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 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.

     

  • What are the potential penalties for domestic abuse in Virginia?

    Judge's Gavel Used in a Domestic Abuse Case You’ve been charged with domestic assault. Now you, understandably, want to know what could happen to you next.

    Jail Time and Fines

    According to Virginia Code Section 18.2-57.2, domestic assault and battery against a family member or member of your household can result in:

    • Up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time if it is your first or second offense.
       
    • Up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time if this is your third or subsequent conviction.

    If you’ve been charged with a simple assault, you do not have any previous convictions or deferrals of convictions for domestic assault, and other conditions are met, then the court may defer the proceedings against you and put you on probation. You may be placed with a community-based probation services agency and required to complete all identified assessments, treatments, education programs, and services. Depending on your financial situation, you may have to pay for your probation assessments, treatments, education, and services.  Upon successful completion of these conditions, the court may dismiss the domestic assault charge.

    Other Consequences of Domestic Abuse

    Jail time and fines are often the first penalties people think of after they’ve been charged with a crime. However, these aren’t the only potential consequences you face for a domestic abuse conviction. In Virginia, you may also suffer other consequences, such as:

    • Mandatory treatment, like anger management courses, for example
       
    • A protective order that requires you to stay away from a certain person and from the family home
       
    • Employment consequences if your potential employer does a background or security check
    • Potential loss of a security clearance
       
    • Child custody and visitation limitations, even if you are not accused of abusing your children
       
    • Gun right limitations

    Contact a Domestic Abuse Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

    Do not wait to hear your sentence before contacting a domestic abuse defense attorney. By then, it could be too late to avoid the consequences of a criminal conviction. Instead, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers of Greenspun Shapiro PC for help as soon as possible. We will review every aspect of your case and make sure that your legal rights are protected. Call us or fill out our contact form to have us contact you today.

     

  • What is aggravated sexual battery?

    Sexual battery is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. A sexual battery occurs when there is a sexual assault involving the intentional or forced touching of a person’s intimate body parts against the will of the alleged victim. A person convicted of a sexual battery may face up to 12 months in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time.

    However, certain factors defined in Virginia Code §18.2-67.3 make a sexual battery an aggravated sexual battery. An aggravated sexual battery is a felony. In Virginia, the crime of aggravated sexual battery is punishable by a jail term of one to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

    How a Sexual Battery Becomes an Aggravated Sexual Battery

    Virginia law makes a sexual battery an aggravated sexual battery if one of the following circumstances is true:

    • The alleged victim is younger than 13 years old.
       
    • The sexual battery is accomplished by the use of the alleged victim’s mental or physical incapacity.
       
    • The alleged victim is between the ages of 13 and 18, and the sexual battery was committed by their parent, step-parent, grandparent, or step-grandparent.
       
    • Force, threat, or intimidation was used to commit a sexual battery, and one of the following is true: (1) the alleged victim is between the ages of 13 and 15; (2) the person accused of the sexual battery causes the alleged victim to suffer a serious physical or mental injury; or (3) the person accused of sexual battery used or threatened to use a dangerous weapon.

    Sex crime cases may be complicated. It is essential that you begin protecting your rights immediately if you’ve been accused of aggravated sexual battery or any other Virginia sex crime.

    Talk to an Experienced Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer as Soon as Possible

    If you’ve been arrested for aggravated sexual battery, then you face a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, and up to a lifetime on the Sex Offender Registry.

    You deserve to be treated fairly so that you don’t face an unreasonable sentence. Our experienced Virginia sex crimes defense attorneys will thoroughly investigate your case and raise all possible defenses to make sure that your rights and your future are protected. Please contact us today to learn more about how to protect yourself and to schedule an initial consultation.

     

  • When does a protective order end?

    Expired StampWhen your protective order ends depends on how it ends. If nothing is done to end a protective order early or to extend it, then the protective order expires on the date contained in the order or, if no date is provided, then two years from the date the protective order was issued. Protective orders end at 11:59 p.m. on the last day that they are valid.

