Fairfax Criminal Lawyer Articles

Faraji A. Rosenthall has been educating the public and clients alike through online articles about common legal topics and through the distribution of free educational downloads.

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Former Fairfax Prosecutor Explains What to Expect If You Are Charged with First Offense DWI And What Will Happen When You Go To Court in Fairfax, Virginia

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM MY FIRST OFFENSE DWI? WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN WE GO TO COURT? The process for handling DWIs in Fairfax County is different than most people expect.  The biggest surprise is the sheer number of cases that go through the system.  Fairfax County Police arrest more than 2500 drivers for drunk driving in a year.  That means that there may be upwards of 50 DWI cases in court on any given day.  With that sort of volume, the Prosecutor’s office simply isn’t able to review many cases before court.  Unless your case involves a blood test or some other unique circumstance it is likely that nobody from that office will know anything about your case before court. Instead the way the system works is that the Prosecutor talks to your officer and all the other officers about your case, the day of court.  They meet in a little room right outside the courtroom and discuss all of the cases in the room that day.  Then at about 1015 or 1030, the Prosecutor will begin discussing cases with lawyers. During this session, your lawyer will receive what is called discovery.  This process involves the Prosecutor telling the attorney what evidence and facts the government will use to try to convince the judge that the driver is guilty of the crime they are charged with.  During this meeting your lawyer will also tell the Prosecutor about any facts that would help their client’s case.  After that discussion, the two lawyers negotiate a plea agreement. A plea agreement states that if the client agrees to plead guilty the... read more

What Kind Of Sentence Should You Expect If You Are Convicted In Fairfax, Virginia for Your First DWI?

What Kind of Sentence to Expect For Your First DWI   Jail Time In Virginia, a DWI conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor (the most serious type).  One possible penalty is jail time.  If the defendant’s BAC is below a .15, Virginia law does not require the defendant to serve any jail time and the court will probably not give the defendant a custodial sentence.  However, this is no guarantee; if the court finds the defendant’s conduct was especially egregious even if the defendant’s BAC is below a .15, the court may impose a jail sentence. If the defendant’s BAC is between a .15 and .20, Virginia requires that the defendant serve a minimum of five days in jail.  The usual 50% reduction for good time served does not apply to this sentence so the defendant must serve the full five days.  If the BAC is above a .20, the sentence increases to a minimum of 10 days.   Driver’s License Suspension Jail time is not the only penalty for a first-time DWI conviction.  When a defendant is arrested for a DWI, his driver’s license is administratively suspended for seven days.  Upon conviction of a DWI, the defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended for 1 year.  Many first-time DWI offenders request (and are granted) a “restricted license.”  This license allows the defendant to drive back and forth to work, to school, medical facilities, court-ordered programs for alcohol counseling, and a few other exceptions.  The court will order the defendant to enroll in an alcohol counseling course through the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program as a condition of carrying a... read more

What to Expect When You Go To Court in Fairfax, Virginia for a DWI/DUI Case

What is the General Court Procedure for a DWI Charge in Fairfax?   Not one DWI case is the same; rather, a defendant’s case will depend on a number of factors including whether or not this was his first charge, whether he hired a private defense attorney opposed to a public defender, whether he posted bail, etc. Court usually opens at 9:30 a.m.  The judge begins by calling the names for the people with cases that did not hire a lawyer and reads them their charges.  These people will usually have a defense attorney appointed to them if they cannot afford private counsel and are otherwise eligible. It is at this time that the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney (aka Prosecutor or District Attorney) assigned to the courtroom will typically look at the case for the first time.  Because of the sheer amount of cases that prosecutors handle, they will most likely not have had time to thoroughly read all their assigned cases for that day.  Before court starts, the prosecutor will also speak to the police officers about the DWI cases that they were involved in. After the prosecutor speaks to the police officers, they then meet with the defense attorneys to discuss the cases.  Defendants are not allowed to be present at these meetings and they take place outside the courtroom.  In these meetings, the defense attorney and prosecutor essentially break down the case, discuss the evidence, and identify any mitigating factors that might help the defendant.  The prosecutor will then decide on a plea offer for the case and extend it to the defense attorney. These plea... read more

Difference Between Drug Possession and Possession with Intent to Distribute in Fairfax, Virginia

