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 Your Rights If You’re Pulled Over After Drinking?

    If you’re being pulled over and you’ve been drinking, you need to know what your rights are.  If you don’t know your rights, you may unwittingly harm yourself more than you realize. Read on to find out what you can and cannot do when interacting with the police after being pulled over.

    How to Respond When You're Pulled Over

    Man being pulled over by Virginia police after drinking

    First, after you’re pulled over, the officer will approach your car, ask you to roll down your window, and request to see your license.  Virginia law requires all individuals, whether they are driving or not, to accurately identify themselves to police. Failure to do so is a crime under Code § 19.2-82.1 (Giving false identity to law-enforcement officer).  While this law does not require you to hand over your driver’s license, failure to do that may lead to a charge of driving without a license, which can be a class 1 or 2 misdemeanor (Code § 46.2-300).  So, it’s best to be honest and upfront about your identity and give the police your driver’s license after being pulled over.

    During this first portion of the encounter, an officer may ask you seemingly innocent sounding questions.  Officers who suspect someone of drinking and driving will ask where that person is coming from, who they were with, what they were doing, where they are headed to now, and any other questions they feel appropriate.  You are NOT obligated to answer a single question posed by the officer. You may respond by telling the officer that you do not wish to talk about anything and that you wish to remain silent. That is your right under the United States Constitution.  However, do not lie to the officer, because then you could expose yourself to an Obstruction of Justice charge (Code § 18.2-460) and the Constitution does not give you the right to lie when you are faced with an arrest.

    Field Sobriety Tests

    If police suspect that you have been drinking, either while driving or beforehand, they may next ask you to step out of the vehicle.  Police are permitted to ask you to step out of your vehicle, and if you fail to comply, they can force you out. So again, best practice here is to exit the vehicle.  But, before doing so, you can also ask whether you are being told to get out or asked to get out. If the officer tells you it is a request and not a command, you can respond by saying you do not wish to exit the vehicle.  Once they command you to get out, you should follow their order. Otherwise, you may find yourself being dragged out of your car.

    Once out of the vehicle, the officer will either ask you to go somewhere or guide you to a specific place.  Again, if asked to do something, you can respond by saying you do not wish to do that or by clarifying whether you are being asked or told to do it.  If they command you to move to a location, do as they ask.

    Once the police determine you are in a safe location, they typically will ask you to do field sobriety tests (FSTs) or question you, if they have not done so already or wish to ask more questions.  If you have told the officer that you do not wish to answer any questions, make sure you tell them that again. As for FSTs, most people believe they are required to do them. That is simply not the case.  You can decline to do FSTs. Additionally, the police cannot command you to do FSTs.

    Even if you decline to do FSTs, the police may still ask you to do a preliminary breath test (PBT).  The PBT is a little machine that officers carry with them and measures a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC).  These machines can be inaccurate, and a driver is NOT required to take the PBT. Police also cannot command you to take the PBT, so if you decline to do so, they have no other option at that point but to either arrest you or let you go.

    What to Expect If You Are Arrested for DUI

    If you are arrested, you will be brought to the police station and subjected to a breathalyzer test at the jail.  You are REQUIRED to take this test.  If you decline to take the test, you will be charged with Refusal, which can be a civil penalty or criminal charge, depending on the circumstances.  Thus, you must take the breathalyzer test when told to do so by the police. Alternatively, if you are unable to take the breathalyzer test, either because you are unconscious or have weak lung capacity, the police can seek a warrant to draw your blood and obtain your BAC that way.  Refusing this test can also lead to a Refusal charge.

    What you do during each of the above steps determines the strength of the case the police have against you.  Even if you decline to do all the tests and say nothing, there still may be sufficient evidence to prove your guilt.  Alternatively, even if you do all the tests and make statements, there may be insufficient evidence to prove you’re guilty.  