    Protective Orders May Be Extended or Terminated Early

    Virginia law allows protective orders to be extended or terminated. Specifically, Virginia Code §19. 2-152.10 provides that:

    • Protective order extensions may be granted any time before the protective order is set to expire. According to Virginia Code §19. 2-152.10B, the person requesting the extension must file a written motion with the court. The court may extend the protective order for up to two years if the court feels that is appropriate after hearing evidence. The new expiration date of the protective order will either be included in the protective order or be two years from the date the protective order extension was granted.
       
    • Protective order terminations may be granted any time before the protective order is set to expire. Virginia Code §19. 2-152.10G allows either party to the protective order to file a written motion with the court seeking early termination of the order.

    Both motions to extend protective orders and to terminate protective orders are given priority on the court’s calendar.

    Are You Ready for Your Protective Order to End?

    If you are seeking to terminate your protective order early or to keep it from being extended, then we encourage you to contact our Virginia protective order attorneys today. You must act carefully to avoid violating the protective order that is in place and to achieve your legal goals.

    Our experienced Fairfax protective order lawyers are here to help you at each step of the way. Whether an initial protective order is being sought against you, someone is trying to modify the order, or you want to terminate the order, we may be able to help you. Please contact us through this website or call us directly to learn more.

     

  • How can I terminate a protective order in Virginia?

    Judge Signing a Protection OrderIf you are subject to a Virginia protective order, then you have two choices. You can wait until the protective order expires, or you can take action to end the protective order early.

    Virginia courts can issue full protective orders for up to two years. Your protective order may have a specific date when it expires. If it does, then the protective order ends at 11:59 p.m. on that date. If it does not, then it ends at 11:59 p.m. two years from the date it was issued.

    How to End a Protective Order Early

    You may have good reason to want to end the full protective order early. Virginia Code § 19.2-152.10(G) allows either party to a protection order to file a written motion with the court to dissolve (or modify) the protection order.  Although the statute allows either party to file a written motion, the court will only make a decision after listening to evidence.

    If you wish to try to end the protective order early, then you should do so carefully. You must go to court and the person who initially requested the protective order will also need to be noticed and attend court as well.  However, you could violate the protective order just by contacting that person. Therefore, you should consult with an experienced Virginia protective order before taking any action.

    Your attorney will advise you of all of your rights and options. If the person who requested the protection order is not in agreement, then the court will look very carefully at all of the facts, including your recent behavior, compliance with the protective order, and compliance with any other court or probation matters. 

    Some of the evidence you should be prepared to provide to the court include:

    • Probation records
       
    • Any relevant information about child custody or visitation
       
    • Statements from relatives and other people in your life
       
    • Documentation about any rehabilitation you’ve undergone since the protective order was issued
       
    • Documentation from your employer about whether you are showing up for work, your attitude on the job, and other relevant information

    Protective orders have significant consequences, and we are here to help you navigate the legal system before and after a protective order is issued. Please call our experienced Fairfax protective order defense lawyers today to learn more.

     

  • How can I get off the Sex Offender Registry in Virginia?

    Sex Offender Text on a Computer Screen With a Wooden GavelAs you well know, inclusion on the Virginia sex offender registry can impact your life significantly. The police can monitor your location, you are prohibited from going to certain places such as schools or playgrounds, and anyone interested can search for your name on the sex offender list.

    You, understandably, want to get off the list.

    Only Non-Violent Offenders May Be Eligible for Removal

    Virginia Code § 9.1-910 allows a person on the sex offender registry to petition the court for removal from the registry unless the person is on the registry because of a conviction for:

    • A sexually violent offense, such as rape
       
    • Two or more offenses that require registration
       
    • Murder

    If you were required to register for any other reason, then you could be eligible for removal from the list after 15 or 25 years, depending on your specific criminal conviction. Additionally, you must complete all court-ordered treatment, counseling, and restitution before you seek removal.

    Petitioning the Court for Sex Offender Registry Removal

    Whether or not you are removed from the sex offender registry will be a court’s decision.

    If you think that you are eligible for removal, then you may petition the circuit court where you were convicted or the circuit court where you live to have your name and information removed from the registry.

    The court will receive a copy of your complete criminal history and your sex offender registration history.

    Then, the court will hold a hearing on the petition. You, and any other interested parties, may present witnesses and evidence to the court.

    After the hearing, the court will grant your petition for removal from the sex offender registry if the court is satisfied that you are no longer a risk to public safety. The court will issue an order granting the petition, and the Virginia State Police will remove your name and identifying information from the registry.