What is the Difference Between a Drug Possession and Distribution Charge? The gap between drug possession charges and drug distribution charges in Virginia is a mile wide. They have different proof requirements and punishments. There is also an option to avoid jail time available to drug possession charges but not available to distribution charges. What Do the Police Have to Prove for Each Offense? Drug possession charges are easier to prove then distribution charges but usually lead to a lighter sentence. To prove a possession charge, the Commonwealth’s Attorney must show that you knowing or intentionally had control over an illegal substance. Having control over the substance extends beyond simply having the substance on your person. Control can be found where the defendant has access to the substance, for example when it is being kept in the glove compartment of a vehicle. As well, the police need to show that the defendant either knew what the substance was or disregarded a substantial risk that the stuff was an illegal drug. However, the defendant must also have known that drugs were present. By way of example, a defendant who borrows a friend’s car without knowing its contents may not be responsible. To prove a drug distribution charge, the police must be able convince a jury or judge that the defendant either manufactured or possessed drugs with the intent to sell them. This can be very difficult for the police to accomplish in some cases because it involves determining what’s going on in the defendant’s mind. The police will often need to do so through circumstantial evidence, such as the quantity... read more

Former Fairfax Prosecutor Discusses Virginia’s Prescription Fraud Laws

What is Prescription Drug Fraud? The abuse of prescription drugs is becoming more and moreprevalent. Prescription drug addiction can happen accidentally, for example when someone is legitimately prescribed drugs for pain and reacts adversely to them. However, prescription drugs also have high street values and are attractive targets for those looking to make profits illicitly. In any case, prescription drug abuse is a tricky area of the lawbecause the drugs are often obtained from a legal source through illegal methods.Virginia law approaches prescription drug fraud under Virginia Statute 18.2-258.1. The statute makes it illegal to engage in a wide variety of activity aimed at obtaining illegal prescriptions. What are the Specifics of the Prescription Fraud? A couple of key components of the prescription fraud statute are worth mentioning.Prescription drugs are commonly illegally gotten through the use of a doctor’s prescription pad. Defendants sometimes steal a prescription pad directly from a doctor or copy of a prescription that was legitimately made. Defendants may even create entirely fraudulent prescriptions. The statute prohibits forgery or alteration of prescriptions and all of the above methods of getting prescription drugs are illegal under the statute. As well, providing mislead facts in order to obtain medication is unlawful. A defendant can be charged under the statute for merely hiding information that is considered “material” to the prescription. Material information is basically that which would be necessary in order for a doctor or other authorized prescriber to make a decision reasonably grounded in fact. However, the statute specifically states that giving a false name or address is covered. At the end of the day, Virginia has... read more

What is Possession with Intent to Distribute? What Happens In Court? How do Fairfax County Police Investigate These Drug Crimes?

What is Possession with Intent to Distribute? How Do the Fairfax County Police Investigate Such Cases? And What Happens in Court? Possession with Intent to Distribute is a category of drug crime.  It can either be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the drug involved and the quantity alleged. Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana (18.2-248.1) Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana is a Class 1 Misdemeanor meaning it can be punished by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2500.  However, if the amount of marijuana in question is more than ½ of an ounce, the charge is a Felony.  Quantities between ½ ounce and 5 pounds are a class 5 felony (punishment from no jail time up to 10 years) and quantities of more than 5 pounds can be punished by between 5 and 30 years in prison. Under the law any intent to give or distribute weed can be charged under the statute.  That means that it doesn’t necessarily have to be for sale.  You can be charged with PWID even if you were just planning on sharing with friends.  However, if you were just planning to share and not make a profit there are significant defenses available and a reduction of the charge is very possible.  Essentially the law makes a distinction between marijuana that was for personal use and marijuana that was planned to be used by others. Possession with Intent to Distribute Schedule I or II Drugs (18.2-248) It is illegal to manufacture, give, distribute, sell or give any drug classified as Schedule I or II narcotic. ... read more

Possession of Paraphernelia

WHAT IS POSSESSION OF PARAPHERNELIA? HOW DOES IT RELATE TO A POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA CHARGE IN FAIRFAX COUNTY? Possession of Paraphernalia is very rarely charged in Fairfax County or anywhere in Virginia really.  This is because the actual statute doesn’t cover what most people expect it to cover.  While the title makes you think it relates to having a bowl, bong or some other marijuana smoking device, the statute actually relates to syringes.  Nevertheless, a paraphernalia charge is a frequently negotiated reduction of a marijuana charge. The way the process works is as follows.  A Prosecuting attorney in Fairfax will meet with the officer and discuss your case the day of court.  If the Prosecutor is so inclined they may offer to reduce the charge to paraphernalia under section 54.1-3466.  This is a favorable reduction for some people, it is less than favorable for others.  It really depends on what the individuals biggest concern about the case is. The biggest advantage to a reduction of the charge to paraphernalia is that a conviction will usually just carry with it a small fine of about $100 or so.  There is no required loss of license and you don’t have to attend any drug classes.  The downside is that the punishment is a conviction which will stay on your record for life.  It is not a drug conviction though. If you are charged with a first offense marijuana possession you should talk to your lawyer before court to determine whether a reduction to possession of paraphernalia would be beneficial for you.  If your biggest concern is your record, then you would... read more

