Criminal and Serious Traffic Law FAQ’s

Criminal and Serious Traffic Law FAQ’s

WHY RETAIN A LAWYER?

Many people think that they can go to court on their own and just “explain” their situation to the Judge and they will get their charge reduced. Others think that on their own, they will be able to convince the Judge to treat them leniently. To be honest, it is possible to do anything on your own. Conversely, even if you hire a lawyer, no lawyer can guarantee a particular result.

Basically, there is no law that says you have to have a lawyer. However, because you are not trained in Virginia Law, and have not received the “on the job” training that we have received by being in Virginia Courts almost every day for almost three decades, you really do not have the ability to present the best case to beat the charge, nor convince the court to treat you leniently.

The main advantage of retaining a lawyer is that a lawyer will be able to identify any legal defenses you may have. Contrary to popular belief, people can win Criminal, Reckless Driving and DUI/DWI charges. In addition, by knowing the personality of the Judges, a good lawyer will know what arguments will work best with each Judge. If, after reviewing all the facts, the law, and any technical defenses you may have (e.g. in the case of Reckless Driving the calibrations of the speed detection device used in your case, in the case of DUI/DWI the operations records of the breath alcohol machine, in a Criminal case Constitutional search and seizure issues) your lawyer concludes that winning a trial would be difficult, he can negotiate with the Prosecutor to reduce the charge or limit the punishment. A lawyer is essential for these negotiations, because in most jurisdictions, a private citizen is not allowed to speak with the Prosecutor. Most Prosecutors only speak with retained attorneys. Thus, without an attorney, you have virtually no ability to reach a plea agreement. And in jurisdictions where a prosecutor will talk to you, you are negotiating with an experienced attorney. With no legal training, how can you really negotiate?

In summary, in order to protect your rights, it is almost always better to be represented by an attorney. While no attorney can guarantee any particular outcome or result, an experienced attorney can better help you win a trial or negotiate a plea agreement to reduce your charge or your punishment.

HOW WE SET OUR FEES

To be honest with you, we are slightly more expensive than many other firms. We charge based upon the value we can bring to your case. So if you are looking for the cheapest firm in town, you should not hire us. (Note: When I was a Prosecutor, I noticed that the cheaper lawyers did not file the necessary motions needed to win a case, had not done the legal research and preparation, and that they usually had some place else they needed to go because they represented multiple people on the same day. I promised myself that I would never be that kind of attorney and would always give my clients the attention their case deserved.)

We charge a fair fee for the work we do because we undertake a great amount of legal work prior to court so that we know all the possible defenses available to our clients. Then when in court, our attorneys generally handle only one serious case a day.

In addition, few other firms feature attorneys who are:

  • Former prosecutors
  • Regularly instruct other lawyers on how to defend these cases,
  • Invited to comment on the law on national network and cable t.v. (e.g. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, “Today Show”)
  • Multiple Washingtonian Magazine and NOVA Magazine “Top Lawyers”, and

Have had their legal defenses reported state-wide to other attorneys in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

I was charged with DUI / DWI / Drunk Driving. Can I beat the charge? What are the punishments I am facing?

While you are not required to have a lawyer for this charge, we believe that having a lawyer represent you would be a good idea. You may not realize it but, in Virginia, a DWI (DUI and DWI are the same thing in Virginia) is a very serious charge.

A DWI is a Class One Misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is up to one year in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and up to a 12 months license suspension. This is the same level crime as a Shoplifting, and Possession of Marijuana. Of course, few people get the maximum charge. However, the following is quite common:

  • Jail: While the odds that you will get a year in jail are very slim, depending upon whether your driving behavior was dangerous, your BAC level was far above the minimum (.08), and depending upon the Judge or the Prosecutor you get on your Court date, jail is a very real possibility. In fact, as of 7/1/04 for BAC levels over .15 jail is mandatory. And even without mandatory jail time, if you go on your own, without an attorney, with the wrong judge and the wrong argument you could receive significant jail time as punishment;
  • License Suspension: Mandatory 1 year. You may be allowed by some judges, depending upon the facts, to drive to and from work, school and other categories; and
  • Fines: Usually less than $400.00.
  • Demerit Points: 6 DMV demerit points.
  • Insurance: While it is not a legal issue, you should check with your insurance company for how much your rates will increase.

