay your fines and costs within 30 days, you should notify your attorney so that your attorney can request an extension of time from the judge.  If the court grants such an extension, you will be given a new deadline for payment.

    Failure to pay by that deadline will result in the suspension of your driving privileges by the DMV, which will then charge you a reinstatement fee to get your license back after you pay your fines and costs.  More significantly, if the DMV suspends your license and you continue to drive, you may face a criminal charge of driving under a suspended license. Therefore, if you need more time to pay after having received an extension of time, it is important to go back to court and request that extension of time rather than simply allowing the time to expire without payment.

  • Do I need a lawyer for a first offense shoplifting charge?

    Womain shoplifting in VirginiaAbsolutely.  A shoplifting charge in Virginia, even for a first offense, is a criminal misdemeanor if the value of the items is less than $500.  If the value is $500 or more, it is a felony even for a first offense.  

    Because misdemeanor shoplifting is a Class 1 misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.  More importantly, a shoplifting conviction is a permanent blemish on your record that you will have to deal with for the rest of your life.  Having a conviction record could have significant implications for your future, including loss of employment, loss of a security clearance, inability to obtain employment, difficulty obtaining housing, or deportation or ineligibility for immigration benefits if you are not a U.S. citizen.  

    Some jurisdictions, such as Fairfax County, have a first offender program for misdemeanor shoplifting.  This program requires you to admit your guilt first, after which the court defers entering its finding of guilt and places you on probation for a period of time.  As part of probation, you will be required to complete a shoplifting education course and a certain number of hours of community service, while also remaining of general good behavior.  At the end of the probation period, assuming you successfully completed it and did not violate the law again, the charge is dismissed.  However, it is very important to note that a charge dismissed under this kind of deferral cannot be expunged from your criminal record under current Virginia law.  Moreover, many jurisdictions do not offer first offender shoplifting programs.  

    If you are facing a shoplifting charge, it is critically important to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process and attempt to obtain the most favorable resolution possible.