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 may happen to me if I fail to register on the sex offender registry?

    Sex Offender Registering on the ComputerIn Virginia, individuals convicted of certain sex offenses must register with the sex offender registry. If you are required to register and fail to do so, or if you provide false registration information, you may be charged with a criminal offense and face additional penalties.

    Crimes That Require You to Register as a Sex Offender

    You may have to register as a sex offender if you commit a sex offense or other specified offenses under federal or state law. Some of the crimes that require registration under Virginia Code § 9.1-902 include:

    • Object sexual penetration
       
    • Sexual battery and aggravated sexual battery
       
    • Rape and attempted rape
       
    • Child pornography
       
    • Taking indecent liberties with a minor
       
    • Solicitation of a minor
       
    • Murder
       
    • Criminal homicide

    What Are the Penalties for Failing to Register on the Sex Offender Registry?

    Virginia Code § 18.2-472.1 makes a first offense of failing to register or reporting false information a Class 1 misdemeanor if the crime committed was a non-violent sex crime. A second or subsequent offense where the sex crime was non-violent would be a Class 6 felony.

    If you were convicted of a violent sex crime or murder and violated the registry requirements, you may also be charged with a Class 6 felony. A second or subsequent offense can be charged as a Class 5 felony.

    The potential punishments if you are convicted include:

    • Class 1 misdemeanor: Up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500
       
    • Class 6 felony: One to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500 unless the judge or jury exercises their discretion and reduces the penalty to up to 12 months in jail
       
    • Class 5 felony: One to ten years in prison and a fine not to exceed $2,500

    Have you been charged with a sex offense? Have you violated your obligations to report as a sex offender? Our experienced sex crimes defense lawyers are here to help. We represent clients facing federal or state charges in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. To learn how we can help you mount a strong defense, start an online chat or call (703) 352-0100 to schedule a free consultation.

     

  • What is the crime of embezzlement and what penalties might I face if I’m convicted of committing this crime?

    Hand Taking MoneyEmbezzlement is a white collar crime in Virginia that is often prosecuted harshly because it involves the betrayal of another’s trust. Many individuals,  such as bank employees, bookkeepers, and treasurers of organizations, can find themselves arrested for this crime. If you are convicted of this offense, you may be sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence and large fines.

    What Is the Crime of Embezzlement?

    Embezzlement is also considered a larceny crime in Virginia. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-111, it is a crime to fraudulently and wrongfully use, dispose of, conceal, or embezzle someone’s property with the intent to permanently deprive him of it. Unlike other larceny crimes, the property must have been entrusted to the accused by the nature of his job, position, or office. Examples of what may constitute embezzlement include:

    • Stealing money from a cash register
       
    • Using a company credit card for personal use
       
    • Writing checks from a company account
       
    • Taking gift cards

    Penalties for Embezzlement in Virginia

    Embezzlement will be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is considered petit larceny if the value of the property that was embezzled was under $500. If the value was $500 or more, the crime is a Class U (unclassified penalty range) grand larceny felony. The possible penalties include:

    • Misdemeanor. Up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500
       
    • Felony. Prison sentence of up to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $2,500

    A conviction can also have long-term consequences in your life. You would have a permanent criminal record, which may make it extremely difficult for you to obtain future employment, especially in your same field.

    Have you been charged with embezzlement or another theft crime? Our dedicated and skilled criminal defense attorneys can build a strong defense strategy to fight the charges you face. This can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

    We represent clients facing criminal charges in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. To learn more about how we can help, call our Fairfax office to schedule your free case evaluation.

     

  • How do I register for the sex offender registry?

    Man Registering as a Sex Offender on His TabletIn Virginia, you are required to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry Act if you are convicted of certain sex offenses. If you fail to do so, or if you provide false registration information, you can face additional charges and penalties.

    Who Is Required to Register as a Sex Offender?

    The crimes that require you to register as a sex offender are listed in Virginia Code § 9.1-902. Some of these offenses include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Rape
       
    • Carnal knowledge of a minor who is 13 or 14 years old and the perpetrator is more than five years older than the victim
       
    • Forcible sodomy
       
    • Object sexual penetration
       
    • Aggravated sexual battery
       
    • Taking indecent liberties with a minor
       
    • Any sexual violent offense
       
    • Attempted rape, forcible sodomy object sexual penetration, or aggravated sexual battery
       
    • Murder
       
    • Criminal homicide

    In addition, certain misdemeanor sex offenses trigger registration requirements. The list of offenses requiring registration can be changed by the legislature periodically, so it is very important to consult an experienced attorney regarding whether a charge you face will require you to register as a sex offender.