    You will need an experienced DUI attorney who knows the procedure for alcohol-related prosecutions to come up with the best strategy for your case, and we can help you do that.  Call us today if you are facing an alcohol-related charge to find out what defenses you may have.

  • What Are DUI Maiming Charges?

    Woman facing DUI maiming charges after DUI car accident in Fairfax, VA

    As many people quickly find out, Virginia’s DUI laws are strict and harsh.  Virginia also has a specific and separate charge when someone is driving under the influence of alcohol and consequently causes an accident with injuries.  This charge is called “DUI maiming” and can be found in Virginia Code § 18.2-51.4.  Unlike a standard DUI charge under Virginia Code § 18.2-266, which is a misdemeanor, this charge is a felony offense.  Therefore, it is much more serious and the consequences may be worse.

    DUI Maiming Statute in Virginia

    Specifically, the code states that, “any person who, as a result of driving while intoxicated in violation of § 18.2-266 or any local ordinance substantially similar thereto in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, unintentionally causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony” (emphasis added).

    Penalties For DUI Maiming in Virginia

    A class 6 felony can carry punishments of one to five years in prison and up to $2500 in fines.  There is also a mandatory license suspension, requirements for completion of an alcohol/substance abuse program, and the required installation of an ignition interlock if a restricted license is granted.

    Similar to a DUI, there are a variety of elements that the prosecutor must prove to obtain a conviction, especially since it is a car accident case.  If you have been charged with DUI maiming, it is important that you contact the experienced DUI lawyers at Greenspun Shapiro PC immediately so that we can walk you through your defenses and make sure you receive the best representation possible.

  • Will a reckless driving conviction in Virginia affect my security clearance?

    A Reckless Driving Conviction Can Cause Problems With Your Security ClearanceA security clearance is often required when a person works in the military, is a government employee, or is a government contractor. In addition, some employees in the medical, telecommunications, education, and financial industries may need a security clearance for their job. A security clearance allows these individuals to access different levels and types of classified information.

    If you are charged with reckless driving in Fairfax, you may be worried about how a conviction may affect your security clearance. Since reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, a conviction can result in a permanent criminal record. Will this stop you from getting or keeping a security clearance?

    How a Reckless Driving Conviction May Affect Your Security Clearance

    There are three levels of security clearances: confidential, secret, and top secret. The top-secret level is further classified into more specialized security classifications. If you are required to have a security clearance, you must apply for it and undergo a reinvestigation process, which typically occurs every five years. The good news is that a reckless driving conviction will not automatically preclude you from obtaining or keeping your security clearance.

    However, a reckless driving conviction is a red flag that can affect the decisions as to whether you should have a particular level of access to sensitive information. Factors that will be considered when reviewing your application include:

              1. Your position within your company or agency,

              2. What of security clearance you currently have,

              3. Whether this is your first reckless driving charge
                  or a subsequent one, and

              4. What other types of convictions or charges are                      on your record.

    Do You Need to Report a Reckless Driving Conviction to Your Employer?

    If you are facing reckless driving charges, it is important to understand whether you have a duty to report your conviction to your employer. You need to consult your employee handbook or policies concerning this obligation. Some employers only require the reporting of a felony conviction, while others require disclosure of any offenses.

    Since a reckless driving conviction may have serious penalties and long-term consequences on your security clearance and job, you need to retain an experienced reckless driving attorney to help you build a strong defense to the charges you face. This may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team by calling our Fairfax office to set your appointment today.

     

  • What is a wet reckless charge in a Fairfax DUI case?

    What You Need to Know About a Wet Reckless Charge in VirginiaWhen you are charged with a first offense of driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia, you are facing a possible misdemeanor conviction that could carry sentence of jail time, fines, court costs, and loss of your privilege to drive. In addition, a DUI conviction would leave you with a permanent criminal record. However, you may be able to avoid some of the harsh consequences of a first DUI by entering into a "wet reckless" plea.

    What Is Wet Reckless in Virginia?

