Your Virginia Criminal Law Questions Answered

After being charged with a crime in Virginia, most people have many concerns. What do I do now? Do I have any options? Do I need a lawyer? How do I find the right lawyer? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys offer their take on these questions and many more to help you understand more about your rights and options under the law. Don’t see your question here? Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. Call our Fairfax office at (703) 352-0100, or fill out our online contact form today.

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  • Can the police enter my home without knocking?

    Police Officers Knocking on a DoorNo, police officers cannot enter your home to execute a search warrant without knocking.

    As of March 2021, Virginia Code §19.2-56(B) provides, “No law-enforcement officer shall seek, execute, or participate in the execution of a no-knock search warrant.”

    How a Police Officer Should Execute a Search Warrant of Your Home

    According to Virginia law, a search warrant for a place where someone lives requires a law-enforcement officer to:

    • Be recognizable and identifiable as a uniformed law-enforcement officer
       
    • Provide audible notice of their authority and purpose. This notice needs to be reasonably designed to be heard by occupants of the place to be searched before the search begins
       
    • Provide a copy of the search warrant and affidavit to the person to be searched or the owner of the place to be searched. If the owner is not present, then the search warrant and affidavit may be provided to any occupant. If no occupants are present, the law enforcement officer should leave a copy of the search warrant and affidavit in a visible place. These copies should be provided after the law enforcement officer enters and secures the location but before the officer conducts the search.

    Generally, search warrants of homes should be executed between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless: (1) the court authorizes execution of the search warrant at another time for good cause, or (2) the law-enforcement officer lawfully entered and secured the location and remained their continuously.

    Any evidence obtained in a way that violates the law cannot be used against you in court.

    Make Sure Your Rights are Protected

    Our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers will carefully examine the search warrant and ask you detailed questions about what happened when the police came to execute the warrant. If any part of the law was violated, we will argue that the evidence gathered should not be used in your criminal case.

    You deserve all of the protections offered by Virginia law. Contact us today to learn more about what you can do to protect your legal rights in a Virginia criminal case. We welcome your phone call, online chat, or completed contact form at any time.

     

  • Can I lose my gun rights in Virginia, and, if so, how do I get them back?

    Gun control rights

    The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gives individuals the right to bear arms. However, states have broad discretion in regulating who can own, use, or otherwise handle firearms, the scope of these privileges, and how to regain these privileges if they have been lost.

    When Your Right to Own a Gun May Be Taken Away and How to Get it Back

    The main provisions disqualifying individuals in Virginia from gun possession, use, or handling are concentrated in Virginia Code §§ 18.2-308.1 through 18.2-311. In certain circumstances, the Commonwealth of Virginia may take away your right to own or use a firearm because of:

    Criminal Convictions

    A state felony conviction is a common way to lose firearm privileges. The felony did not have to involve guns for your sentence to include losing the right to own or use a gun. Once your gun rights are taken away, you may have them restored if the governor restores your civil rights and the Circuit Court finds that there is good cause to restore your gun rights.

    Your gun rights may also be limited if you are convicted of two or more drug-related misdemeanors within 36 months. In this case, you may be ineligible to “purchase or transport a handgun.” There is no limitation on using or continuing to own handguns that you already have or on other types of guns, such as rifles or shotguns. The restriction will be automatically removed five years after your last conviction. Different rules apply after federal felony convictions.

    Mental Health Issues

    It may surprise you to find out that you do not even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your right to possess a firearm. Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1:1 through § 18.2-308.1:3 all deal with situations involving mental health issues. For example:

    • If a person is acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity at the time the offense was committed, they cannot own a firearm.  
       
    • If someone was involuntarily committed or declared incompetent, they cannot possess, use, or otherwise handle a firearm.  

    A violation of any of these provisions can be punished as a class 1 misdemeanor.

    If you have lost the ability to possess a firearm for a reason concerning your mental competence, you can seek to regain those rights. A person who falls into this situation must seek reinstatement from the General District Court for the jurisdiction in which they live or, if the person is not a Virginia resident, in the General District Court for the jurisdiction that last heard a matter concerning the proceedings that led to disqualification. The person seeking reinstatement of their rights must show to the Court that they “will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that the [reinstatement of rights] would not be contrary to the public interest.” (See Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1:1). In deciding whether restoration is appropriate, the Court must consider the individual’s criminal history, treatment record, and reputation as developed through character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence.