A Former Prosecutor Discusses Eluding Law in Virginia

What is Eluding? Eluding is a common crime charged in Virginia that deals with attempting to evade police officers while driving a car. Virginia Code 46.2-817 sets outs the particulars of the charge. In laymen’s terms, someone is guilty of eluding when they have been signaled to pull over by a police officer and tries to escape or even simply ignores the officer. A conviction for eluding can also be had where the defendant pulls over and then attempts to escape the police on foot. Importantly, the driver must have received a signal from the police that he needs to stop his vehicle. As well, if the driver reasonably believes that the person pursing him is not actually a police officer then he won’t be guilty of eluding. A garden variety eluding is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying up to 6 months in jail and a fine as much as $1,000. However, if a person or police officer is endangered by the chase, then the charge is a class 6 felony carrying heftier penalties. Further, a court must suspend the offender’s license for between 30 days and 12 months. If the eluding individual was traveling faster than 20 miles per hour above the speed limit, then the suspension will be for a minimum of 90-days. What are Common Issues in Eluding Cases? Eluding cases can sometimes be difficult for the Commonwealth to prove. One of the big issues is whether the defendant was aware that he was being pursued by the police. The police first must prove that the officer made some kind of indication to the driver that... read more

What Happens in Fairfax County After You Get a Reckless Driving Ticket?

What Happens With a Reckless Driving Ticket in Fairfax County Virginia? Learn how to proceed after being stopped and ticketed for reckless driving in Fairfax, Virginia. Is it a crime or a simple traffic infraction when you drive recklessly? Reckless driving is considered to be the blatant disregard of life and limb – as well as property, when driving. True Examples It could happen when you exceed the speed limit; disobey orders by a traffic police; run a stoplight and other incidences. There’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to reckless driving in Fairfax County, but if you want accurate information, go straight to the source: Virginia Laws regarding reckless driving. These statutes reveal that reckless driving is a crime, and drivers can be penalized by: Fines of up to $2,500 License Suspension Possible Jail Time Deductions in Driver’s License Points A Permanent Criminal Record There are several ways to handle this dilemma, but the cleverest move is to hire an attorney. The aim of which would be to have the charges either dismissed or lowered to an improper driving offense – not a crime. How can lawyers accomplish this? Let’s explore some of the top defenses below: Prove That You Are a Safe Driver A clean driving record may be your ticket out of this ticket. When drivers can prove a clean and responsible driving history, it’s easier to argue that reckless driving won’t become a pattern. The judge may give you a pass by reducing the charge to an improper driving offense. Prove That You Were Not Driving Recklessly Use technology to prove the real evidence.... read more

What Happens If You Get Caught Driving After Your License Is Suspended for DWI in Fairfax, Virginia

What Happens If You Are Caught Driving After Your License Was Suspended From a DWI?   If you are caught driving when your license was suspended for a DWI, you may face a possible conviction under 18.2-272.  Unless you have previously been convicted of a driving on suspended these charges can often be resolved with no jail time.  However, the tangential impacts of such a conviction can be much worse.  The DMV will suspend your license for at least a year.  The DMV suspension is typically equal to the length of time that your original suspension was for.  So if you were caught driving during a 12 month suspension, the DMV will add another 12 month suspension on to the end.  During that period of suspension you will not be eligible for a restricted license and will essentially have to walk everywhere.  Regardless of whether you lose your job or cannot provide for your family you will not be able to drive at all.   Additionally, you will likely be subject to receiving some or not all of your suspended jail time imposed.  In most Fairfax DWI cases, the initial sentence is 30 days of suspended jail time.  If you are caught in violation of your initial sentence you will likely have to face a judge who can impose some or all of that sentence.   The 18.2-272 charge applies if:   You are driving and do not have a restricted license You are driving outside the terms of your restricted license (either time and/or location) You are driving after drinking (the limit is .02)   Regardless, the potential... read more

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