    How to Register for the Sexual Offender Registry

    Virginia Code § 9.1-903 states the requirements for how to register for the Sexual Offender Registry. If you are required to register, you must do so within three days of being released from prison or jail. You do so by providing certain information to the Virginia State Police, which is the agency that monitors sex offenders and maintains the sex offender registry. Here is what you must do:

    • Have your picture taken
       
    • Provide a DNA sample that will be used in the DNA data bank
       
    • Submit your finger and palm prints
       
    • Provide information about your employment
       
    • Provide your email address, instant message, or chat user ID
       
    • Provide documentation of your current address
       
    • Provide registration information for any vehicle you own, such as your car, motorcycle, ATV, and boat

    You are required to update your information within three days of a change of residence, employment, or vehicle registration. You must notify law enforcement within 30 minutes of any change in your email address, instant message, or chat user ID. If you plan to go out-of-state, you must notify the Virginia State Police at least 10 days prior to leaving the Commonwealth, and you must ensure compliance with the registration requirements of any jurisdiction you move to.

    If you are a non-violent sex offender and fail to register with the registry or provide false information when registering, you may be charged with a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by a jail sentence of up to twelve months and a fine of up to $2,500. A second or subsequent violation is a Class 6 felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. For those convicted of a sexually violent offense or murder and who knowingly fail to register or knowingly provide false information when registering, the penalty is a Class 6 felony, while a second or subsequent violation is a Class 5 felony, which is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

    Do you have further questions about your duty to register as a sex offender? Are you being charged with a sex crime? Our experienced sex crimes defense lawyers are here to answer your questions and help you build an aggressive defense against the charges you face. To learn more about how we can assist you, call our Fairfax office to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • What are crimes associated with sexual penetration in Virginia?

    Object sexual penetration is a felony offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia that carries the same punishments as rape. If you are convicted of this crime, you may face extremely harsh penalties that include decades or longer in prison.

    What Is the Crime of Object Sexual Penetration in Virginia?

    Virginia Code § 18.2-67.2 makes sexual object penetration a crime. It is a criminal offense to penetrate the labia majora or anus of a nonconsenting person with an object or cause someone to penetrate him/herself in one of the following circumstances:

    • The victim was younger than 13 years old.
       
    • The act was against the victim’s will by the use of force, threats, or intimidation.
       
    • The victim was physically helpless or incapacitated due to a mental condition.

    It is also a crime under this statute to cause another person to penetrate the victim with an object or to cause the penetration of the victim by an animal.

    Penalties You Face If Convicted of Sexual Object Penetration

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-67.2, sexual object penetration is a felony offense punishable by a prison sentence of not less than five years and up to life in prison. The penalties can be enhanced in these situations:

    • If the accused was three years older than the victim at the time of the incident and the crime was committed in the course of a violent felony, the prison sentence is increased to a mandatory minimum of 25 years to up to life in prison.
       
    • If the accused was 18 years or older and the victim was under 13 years old at the time of the offense, the mandatory minimum sentence is life in prison.

    A sentence for a conviction of sexual object penetration must be served consecutively with any other sentences for other crimes.

    You cannot afford not to mount a strong defense to the sexual object penetration charges you face given the potential loss of your freedom for decades to life if you are convicted. Our Fairfax sex crimes defense lawyers have over 80 years of combined experience aggressively defending our clients charged with this crime and other serious felony offenses in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. To learn how we can assist you, call our Fairfax office to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • What is a forcible sodomy charge in Virginia?

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

    What Is Forcible Sodomy?

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

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

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

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

    Penalties for Forcible Sodomy​

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

    Man Shooting a Firearm While Committing a Felony Crime

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

    • Shoot
       
    • Stab
       
    • Cut
       
    • Wound

    What Are the Penalties for Shooting While Committing a Felony?

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

    What Is a Firearm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

    Penalties You May Face for Cocaine Possession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

    What Are the Punishments for Transporting a Child While Intoxicated?

    Young Child Sitting in the Backseat of a Car

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

    • A minimum fine of $500 up to a maximum of $1,000
       
    • Mandatory minimum jail sentence of five days

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

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

    Contact Our Skilled Lawyers If You Have Been Arrested for DUI

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

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

     

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

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

    Consequences of Refusing a Preliminary Breath Test Before a DUI Arrest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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