    Protective Order

    Another way an individual may lose the right to possess, use, or otherwise handle a firearm is by having a protective order in place. Protective orders, which are civil cases, have the ancillary consequence of depriving individuals of the right to possess, use, purchase, or otherwise handle firearms. Violating this law can lead to a class 1 misdemeanor conviction.  

    There is no way to restore the right to possess a firearm while a protective order is in place. However, upon expiration of the protective order, the right to possess, use, or otherwise handle firearms is automatically restored.

    Illegal Presence in the United States

    In Virginia, a person who is not legally present in the United States cannot possess, use, or otherwise handle a firearm. If a person who is here illegally possesses a firearm, they can be convicted of a class 6 felony.

    Protect Your Gun Rights

    Our experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyers can advise you if you currently face a situation where your gun rights may be taken away, or you want your gun rights restored. We will thoroughly explore all of your legal options and provide you with honest and reliable advice so that you know what to expect next.

    Call us or complete our online contact form today to learn more.

  • I’ve Been Convicted of a Felony: What Does This Mean for My Gun Rights and What Can Be Done About It?

    Gun in background of Virginia State flag

    A felony conviction could cause you to lose your right to possess, use, transport, or handle a firearm. It does not matter if your felony conviction had anything to do with guns or violence because any type of felony conviction may disqualify you from owning, using, or otherwise dealing with most firearms.

    Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2 sets out the laws regarding firearm possession, use, and handling for convicted felons in Virginia.

    Consequences of Violating Gun Laws After Felony Conviction

    Despite having lax gun laws, Virginia imposes stiff punishments on individuals who lose their right to possess, use, or handle firearms.

    Violating Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2 is a class 6 felony. If a person’s last felony conviction was within the last 10 years, they will receive a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years for violating gun laws for convicted felons. If someone violates this section and was previously convicted of a violent felony (set out in Code § 17.1-805), then the mandatory prison sentence increases to five years in prison.

    Your Gun Rights Might Not Be Gone Forever

    Generally, a person convicted of a felony may not knowingly and intentionally possess or transport any firearm, ammunition for a firearm, stun weapon, or explosive material, in Virginia. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. Even after a felony conviction, Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2 allows a person to possess a firearm, ammunition, or explosive material:

    • While carrying out duties as a member of the United States Armed Forces or the National Guard of Virginia, or any other state
       
    • To perform duties as a law-enforcement officer
       
    • After being pardoned
       
    • After having the right to possess firearms or ammunition restored under the law of another state
       
    • After having being adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile and completing at least two years in the United States Armed Forces and receiving an honorable discharge, as long as it is not otherwise prohibited by law
       
    • After the person’s right to possess, carry, or transport explosive material was restored by federal law

    Additionally, a person convicted of a felony may:

    • Have a stun weapon (as defined by Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1) in their residence
       
    • Possess, transport, or carry antique firearms
       
    • Possess, transport, or carry black powder not exceeding five pounds if it is intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes in antique firearms

    How to Get Your Gun Rights Back After a Virginia Felony Conviction

    You may be able to get your gun rights back after losing them due to a Virginia or other state-level conviction. However, the information below does not apply to people who have been convicted of federal felonies.

    To get unrestricted firearm privileges reinstated after being convicted of a felony, you must go through several steps:

    • First, you need to have your civil rights restored by the governor of the state in which you were convicted. Each state has different procedures for civil rights restorations. 
       
    • Next, after the governor has restored your rights, you may petition the Circuit Court for a hearing. If you live in Virginia, this should happen in the Circuit Court for the area where you reside. If you live out of state, then this should happen in the Circuit Court that last held proceedings concerning your most recent felony conviction.
       
    • After that, the Circuit Court will hold a hearing, and you must explain to the court why there is “good cause” to reinstate your ability to possess, use, or otherwise handle firearms. The court has broad discretion in determining whether good cause was shown, but it is not required to consider any specific criteria in reaching this decision.
       
    • Finally, the Circuit Court will reach a decision. If the court agrees to grant you firearm-related privileges, it can impose various conditions related to gun possession, use, or handling.

    Protect Your Gun Rights After a Felony Conviction

    If you have been disqualified from gun ownership due to a felony conviction and wish to have those rights restored, contact our Fairfax gun rights lawyers today to see what can be done in your case.

  • 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.

     

  • Is it illegal for a minor to possess a gun in Virginia?