    Wet reckless is a term that refers to a reckless driving charge where alcohol is involved. There is no statutory offense in Virginia called “wet reckless.” However, under Virginia Code § 46.2-392, if a judge believes the reckless driving is alcohol-related, a person who is convicted of reckless driving may be required to enter and successfully complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). Here are some important things you need to know about a wet reckless plea:

    • There are no laws that require the government to offer you a wet reckless. It is solely within the discretion of the prosecutor handling the case. That means there are no guarantees that someone can get a wet reckless, regardless of how good their driving record is, how nice they were to the officer, or anything else.
    • Not all jurisdictions will permit a wet reckless plea. In fact, many jurisdictions have moved away from this practice.
    • A wet reckless outcome is usually reserved for first time offenders who were close to the blood alcohol content (BAC) legal limit. In Virginia, a BAC of .08 or greater creates a permissive inference that the accused was intoxicated at the time of operating the vehicle. If someone is at or below a .08, there is a greater likelihood that a wet reckless plea could be offered by the prosecution.
    • You may be required to enter into and successfully complete VASAP. Whether VASAP will be required will depend on the deal struck between you and the prosecution.
    • You will face similar penalties for wet reckless as for DUI. These can include a possible jail sentence, fines, and a suspended driver’s license for up to six months.

    A wet reckless conviction has less of a stigma than a DUI conviction. It also means that enhancements that would otherwise apply if convicted of a DUI, would not apply if only convicted of a wet reckless.

    Were you charged with DUI in Fairfax or the surrounding areas? We’re here to help you build a strong defense and consider all of your options. To learn more about our extensive experience and how we can help, start an online chat to schedule your free initial consultation.

     

  • What is a wet reckless charge in a Fairfax DUI case?

    What You Need to Know About a Wet Reckless Charge in VirginiaWhen you are charged with a first offense of driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia, you are facing a possible misdemeanor conviction that could carry sentence of jail time, fines, court costs, and loss of your privilege to drive. In addition, a DUI conviction would leave you with a permanent criminal record. However, you may be able to avoid some of the harsh consequences of a first DUI by entering into a "wet reckless" plea.

    What Is Wet Reckless in Virginia?

    Wet reckless is a term that refers to a reckless driving charge where alcohol is involved. There is no statutory offense in Virginia called “wet reckless.” However, under Virginia Code § 46.2-392, if a judge believes the reckless driving is alcohol-related, a person who is convicted of reckless driving may be required to enter and successfully complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). Here are some important things you need to know about a wet reckless plea:

    • There are no laws that require the government to offer you a wet reckless. It is solely within the discretion of the prosecutor handling the case. That means there are no guarantees that someone can get a wet reckless, regardless of how good their driving record is, how nice they were to the officer, or anything else.
    • Not all jurisdictions will permit a wet reckless plea. In fact, many jurisdictions have moved away from this practice.
    • A wet reckless outcome is usually reserved for first time offenders who were close to the blood alcohol content (BAC) legal limit. In Virginia, a BAC of .08 or greater creates a permissive inference that the accused was intoxicated at the time of operating the vehicle. If someone is at or below a .08, there is a greater likelihood that a wet reckless plea could be offered by the prosecution.
    • You may be required to enter into and successfully complete VASAP. Whether VASAP will be required will depend on the deal struck between you and the prosecution.
    • You will face similar penalties for wet reckless as for DUI. These can include a possible jail sentence, fines, and a suspended driver’s license for up to six months.

    A wet reckless conviction has less of a stigma than a DUI conviction. It also means that enhancements that would otherwise apply if convicted of a DUI, would not apply if only convicted of a wet reckless.

    Were you charged with DUI in Fairfax or the surrounding areas? We’re here to help you build a strong defense and consider all of your options. To learn more about our extensive experience and how we can help, start an online chat to schedule your free initial consultation.

     

  • Can I get a restricted license after being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia?

