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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  • My child was accused of disorderly conduct at school. Is that a crime?

    Disorderly Conduct StampUntil recently, students could be charged with a crime for committing disorderly conduct at school, but the law changed in 2020.

    Now, Virginia’s law on Disorderly Conduct in Public Places (Virginia Code §18.2-415(D)) states, “The provisions of this section shall not apply to any elementary or secondary school student if the disorderly conduct occurred on the property of any elementary or secondary school, on a school bus as defined in § 46.2-100, or at any activity conducted or sponsored by any elementary or secondary school.”

    What Is Disorderly Conduct?

    Generally, disorderly conduct occurs if a person acts with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm or recklessly creates a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm in certain places or situations described in Virginia Code Section 18.2-415.

    Disorderly conduct is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time.

    Why Did the Law Change?

    Before the law changed, some students faced disorderly conduct charges for things such as playing music too loudly on the school bus, kicking a trash can, or cutting the line in the school cafeteria. Children of color and children with disabilities faced disorderly conduct charges more frequently than their white and non-disabled peers.

    Now, students accused of disorderly conduct at school will not face the stress of a criminal prosecution or the potentially life-changing effects of a criminal conviction.

    Two Things to Keep in Mind If Your Child Gets in Trouble at School

    Your child may not be charged with disorderly conduct if your child is an elementary, middle, or high school student and the alleged conduct occurred on the property of an elementary or secondary school, a school bus, or at a school activity.

    However, your child may still face:

    • Other criminal charges if the conduct violates another Virginia law
    • Serious school consequences that could impact your child’s future

    If your child is charged with a crime, please contact our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible to set up an initial consultation. Let’s discuss how we can work together to defend your child and protect your child’s future.


  • When is self-defense a murder defense in Virginia?

    You’ve been charged with murder. If you are convicted of murder, then you face the state’s most significant penalties, including a fine of up to $100,000, up to life in prison, and in some cases, the death penalty.

    But What If You Kill Someone in Self Defense?

    In Virginia, you have the right to use force against another person if you reasonably believe that the force is necessary to protect yourself from the imminent use of unlawful force by Self-Defense Letter Stampssomeone else. In some cases, you may also use force against someone who enters your home without permission.

    Let’s take a look at each element of self-defense separately:

    • First, you must have a reasonable belief. There is no simple definition of what makes your belief “reasonable.” Reasonable is subjective and based on what you thought was accurate at the time you acted. It doesn’t matter if what you thought was true later turned out not to be true as long as you had reason to believe that you were in imminent danger.
    • Next, your reasonable belief must be that you are in imminent danger. You may only use deadly force against someone else if you reasonably believe that you face an immediate threat of great bodily harm. In other words, the harm must be in the process of being committed or about to start. A threat of potential future bodily harm or death is not immediate and would not justify acting in self-defense.
    • Finally, you must use a reasonable amount of force in relation to the imminent danger. Your response should be proportionate to the danger that you face. For example, you may only use deadly force in self-defense if there is a present danger of serious bodily injury. Words alone do not justify the use of force.

    You have the burden of proving self-defense. However, you only need to raise reasonable doubt among the jury about the crime of which you are accused. You do not need to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Don’t Delay Contacting a Murder Defense Lawyer

    If you acted in self-defense, the court might find that the incident was a justifiable homicide or an excusable homicide, and you may save yourself from the severe consequences of a murder conviction. You have a lot at stake, and now is the time to contact a Virginia murder defense lawyer for a free consultation. Call us or reach out to us through this website today to learn more.


  • What is probation?

    Probation Paperwork With a GavelProbation may be part of your sentence after you are convicted of a crime or you enter a plea agreement. When you are on probation you are not in jail, but you must comply with the terms of your probation and not commit any crimes.

    Probation Rules

    Terms of probation vary from case to case, but there is one thing that is always the same: you must comply with the terms of your probation. If you fail to comply with your probation rules, then you could end up facing additional consequences such as jail time or fines.

    The specific conditions of your probation may include:

    • Community service work
    • Not using any illegal drugs
    • Not contacting the victim of the crime for which you were sentenced
    • Maintaining regular contact with your probation officer
    • Not possessing a firearm
    • Keeping steady employment
    • Staying in Virginia

    Your Virginia criminal defense lawyer will explain all of your probation rules to you.