    Handgun With BulletsVirginia Code §18.2-308.7 makes it a crime for anyone under 18 years old to “knowingly and intentionally possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm anywhere in the Commonwealth.” A minor who violates this law commits a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, there are times when a minor’s possession of a gun does not violate the law.

    What the Gun Possession by Minors Law Means

    The Commonwealth of Virginia must prove that someone violated Virginia Code §18.2-308.7 before that person can be convicted. Specifically, prosecutors must prove that the defendant is a juvenile who is under the age of 18 and knowingly and intentionally had one of the following, a:

    • Handgun. A handgun is defined as “any pistol or revolver or other firearm originally designed, made and intentioned to fire single or multiple projectiles by means of an explosion of a combustible material from one or more barrels when held in one hand…”
       
    • Assault firearm. The law defines an assault firearm as “any (i) semi-automatic centerfire rifle or pistol which expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock or (ii) shotgun with a magazine which will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered.”

    Exceptions to the Gun Possession by Minors Law

    The law provides four exceptions to Virginia Code §18.2-308.7, even if the minor knowingly and intentionally has one of the weapons listed above. These exceptions include when the minor is:

    • At (a) his home or on his property; (b) while in the home or property of a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian; or (c) while on the property of someone else who provided prior written permission that the minor has with them and the minor also has the prior permission of their parent or legal guardian.
       
    • Accompanied by an adult and is at, or going to and from, a lawful shooting range or firearms educational class, as long as the weapons are unloaded during transport.
       
    • Engaged in lawful hunting or going to and from a hunting area, as long as the weapons are unloaded during transport.
       
    • Carrying out duties in the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard of Virginia or any other state.

    A Criminal Defense Lawyer May Help Protect Your Child’s Future

    A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a potential sentence of up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time. Additionally, a criminal conviction may impact your child’s future educational and work opportunities. Accordingly, you want to do everything you can to ensure that your child is treated fairly after being charged with possession of a handgun or assault firearm.

    Contact our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers today to learn more about your child’s rights and possible defense.

     

  • Why did the court issue a capias warrant?

    Gavel With a Pair of HandcuffsA capias warrant is a warrant for your arrest issued by a judge. In Virginia, capias warrants are most often issued by judges against criminal defendants or witnesses who fail to appear in court as scheduled.

    What Happens After a Capias Warrant Is Issued

    A capias warrant orders the sheriff to find you, arrest you, and bring you before the judge who issued the warrant.

    If you know or suspect that there is a capias warrant against you, then you should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You might be charged with a misdemeanor if you failed to appear in a misdemeanor case or a felony if you failed to appear in a felony case. Either way, you could face additional jail time and fines that go beyond the penalties for the underlying crime.

    Now Is the Time to Defend Yourself

    Not all capias warrants result in misdemeanor or felony sentences. However, you will have to explain what happened to the judge to avoid harsh penalties. Some possible defenses in capias warrant cases include that you didn’t appear in court as scheduled because:

    • You never received proper notice from the court
       
    • The court paperwork had a mistake on it, such as the wrong date, time, or place for you to appear

    A criminal defense lawyer can often prevent problems that result in capias warrants. A lawyer could, for example, change the date of a court hearing for a good reason or make sure that you know where and when to be so you don’t miss anything.

    While it’s too late to go back and prevent the capias warrant from being issued, it is not too late to work with a criminal defense lawyer. Our experienced Fairfax criminal defense law firm can review your capias warrant and the misdemeanor or felony charges that required you to go to court in the first place.

    Call us today to schedule an initial consultation with a criminal defense attorney.

     

  • What happens after I hire a criminal defense lawyer?

    Criminal Defense Lawyer Shaking a Client's HandThe uncertainty and stress of handling your own criminal defense should go away after you hire a criminal defense attorney. Once you hire a lawyer, you can expect your lawyer to take care of the day-to-day defense tasks and develop a comprehensive defense strategy.

    Four Things a Criminal Defense Lawyer Will Do for You

    Once you hire an attorney to represent you, your lawyer will:

    • Handle all communication in your case. That means that your lawyer may be present when the police talk to you and that all communications with the court will go through your lawyer. You won’t have to worry about whether you are saying something that will hurt your case or if your constitutional rights are being violated because your attorney will be with you every step of the way.
       
    • Develop a comprehensive defense strategy. As your lawyer develops this strategy, they will find and consider all evidence, applicable laws, and possible defenses.
       