    Restricted License Requirements After a DUI in VirginiaIf you are convicted of DUI in Virginia, one of the penalties will be the suspension of your driver’s license for one year for a first offense DUI—and longer for a second or subsequent conviction. This can make it extremely challenging to get to your job, take your children to activities, and do everything else that you rely on driving to get to. However, you may be able to obtain a restricted license that gives you limited driving privileges.

    What Is a Restricted License in Virginia?

    A restricted license is a temporary license that permits you to drive to specific locations and at certain times of the day. The judge granting the restricted license will set the specific times and places allowed under the restricted license. Here are some of the circumstances where driving may be permitted:

    • To and from your job
    • To and from school
    • To and from necessary doctor appointments
    • To and from a child’s daycare or necessary doctor appointments
    • To and from court-ordered visitation with your child
    • To and from a religious place of worship

    When Can You Request a Restricted License If You Have Been Convicted of DUI in Fairfax?

    You must file a motion to request a restricted license, and there is no guarantee that the judge will grant your request. It is best to retain an experienced DUI attorney to file the motion on your behalf. In order to obtain a restricted license, you must enroll in the mandatory Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) and, in some cases, you may be required to successfully complete the program before a restricted license is granted. In addition, you will most likely need to have an ignition interlock system installed on your vehicle.

    If this is your first DUI offense, you can request a restricted license on the date of your conviction or guilty plea, although you will not be able to actually drive on the restricted license until you enroll in ASAP. However, if this is your second DUI conviction within 10 years, you will need to wait four months to receive a restricted license. The wait is one year if you were convicted of a second DUI within the last five years.

    Have you been charged with DUI in the Northern Virginia area? Our experienced DUI attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing our clients in DUI cases in Fairfax and Northern Virginia. We will aggressively fight the charges you face. Start an online chat or call our Fairfax office today to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • What can I expect to happen at my arraignment for DUI in Virginia?

    DUI Arraignments in VirginiaWhen you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Virginia, you need to understand what happens in these criminal cases so that you know what to expect. Your first court hearing is usually an arraignment. Here, we explain what happens at an arraignment.

    What Occurs at DUI Arraignments in Virginia

    An arraignment can be conducted on the day of your arrest or a few days later. If you were released from jail on your own recognizance—your promise to return to all court hearings—or by posting bail, it is more likely that the hearing will be set at a later date. Your arraignment may be conducted by video conferencing if you are still in jail. At the hearing, the judge will do the following:

    • Read the criminal charges to you.
       
    • Ask you if you have retained an attorney and advise you of your right to a court-appointed lawyer if you cannot afford to pay for one. If you are requesting an attorney, the judge will most likely ask you questions about your financial situation before appointing one.
       
    • Advise you of future court dates.
       
    • In some cases where bail has not been set, the judge may set the amount of your bail. However, it is very rare to receive bond at your arraignment hearing. Therefore, it is important to retain an attorney as soon as possible so you receive a bond motion promptly.

    It is best to retain an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest and have him attend the arraignment with you. In some cases, he may be able to file paperwork with the court advising of his representation so that you do not need to attend your arraignment.

    Contact Us for Help

    If you were arrested for DUI or DWI in Northern Virginia, our experienced DUI attorneys are here to build a strong defense to the charges you face so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our Fairfax office or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • Is texting while driving considered reckless driving in Virginia?

    Reckless Driving Charges and Cell Phone UseIf you are texting while driving, you can be charged with and convicted of reckless driving or illegally using a handheld personal communications device, which is a traffic infraction. All forms of reckless driving are treated as class 1 misdemeanor offenses, which are the highest level of misdemeanor in Virginia. A conviction of any type of reckless driving can result in a jail sentence, fines, suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months, and a permanent criminal record. There are approximately 15 different offenses that are considered reckless driving. Traffic infractions, on the other hand, carry far less penalty, because only fines and court costs can be imposed. Before you prepay your ticket or appear in court on your own, consider calling us to explore what defenses you may have and to see how we can help.