    You have a lot at stake. If the court does not grant your petition, then you must wait 24 months before trying again. During this time, all of the restrictions imposed by the registry remain. Potential landlords, employers, friends, and neighbors can find you on the registry, and you will continue to suffer the consequences that come with registering as a sex offender.

    Since you have so much at stake, we encourage you to contact our experienced Fairfax sex offender defense lawyers today to learn more about your rights and your potential eligibility for sex offender registry removal.

     

  • What is money laundering, and what are the possible penalties if I’m convicted of money laundering in Virginia?

    Money Laundering Touch IconMoney laundering involves conducting a financial transaction with money derived from illegal activity. Virginia Code § 18.2-246.3 makes it a crime to use money obtained illegally in a financial transaction, and it makes it a crime to use money obtained illegally in cash conversions. While both offenses are money laundering, the crimes and the potential penalties are different.

    Money Laundering Financial Transactions

    Virginia Code §18.2-246.3(A) makes it illegal to conduct a financial transaction if you know the property involved in the transaction is the proceeds of an activity that is a felony in Virginia, any other state or territory, Washington D.C., or the United States.

    For example, it is against the law to invest money in a legal business if you know the money came from selling illegal drugs.

    The penalty for money laundering in this way is imprisonment for up to 40 years, a fine of up to $500,000, or both jail time and a fine.

    Money Laundering Cash Conversions

    The second money laundering crime is found in Virginia Code §18.2-246.3(B). According to this section of the law, it is illegal for a person to convert cash into negotiable instruments or electronic funds for someone else for compensation if the person knows the cash is the proceeds of an activity that is a felony in Virginia, any other state or territory, Washington D.C., or the United States.

    The first time a person is convicted of this crime, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction include a jail term of up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

    If a person is convicted of this crime for a second or subsequent time, it is a Class 6 felony. The possible penalties for a Class 6 felony include a jail term of not more than five years and/0r a fine of not more than $2,500.

    Contact a Virginia Money Laundering Defense Lawyer Today

    Money laundering is a serious crime with significant potential penalties. However, there are possible defenses that could apply to your case. For example, if you acted under duress, if you did not know the money was obtained illegally, or if you lacked the intent to commit the crime, then you should not be found guilty of money laundering in Virginia.

    Our experienced white-collar criminal defense lawyers will review every aspect of your defense and advise you so that you can protect your future. Call us, or contact us through this website, to learn more.

     

  • When may I be eligible for an expungement in Virginia?

    Criminal Record Expungement Torn PaperworkAn expungement can benefit you in many ways. An expungement will make your arrest record inaccessible to the public. That means that if your record is expunged, then potential employers, landlords, and others will not be able to find evidence of your prior arrest, and you will not be required to disclose your arrest or charge to potential employers or others in Virginia.

    Expungement Eligibility

    According to Virginia Code § 19.2-392.2, you may be eligible for an expungement if you have been charged with a crime and one of the following statements is true:

    • You are acquitted (i.e., found not guilty)
       
    • The Commonwealth’s attorney decides not to prosecute you (nolle prosequi)
       
    • The charges against you are otherwise dismissed, but without a finding of guilt of a finding that the evidence was sufficient for a finding of guilt
       
    • The crime was committed by someone else who used your identity

    You may not get an expungement if you pled nolo contendre (or no contest) to the charges against you, were convicted, or entered a guilty or no contest plea agreement. In addition, if your charge was dismissed pursuant to a first-offender program, such as the first-offender drug deferral program under Virginia Code § 18.2-251 or the first offense program for domestic assault under §18.2-57.3, then you may not seek an expungement.

    Your prior record and the severity of the charges against you will be important when the Court is deciding whether or not to grant your expungement. A different standard is applied for people with no other prior criminal record who are arrested for misdemeanors. Specifically:

    • If this was your first offense and the charge against you was a misdemeanor rather than a felony, then the Commonwealth must show good cause why the expungement should not be granted. If the Commonwealth cannot show good cause, then the expungement will be granted.
       
    • If you have a prior arrest record or you were charged with a felony, then you need to show that the continued existence of your arrest record would constitute a manifest injustice. That requires proof of the harm you face from having the offense appear on your record, such as denial of employment or educational opportunities.