    • Make sure all court deadlines are met. Missing a court filing or filing incomplete or incorrect pleadings or motions can make your case unnecessarily complicated. A lawyer will prevent these mistakes from occurring.
       
    • Keep you informed about what happens next. You have a lot at stake. You may be facing significant jail time or fines if you are convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in Virginia. Accordingly, you are likely anxious about what will happen next in your case. Your lawyer will make sure that you know what to expect at every stage of your case so that you are prepared.

    Now Is the Right Time to Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

    Criminal charges are scary, but you don’t have to face these charges alone. Instead, we encourage you to contact the criminal defense team at Greenspun Shapiro PC today. Together we have over 80 years of trial experience.

    Our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers accept all kinds of criminal cases. Call us or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you today to learn more.

     

  • Can the government take my property if I’m accused of a crime?

    Police Arresting a Young ManPolice officers may take your property after you are arrested for some crimes in Virginia. However, they must follow specific legal procedures to keep your property after it is taken. The government cannot keep your property without due process of law.

    The Government May Take Property After Certain Arrests

    In Virginia, the police may take money, computers, cell phones, cars, and other forms of property if they reasonably believe that the property is connected to one of the following crimes:

    After the police seize your property, the government must begin a civil forfeiture case to keep the property. Otherwise, the government will violate your state and federal constitutional rights.

    Civil Forfeiture Cases

    If the government wants to keep and sell your property, then:

    • The prosecutor must file a Notice of Forfeiture in court. Forfeiture proceedings are separate court proceedings from your criminal case.
       
    • You will be served with notice that a forfeiture proceeding has begun. Typically, you have a short amount of time to respond to the proceeding.
       
    • A court hearing will be held. The court will decide whether the government can keep the property it took. It is up to the prosecutor to present clear and convincing evidence to the court that you used or earned the property because of criminal activity.

    Make Sure All of Your Constitutional Rights are Protected

    You’ve been arrested, not convicted, for allegedly committing a crime. Now is the time to make sure that all of your legal rights are protected so that you don’t pay for a crime that you did not commit.

    Civil forfeiture is likely just one of your concerns. You may also face significant jail time and fines. If you are ready to talk about your defense and to take steps to secure your future, please contact our experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyers today to discuss your defense.

     

  • Is child neglect a crime in Virginia?

    Accidents happen. Just because a child in your care was hurt does not mean that you are guilty of child neglect. However, child neglect is a crime, and the Commonwealth may charge you with child neglect if you violate Virginia Code §18.2-371.1.

    Child Neglect: A Class 4 Felony

    Virginia Code §18.2-371.1(A) makes it a crime for a parent, guardian, or another person responsible for caring for a minor child to willfully omit or refuse to provide any necessary Child Sitting on a Bench With a Backpackcare for a child’s health or permit serious injury to the life or health of a child. Serious injuries include but are not limited to disfigurements, fractures, severe burns, severe lacerations, mutilations, maiming, forced ingestion of dangerous substances, and life-threatening internal injuries.

    If you are found guilty of violating this section of the law, you may be sentenced to two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

    Child Neglect: A Class 6 Felony

    You may only be charged with a Class 4 felony if a child was hurt because of your willful failure to act or provide necessary care.

    However, you may still be charged with a crime even if the child was not hurt. Virginia Code §18.2-371.1(B)(1) makes it a crime for someone responsible for the care of a minor child to act with willful omission in the care of the child in a way that is so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life. In this case, child neglect is a Class 6 felony and is punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time.

    Child Neglect Defenses

    Every case is unique, and an experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer can carefully review all of the possible defenses in your case. Some of the possible defenses to consider include:

    • Lack of willful intent. The Virginia child neglect statute specifically includes the word willful. If you lacked intent and the child in your care was hurt by accident, then you have not violated the law.
       
    • Treating a child by spiritual means. Virginia Code §18.2-371.1(C) allows adults to care for a minor child by spiritual means or through prayer as long as the adults do so in good faith and in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination.
       
    • The child got hurt in another way. Children sometimes suffer severe injuries for reasons other than child neglect.
       
    • Someone else hurt the child. If another adult was caring for the child at the time the neglect occurred, then you may not have committed the crime.

    Learn more about your possible defense before it’s too late to avoid the consequences of a criminal conviction. Contact our Fairfax child neglect defense lawyers for a free consultation about your rights and potential defense.

     

  • 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.