    What Is the Offense of Texting While Driving in Virginia?

    Virginia Code § 46.2-1078.1 makes it illegal to use a hand-held device while driving in Virginia. It prohibits the following actions:

    • Manually entering multiple letters or text in the device to communicate with another person
       
    • Reading any email or text that is transmitted or stored in the device

    There are exceptions for drivers operating emergency vehicles, calling in an emergency, reading a caller id number, or using a factory-installed or aftermarket GPS. The infraction of texting while driving is a "primary offense," which means a police officer can stop a driver if he suspects that the driver is violating the anti-texting laws. Texting while driving is a traffic infraction. The penalty for a first offense is a $125 fine, and for a second or subsequent offense, it is a $250 fine. Three demerit points are also assessed against the driver by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

    Reckless Driving Offenses in Virginia

    A person can be charged with both texting while driving and reckless driving if the person is engaging in one of the unsafe driving practices that are considered reckless driving while also engaging in texting. A few of these offenses include:

    Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you may be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 in addition to court costs. Also, your driver’s license might be suspended for up to six months, and six demerit points will be assessed by the DMV.

    Have you been charged with reckless driving for texting or for another reason? You may have strong defenses to the charges that you face even if you know that you are guilty. Let our experienced reckless driving attorney raise all of your defenses so that the charges you face are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To schedule your free initial consultation, start an online chat or call our office today.

     

  • Is there a difference between DUI and DWI in Virginia?

    The Differences Between DUI and DWI Charges

    In some states, driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are two separate offenses, with one being less serious than the other. In addition, many people use the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably when talking about drunk driving charges. However, you should know that in Virginia, there is no difference between the two.

    The confusion between the terms DUI and DWI may stem from the text of the statute itself. Virginia Code § 18.2-266 contains a reference to driving while intoxicated as well as a reference to being under the influence of alcohol. But no matter what you call it—DUI or DWI—it is the same serious charge that may result in a misdemeanor conviction and a permanent criminal record.

    Virginia Intoxication Law Addresses Both Drugs and Alcohol

    Virginia state law prohibits a driver from operating any type of motor vehicle—even a train—while under the influence of a substance that alters their ability to operate the vehicle safely. This substance could be alcohol, which is very common, but it could also be street drugs or even drugs that were prescribed by a doctor.

    When it comes to drinking and driving in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a driver is considered legally DUI if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher. However, they can still be charged with DUI—even when their BAC is lower than .08 percent—if their ability to drive has been affected by alcohol. And if their capacity to safely operate a motor vehicle has been compromised due to drug use, they may face the same charges as they would for driving under the influence of alcohol—a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine between $250 and $2,500.

    Contact Our Experienced Attorneys for Help With Your Drunk Driving Charge

    Were you arrested for DUI in Virginia? Our experienced drunk driving attorneys have years of experience successfully helping other clients face these charges. To learn what to expect in your criminal case and how we can help, call our office or start an online chat today. The initial consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose.

     

  • What is underage DUI in Virginia and what penalties might I face if convicted?

    Undersage DUI Charges in VirginiaThere is no tolerance for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol in Virginia. The laws against DWI or DUI are especially strict if the driver is under 21 years old. If you have been charged with underage DWI or DUI in Virginia, you may face a harsh sentence and long-term consequences—including a permanent criminal record.

    What Is Underage DUI?

    In Virginia, the legal drinking age is 21 years old and consuming alcohol when under the legal age is considered illegal unless on private property with the permission of a legal guardian. It is never legal to consume alcohol and drive. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-266.1, a person under 21 years old can be convicted of underage DUI if he did either of the following:

    • Consumed alcohol and operated a motor vehicle, or
    • Had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than 0.02 percent and operated a motor vehicle

    As with an adult being charged with DUI, a minor charged with underage DUI is required to submit to a breath or blood test under Virginia’s implied consent laws.