    Probation Officers

    Virginia probation officers have specific legal duties. These duties include, but are not limited to:

    • Investigating and reporting on any case referred by a judge or court
    • Providing the probationer (the person on probation) with a written statement about the conditions of probation and instructing the person about those conditions
    • Supervising and assisting probationers and helping them get into substance abuse treatment programs, if appropriate
    • Arresting and recommitting a probationer to jail if the terms of probation are violated
    • Ordering and conducting drug and alcohol screening tests if the probation officer has reason to believe the probationer is engaged in the illegal use of controlled substances or marijuana, or abusing alcohol

    Probation officers must also keep records, make reports, and perform other duties as required.

    Think About Probation Long Before Sentencing

    In many cases, probation is preferable to jail. However, probation is still a criminal sentence. Whether or not you violate the terms of probation, you could still face significant and long-term consequences because of your criminal record.

    Accordingly, we encourage you to contact our Virginia criminal defense lawyers as soon as you are accused of a crime, or even before that if you think that you may be charged with a crime. Let us investigate your case and build a defense strategy to protect your rights. You can begin right now by calling our Fairfax criminal defense law firm for a free consultation.


  • What are some possible defenses to theft charges?

    Theft Note With Money in a Back PocketNot all theft crimes are the same in Virginia. There are different elements and legal consequences for theft crimes such as burglary, robbery, and larceny.

    Similarly, not all theft defenses are the same in Virginia. Your defense will depend on the crime you allegedly committed and the particular facts of your case.

    Theft Defenses to Consider

    Our criminal defense legal team will consider the following defenses to determine which ones may apply to your case:

    • Lack of intent. You must have the intent to steal to be convicted of a theft crime. If you had permission to take property or reasonably believed that you had permission to take the property, then you lacked the intent to commit the crime.
    • The property’s value is too low for you to be charged with the crime. Some crimes require the property to be worth a certain amount of money. For example, grand larceny involves stolen property valued at more than $500 or a firearm worth more than $5.
    • There was no violence involved. Some theft crimes are only crimes if you used or threatened to use violence. You should not be convicted of robbery unless prosecutors can prove that you took property while using or threatening force.
    • Entrapment. If someone, such as a police officer, convinced you to steal something that you wouldn’t have otherwise taken, then you may be able to raise an entrapment defense.
    • Duress. If you did not steal property voluntarily, but instead did so because you were threatened with violence or blackmailed into taking the property, then you may have a defense to the criminal theft charges against you.

    One or more of these defenses may apply in your case and may help you avoid significant jail time, fines, and other consequences of a criminal conviction.

    As always, your lawyer will also carefully review the prosecutor’s case to determine if there is any reasonable doubt about any element of the crime.

    Talk to a Virginia Theft Defense Lawyer About Your Defense Strategy

    Our experienced Fairfax theft defense attorneys will thoroughly evaluate the government’s case against you and advise you of your defense options. We will aggressively fight to protect your rights and your future. Call us or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you today to schedule a free consultation.


  • What are the potential penalties for conspiracy to distribute drugs in Virginia?

    Criminal Charges Touch Screen IconsThe legal penalties for conspiracy to distribute drugs are the same as the legal penalties for the crime which is the object of the conspiracy. According to Virginia Code §18.2-256, someone who conspires to commit a drug-related offense or violate the Drug Control Act faces imprisonment and a fine that cannot be less than the minimum punishment nor more than the maximum punishment would be if the crime were committed.

    Fines and Prison Time for Conspiracy to Distribute Drugs

    The potential consequences for conspiracy to distribute drugs depend on the specific drug you allegedly conspired to distribute and whether this was your first or subsequent offense. For first offense conspiracy to distribute:

    • Schedule I and II drugs. The penalty is 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Schedule I and II drugs include heroin, ecstasy, LSD, cocaine, morphine, Ritalin, PCP, and methamphetamine.
    • Schedule III drugs. The penalty is up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Schedule III drugs include anabolic steroids, codeine, some barbiturates, and depressants.
    • Schedule IV drugs. The penalty is up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Drugs in this schedule include Darvon, Valium, Xanax, and other tranquilizers.
    • Schedule V drugs. The penalty is up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Schedule V drugs include codeine-based cough medicines and other over-the-counter medications.

    The potential penalties are more significant for:

    • Second or subsequent violations of the law
    • Large volume drug dealers
    • Transporting controlled substances

    Whether or not the conspiracy to distribute drugs resulted in the actual distribution of drugs, you face serious and potentially life-changing consequences. A criminal charge is not the same as a conviction or sentence, however. You may fight the charges against you, and our Fairfax drug offense lawyers are here to help you. Call us or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you for a free, no-obligation consultation about your defense.


