Frequently Asked Questions About Violent Crimes

If you have been charged with a violent crime in Fairfax, you most likely have many questions about the charges you face, possible penalties, and defenses that can help. Here, our experienced criminal defense attorneys provide answers to commonly asked questions in these cases.

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  • What are the potential penalties for possessing a weapon on school property?

    Gun Sitting on Top of School SuppliesIt is a crime to have a weapon on school property in Virginia. Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1 defines the crime and the potential penalties that you may face.

    For purposes of this law, school property is defined as public, private, and religious:

    • Daycare centers
    • Preschools
    • Elementary schools
    • Middle schools
    • High schools
    • Property being used exclusively for a school-sponsored function or extracurricular activity
    • School buses

    The specific penalty you may face for having a weapon on school property depends on the type of weapon involved in the alleged crime.

    Weapons Other Than Firearms

    It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly possess a stun weapon, knife (other than certain pocket knives), or another dangerous weapon (other than a firearm) on school property, in school buildings, on property used by the school for a function or activity, or on a school bus.

    A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail term.


    It is a Class 6 felony to knowingly possess a firearm or gun on school property, in school buildings, on property used by the school for a function or activity, or on a school bus.

    The penalty for a Class 6 felony includes a prison term of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail term. However, if you are convicted of intending to use, threatening to use, or attempting to use the firearm within a school building, then you face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

    Exceptions to the Weapons on School Property Law

    Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1(E) provides specific exceptions to the law described above. If one of the following is true, then you should not be convicted of having a weapon on school property:

    • You have the weapon as part of the school’s curriculum or activities.
    • You have a knife customarily used for food preparation or service.
    • You have a weapon as part of any program sponsored or facilitated by the school or an organization authorized by the school to conduct a program on or off school grounds.
    • You are a law-enforcement officer qualified to carry a handgun.
    • You have a knife or blade that you customarily use in your line of work.
    • You have an unloaded firearm or stun weapon in a closed container, a knife in a motor vehicle, or unloaded shotgun or rifle in a firearms rack in a motor vehicle.
    • You have a valid concealed handgun permit and you have a concealed handgun or stun weapon in a motor vehicle.
    • You are a school security officer who is authorized to carry a firearm.
    • You are an armed and licensed security officer hired by a daycare or private or religious school to protect students and employees.

    Other defenses may also apply in your case.

    To learn how best to protect your rights and avoid potential penalties after an arrest for having a weapon on school property in Virginia, please contact our experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.


  • What are defenses to arson charges in Virginia?

    Fire Line Tape at the Scene of an ArsonEvery arson case is unique and the answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances of your case. Our experienced Virginia arson defense lawyers will review all of the facts of your case to determine which defenses apply and to make sure all of your legal rights are protected.

    Arson Defenses to Consider

    It is the government’s responsibility to prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If the government fails to prove its case, then you cannot be convicted. In an arson case, the government must prove that the fire was started intentionally by you and that you had malicious intent.

    Depending on the specifics of the case, some possible defenses include:

    • Lack of intent. The fire investigation must prove that the fire was set deliberately and not by accident. Additionally, the prosecution must prove that you meant to do something wrong. If you started a fire by accident, then you shouldn’t be convicted of arson and you may provide evidence that proves your lack of intent.
    • Mistaken identity. Even if the fire was set intentionally, you can only be convicted of arson if the prosecution proves that you were the one who caused the fire. If it wasn’t you who did it, then you may provide evidence establishing where you were at the time of the fire, what you were doing at the time of the fire, or someone else’s likely involvement in starting the fire.
    • Insufficient evidence. Sometimes, you don’t need to present evidence to the court. Instead, your defense lawyers may argue that the government does not have enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    More than one of these defenses could apply to your case.

    Now Is the Time to Consider Your Arson Defense

    If you are convicted of violating an arson law in Virginia, then you face a variety of penalties up to and including life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Your life could change forever.

    Whether you have already been charged with arson or you expect to be charged with arson, we encourage you to contact our Northern Virginia criminal defense attorneys today to make sure that all possible defenses are considered and that you are treated fairly.


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

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

    Jail Time and Fines

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

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

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

    Other Consequences of Domestic Abuse

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

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

    Contact a Domestic Abuse Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

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


  • 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.