    Penalties for Underage DUI

    Underage DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and a conviction will result in a minor having a permanent criminal record. If convicted, he may be sentenced as follows:

    • Fines of up to $2,500
       
    • Community service—up to 50 hours
       
    • Jail sentence of up to one year
       
    • Driver’s license suspension of up to one year
       
    • Court-ordered substance abuse counseling

    In addition, six demerit points will be added to the minor’s Virginia driving record, which most likely will also result in an increase in his automobile insurance rates. In some cases, the person may be able to petition the court for a restricted driver’s license.

    Have you been charged with underage DUI? You may have defenses to the charges that you face—even if you know that you are guilty of underage drinking. Our experienced Fairfax DUI lawyers are here to aggressively fight on your behalf so that the charges are dropped or reduced to a less serious offense. To learn more, call our office or fill out our online form to schedule a free case evaluation.

     

  • What types of evidence can help in my reckless driving case?

    What Evidence Is Needed for a Reckless Driving Charge?A reckless driving conviction in Virginia can result in a jail sentence, hefty fines, suspension of your privilege to drive, and demerit points on your driving record, which can also increase your vehicle insurance rates and lead to administrative license suspensions or revocations. In addition, reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense, and you will have a permanent criminal record if convicted. Because of all the harsh consequences, you need to build your defense to the charges that you face and obtain evidence that will support your defenses.

    Types of Evidence That Can Help Build a Strong Defense to Reckless Driving Charges

    Without the assistance of a defense attorney familiar with reckless driving cases, your chances of getting a lighter punishment, reduction of the charge, or dismissal of the case become significantly lower. Your attorney will be able to identify defenses that you have based on the circumstances in your case and will know what evidence you need to prove your defenses. Some types of evidence that may be helpful include:

    • Calibration of Your Vehicle's Speedometer. If you are disputing that you were driving as fast as the police officer claims, you may want to obtain a speedometer calibration. Depending on whether your car has been properly maintained, damaged, or modified, it is possible that your speedometer shows a lower speed than what you are actually traveling. If the body shop shows this to be the case, this can be used to reduce the penalties you face and possibly the charge, but it is not a defense in and of itself.
       
    • GPS Evidence. If the officer clocked your speed at close to 80 miles per hour or 20 miles over the speed limit—which are two of the ways you can be charged with reckless driving—GPS evidence can help. GPS information may be able to show how far you traveled in a period of time, which can be used to calculate your speed. However, the GPS information must be extremely accurate for this to be useful.
       
    • Witness Testimony. Witness testimony can be helpful in some situations. Witness testimony can help establish your speed, at least as it appeared inside the car. Witness testimony may also shed light on why a person may be weaving in and out of traffic or driving at a high rate. However, witnesses can also be a double edged sword because they may have incriminating information. Working with the witnesses before the day of their testimony is essential to ensure there are no surprises.
       
    • Photos and Videos. When speed limit signs are vandalized, missing, or difficult to see, taking photographs or videos can help prove the lack of proper signage. Photos and videos may also give your attorney, the prosecutor, and the court insight about the conditions on the scene that may also explain your driving behavior. Additionally, photos of the scene and where the officer came from will aid in knowing what the officer could observe from his vantage point and will aid in cross examining the officer.
       
    • Medical Emergency. If you were speeding due to a medical emergency, such as transporting a pregnant woman to the hospital or dealing with a serious medical issue, medical records substantiating this may help you build a defense.
       
    • Safe Driving Record. If you have a clean driving record, you can use this to show your commitment to safe driving. When this is not the case, taking a driver improvement class may show that you are trying to be a safer driver and may result in a reduced reckless driving charge.
       
    • Community Service. While community service is not evidence that will help prove or disprove a fact in your case, it may help reduce the penalties you face if convicted of reckless driving. Likewise, community service can be used to try to reduce the charge to show that you have been proactive and have taken responsibility for your driving behavior.

    Do you need help fighting a reckless driving charge? Call our office today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.