  • Do I have to tell my employer or potential employer about my DUI?

    Handcuffs, Car Keys, and a Glass of AlcoholYou may be embarrassed about a drunk driving arrest or concerned that a drunk driving conviction could cost you a job. You don’t want to discuss a drunk driving arrest or conviction with your current or potential employer, but you also don’t want to create more trouble for yourself by failing to disclose the truth.

    Know What You Have to Disclose About a DUI Arrest or Conviction

    Often, whether or not you need to tell an employer or potential employer about your DUI arrest or conviction depends on the terms of your employment contract or the exact question on the employment application. We encourage you to look for the exact wording in your:

    • Job contract. Not all employers provide job contracts and not all job contracts require you to disclose DUI arrests or convictions. However, if you have a written contract, then look for any clause that may require you to report a DUI arrest or conviction to your employer. Teachers, military personnel, and public employees, for example, may have job contracts that require them to report arrests or convictions.
    • Job application. It would be best if you answered any question on a job application honestly. Most job applications ask about criminal convictions rather than arrests. Some applications only ask about felony convictions. Make sure that you answer the exact question that is asked of you.

    Work With a DUI Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

    You are right to be concerned about how a DUI may impact your employment. Additionally, there are other ways that a DUI conviction may significantly impact your life, including jail time, fines, license revocation, mandatory rehabilitation programs, and other consequences.

    Our experienced Fairfax DUI defense lawyers want to minimize the negative consequences you face, make sure that you are treated fairly, and help you secure the best possible outcome in your case. Please fill out our online contact form or call us directly to begin protecting your rights as soon as possible.


  • What are some possible defenses if you’re a driver who is accused of leaving the scene of an accident?

    Hit and Run Traffic SignVirginia Code §46.2-894 requires drivers to do three things. Drivers should: (1) stop as close as they can to the accident scene without obstructing traffic, (2) report their name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number to the police, and (3) provide reasonable assistance for anyone injured in the crash. The failure to do any of these things is a crime known as leaving the scene of the accident.

    If the crash resulted only in property damage valued at $1,000 or less, then leaving the scene of the accident is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both jail time and a fine.

    Leaving the scene of an accident where an injury or death occurred, or where the property damage is valued at $1,000 or more is a Class 5 felony, which is punishable by a jail term of one to ten years and a fine of up to $2,500.

    Potential Hit and Run Defenses

    If you are accused of leaving the scene of an accident, then you need to consider your potential defenses. Our experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyers will consider exactly what happened and develop a comprehensive criminal defense strategy for your unique case.

    Some of the defenses that we will consider include:

    • There is reasonable doubt that you committed any aspect of the alleged crime
    • Your injuries prevented you from remaining at the accident scene, and you reported the accident as soon as you could
    • The police didn’t follow proper procedures
    • You weren’t the driver at the time of the accident (in these cases, another law may apply)
    • There was no injury, death, or property damage
    • You hit an unattended car and left a note after a reasonable attempt to find the owner

    Virginia’s hit and run laws are complicated, and the consequences of a conviction are significant. Accordingly, we encourage you to contact our understanding Virginia criminal defense lawyers for a thorough review of your case and to discuss your potential defense. Please call us or reach out to us through this website today to set up your initial meeting.


  • What are the potential penalties for possessing a weapon on school property?

    Gun Sitting on Top of School SuppliesIt is a crime to have a weapon on school property in Virginia. Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1 defines the crime and the potential penalties that you may face.

    For purposes of this law, school property is defined as public, private, and religious:

    • Daycare centers
    • Preschools
    • Elementary schools
    • Middle schools
    • High schools
    • Property being used exclusively for a school-sponsored function or extracurricular activity
    • School buses

    The specific penalty you may face for having a weapon on school property depends on the type of weapon involved in the alleged crime.

    Weapons Other Than Firearms

    It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly possess a stun weapon, knife (other than certain pocket knives), or another dangerous weapon (other than a firearm) on school property, in school buildings, on property used by the school for a function or activity, or on a school bus.

    A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail term.


    It is a Class 6 felony to knowingly possess a firearm or gun on school property, in school buildings, on property used by the school for a function or activity, or on a school bus.