    In either circumstance, you must request an expungement from the Circuit Court of the judicial district in which your original case was heard.

    How to Get an Expungement

    To get an expungement, you must file a petition and obtain a certified copy of your arrest warrant or indictment. Both documents should be filed in the Circuit Court where the charges against you were resolved. Then:

    • The petition is served on the Commonwealth's Attorney. The Commonwealth has 21 days to respond, although they are not always required to file a written answer.
       
    • You get fingerprinted. You must get a full set of fingerprints from a law enforcement agency. You must provide a copy of your expungement petition to that law enforcement agency to be provided to Virginia State Police.
       
    • The law enforcement agency submits your fingerprints to the Central Criminal Records Exchange with a copy of your expungement petition.
       
    • Central Criminal Records Exchange sends a copy of your criminal history, a copy of the Central Criminal Records Exchange documents you want expunged, and your fingerprints to the Court.
       
    • The Court will rule on your expungement, and if it is granted, it will forward the necessary information to the Virginia State Police to complete the expungement process. Finally, once your records have been expunged, Virginia State Police will send a letter confirming the completion of the expungement process.

    An expungement can improve your future by removing a significant barrier to entry for jobs, schools, and other opportunities.

    Don’t try to do this alone. You have too much at stake. Instead, consult an experienced Virginia expungement attorney to make sure you have grounds for an expungement and that you take all of the required steps to get the relief you seek. Contact our Fairfax criminal law attorneys today to learn more.

     

  • What penalties may I face if I violate a protective order in Virginia?

    Protective Order Paperwork and GavelYou face potential criminal charges if you violate an emergency protective order, a preliminary protective order, or a full protective order in Virginia. The charges and the potential penalties depend on the exact circumstances of your alleged violation.

    Misdemeanor Penalties for Violating VA Protective Orders

    Virginia Code § 16.1-253.2 provides that a violation of any provision of an emergency protective order, preliminary protective order, or permanent protective order is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor:

    • For the first offense. The penalty for a Class 1 misdemeanor is a possible jail term of up to 12 months, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a jail term and a fine up to those limits.
       
    • For the second time. If your second conviction is within five years of your first conviction and at least one of the convictions was based on an act or threat of violence, then your Class 1 misdemeanor penalty will include a 60 day mandatory minimum period of confinement. It could also include jail time up to one year and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

    Felony Penalties for Violating VA Protective Order

    A Virginia court may find you guilty of a Class 6 felony if you violate any provision of any type of protective order:

    • For a third or subsequent time within 20 years of first conviction if at least one of the offenses was an act or threat of violence. In these cases, you will face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of six months, and you could face a jail term of one to five years and a fine of up to $2,500.
       
    • While knowingly armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon. You could face a penalty of not less than one year and not more than five years in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. The penalty for violating the protective order is in addition to any sentence you may face for having a firearm or deadly weapon.
       
    • Committing an assault and battery resulting in bodily injury to the person protected by the protective order. The potential penalty for a Class 6 felony, in this case, is a jail term of one to five years and a fine of up to $2,500. You may also face charges and penalties for the assault and battery.
       
    • Stalking a person protected by the protective order. If you are found guilty of stalking a person who has a protective order against you, then you could face one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500 in addition to any penalties you face if you are found guilty of stalking.
       
    • Entering the home of the person protected by the protective order while the person is home, or remaining in the home until the person returns. As with the examples provided above, you may face one to five years in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and any penalties for charges related to the breaking and entering of the home.

    For all felony and misdemeanor protective order violations, a jail sentence must be imposed even if a minimum jail time is not specified. Virginia law specifically prevents a court from suspending an entire jail sentence for people convicted of violating protective orders, meaning a conviction for any protective order violation will result in an active jail or prison sentence. Additionally, all convictions must result in the entry of a protective order for a period of up to two years. As with any criminal conviction, protective order violations will appear on your permanent record.

    Take All Charges Seriously—Talk to a VA Protective Order Lawyer

    Your freedom and your future are at stake. Don’t take any chances with your defense. Instead, contact our experienced Fairfax protective order attorneys today through this website or by phone to learn how we may be able to help with your defense.