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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  • 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 restoration 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.

     

  • What is probation?

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

    Probation Rules

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

    The specific conditions of your probation may include:

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

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

    Probation Officers

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

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

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

    Think About Probation Long Before Sentencing

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

    Potential Hit and Run Defenses

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

    Some of the defenses that we will consider include:

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

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

     

  • 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.

     

  • 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.

     

  • What is the difference between an expungement and an appeal?

    Word Cloud With Words Related to Appeals and ExpungementsExpungements and appeals have different legal procedures and different potential outcomes. To make an educated decision about whether to pursue an expungement or appeal in your Virginia criminal case, it is important to understand both legal options and to contact an experienced Virginia criminal lawyer for help.

    Expungements

    If an expungement is successful, then it is as if you were never charged with a crime. All records having to do with the alleged crime are erased. You can go about your life as if you were never arrested, and potential employers and others who conduct background checks will not be able to find any record of the criminal charges you faced.

    In Virginia, you may be eligible for expungement if:

    • You were acquitted
       
    • The charge was nolle prossed (dismissed) and the Commonwealth does not intend to bring the charge back within one year

    If you have never been convicted of a crime and the charge you are seeking to expunge was a misdemeanor, then you may get an expungement unless the government’s attorney convinces the court that there is good cause not to grant the expungement.

    If you have been previously convicted of a crime or if the charge against you was a felony, then you have to convince the court that it would be a manifest injustice to keep the charge against you from being expunged.

    Appeals

    You must have been convicted of a crime to pursue an appeal. You may be able to seek an appeal if:

    • Your case was heard by a general district court. In Virginia, you have the right to appeal to a circuit court if your case was decided by a general district court.
       
    • Your case was heard by a circuit court and one or more of your legal rights was violated. In this situation, you may appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals. However, in some cases you must petition for an appeal. In other words, you must request permission that your appeal be heard; therefore, it is a process best navigated with the assistance of an attorney.

    Common reasons for appeal include incorrect jury instructions, improperly admitted evidence, juror misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel.

    On appeal, the court may decide to affirm the decision of the lower court, vacate the ruling of the lower court, or reverse the judgment of the lower court and send the case back to the lower court to be tried again.

    Contact a Virginia Criminal Lawyer for Help

    Expungements and appeals are different, but if you pursue either legal option, then you may benefit from the help of an experienced Fairfax criminal law attorney. Contact our lawyers today to discuss all of your legal choices.