    The penalty for a Class 6 felony includes a prison term of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail term. However, if you are convicted of intending to use, threatening to use, or attempting to use the firearm within a school building, then you face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

    Exceptions to the Weapons on School Property Law

    Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1(E) provides specific exceptions to the law described above. If one of the following is true, then you should not be convicted of having a weapon on school property:

    • You have the weapon as part of the school’s curriculum or activities.
    • You have a knife customarily used for food preparation or service.
    • You have a weapon as part of any program sponsored or facilitated by the school or an organization authorized by the school to conduct a program on or off school grounds.
    • You are a law-enforcement officer qualified to carry a handgun.
    • You have a knife or blade that you customarily use in your line of work.
    • You have an unloaded firearm or stun weapon in a closed container, a knife in a motor vehicle, or unloaded shotgun or rifle in a firearms rack in a motor vehicle.
    • You have a valid concealed handgun permit and you have a concealed handgun or stun weapon in a motor vehicle.
    • You are a school security officer who is authorized to carry a firearm.
    • You are an armed and licensed security officer hired by a daycare or private or religious school to protect students and employees.

    Other defenses may also apply in your case.

    To learn how best to protect your rights and avoid potential penalties after an arrest for having a weapon on school property in Virginia, please contact our experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.


  • What are defenses to arson charges in Virginia?

    Fire Line Tape at the Scene of an ArsonEvery arson case is unique and the answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances of your case. Our experienced Virginia arson defense lawyers will review all of the facts of your case to determine which defenses apply and to make sure all of your legal rights are protected.

    Arson Defenses to Consider

    It is the government’s responsibility to prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If the government fails to prove its case, then you cannot be convicted. In an arson case, the government must prove that the fire was started intentionally by you and that you had malicious intent.

    Depending on the specifics of the case, some possible defenses include:

    • Lack of intent. The fire investigation must prove that the fire was set deliberately and not by accident. Additionally, the prosecution must prove that you meant to do something wrong. If you started a fire by accident, then you shouldn’t be convicted of arson and you may provide evidence that proves your lack of intent.
    • Mistaken identity. Even if the fire was set intentionally, you can only be convicted of arson if the prosecution proves that you were the one who caused the fire. If it wasn’t you who did it, then you may provide evidence establishing where you were at the time of the fire, what you were doing at the time of the fire, or someone else’s likely involvement in starting the fire.
    • Insufficient evidence. Sometimes, you don’t need to present evidence to the court. Instead, your defense lawyers may argue that the government does not have enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    More than one of these defenses could apply to your case.

    Now Is the Time to Consider Your Arson Defense

    If you are convicted of violating an arson law in Virginia, then you face a variety of penalties up to and including life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Your life could change forever.

    Whether you have already been charged with arson or you expect to be charged with arson, we encourage you to contact our Northern Virginia criminal defense attorneys today to make sure that all possible defenses are considered and that you are treated fairly.


  • Can I give someone marijuana as a gift in Virginia?

    Gift Bag With Marijuana In most cases, you cannot legally give someone marijuana as a gift in Virginia. Virginia Code §18.2-248.1 makes it a crime to give someone else marijuana unless you are authorized to do so by the Drug Control Act.

    What Is a Gift?

    When you gift someone marijuana, you do not take payment or any other form of consideration in exchange for it. Instead, you provide the marijuana to someone without receiving anything in exchange for it.

    Potential Penalties for Gifting Marijuana

    Generally, Virginia Code §18.2-248.1 imposes the following penalties for violating the statute:

    • Up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both prison time and a fine if not more than one ounce of marijuana was involved.
    • Up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both prison time and a fine if more than one ounce, but not more than five pounds of marijuana was involved.
    • Five to 30 years in prison if more than five pounds of marijuana was involved.

    However, if you gave marijuana to someone else to accommodate that person, and not to profit from it or encourage the person to become addicted to or dependent on marijuana, then the penalties described above do not apply.

    Instead of the typical charges for distributing marijuana, you may face:

    • Up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both prison time and a fine.
    • Two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 if you gifted marijuana to an inmate or someone in custody at a local or state correctional facility.

    Additionally, if you manufacture marijuana not for your own use, then you may face felony charges with a potential prison sentence of five to thirty years and a fine of up to $10,000.

    You could also face additional jail time and fines if you are convicted of committing a felony pursuant to Virginia Code §18.2-248.1 for a third or subsequent time. Then, the Commonwealth of Virginia may seek a sentence of five years to life in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

    Now Is the Time to Defend Yourself

    Even though you were giving a gift, your freedom is at stake if you’ve been charged with a crime. Contact our experienced Fairfax drug defense attorneys today to make sure that your rights are protected. We would be happy to offer you a free initial consultation.