In order to protect your rights, it is almost always better to be represented by an attorney. While no attorney can guarantee any particular outcome or result, an experienced attorney can better help you win a trial or negotiate a plea agreement to reduce your charge or your punishment.

I was Charged with Reckless Driving. Am I in a lot of trouble?

While you are not required to have a lawyer for this charge, we believe that having a lawyer represent you would be a good idea. You may not realize it but, in Virginia, there are 17 different types of Reckless Drivings. The most common is Reckless Speeding (most of the offenses listed in this code section are for driving faster than 20 mph over the limit or anything over 80). For example, even traveling over 75 in a 55 mph zone is “Reckless Driving”, and going 81 in a 65 mph zone is Reckless. Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor crime, and a very serious charge.
While it may not be worth the money to hire a lawyer if you are barely over 75 and have a perfect driving record, Judges often suspend licenses for people traveling faster than 80 and usually hand out jail at over 90. And with previous driving offenses on your record, the punishments may be worse.
If you have a great driving record, you may be able to convince the Judge on your own to drop a Reckless Driving down to a lesser charge. However, when you hit anything faster than 30 mph over the limit (e.g. 85 in a 55 mph zone), Judges routinely issue license suspensions. Even worse, over 90, jail is likely. If you have a bad driving record, again, the punishments could be worse.
The harsh penalties are, as I stated above, due to the fact that a Reckless Driving is a Class One Misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is up to one year in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and up to a 6 months license suspension. This is the same level crime as a DWI, Shoplifting, and Possession of Marijuana. Of course, few people get the maximum charge. However, the following is quite common:

  • Jail: While the odds that you will get a year in jail are very slim, with the wrong judge and the wrong argument you could receive some jail time as punishment;
  • License Suspension: Many judges, unless you have a perfect driving record, will suspend licenses; and
  • Fines: Usually less than $200.00.
  • Demerit Points: 6 DMV demerit points.
  • Insurance: While it is not a legal issue, you should check with your insurance company for how much your rates will increase.

Many people think that they can go to court on their own and just “explain” their situation to the Judge and they will get their charge reduced. Others think that on their own, they will be able to convince the Judge to treat them leniently. To be honest, no lawyer can guarantee a particular result. And, there is no law that says you have to have a lawyer. However, because you are not trained in Virginia Law, and have not received the “on the job” training that we have received by being in Virginia Courts almost every day, you really do not have the ability to beat the charge, nor convince the court to treat you leniently.
The main advantage of retaining a lawyer is that a lawyer will be able to identify any legal defenses you may have. Contrary to popular belief, people can win Reckless Driving charges. In addition, by knowing the personality of the Judges, a good lawyer will know what arguments will work best with each Judge. If, after reviewing all the facts, the law and the calibrations of the speed detection device used in your case, your lawyer concludes that winning a trial would be difficult, he can negotiate with the Prosecutor to reduce the charge or limit the punishment. A lawyer is essential for these negotiations, because in most jurisdictions, a private citizen is not allowed to speak with the Prosecutor. Most Prosecutors only speak with retained attorneys. Thus, without an attorney, you have virtually no ability to reach a plea agreement.
In summary, in order to protect your rights, it is almost always better to be represented by an attorney. While no attorney can guarantee any particular outcome or result, an experienced attorney can better help you win a trial or negotiate a plea agreement to reduce your charge or your punishment.

I was charged with Reckless Driving. If convicted, will I have a criminal record?

Does a Reckless Driving conviction go on my Criminal Record?

I wrote this article because I am getting sick of attorneys trying to scare people about Reckless Driving and criminal records.

Some attorneys who are ignorant on the law (and maybe some who are trying to scare people into hiring them) will say, “You better hire me because if you get convicted of Reckless Driving, it is a crime, and you will have a criminal record.” This statement is not correct. As Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, I have confirmed the following with the people who operate the Virginia Criminal Record Exchange.

While a Reckless Driving in VA is, in fact, a Class 1 Misdemeanor (the same level of crime as a DUI, Assault & Battery, Shoplifting <$200), it does NOT go on your criminal record. I don’t know for sure why this is. My guess is that a Reckless is not a crime in most other states. So Virginia does not want to give people a “criminal record” for something they did in Virginia that would not be a crime elsewhere.

So if you are charged with a Reckless Driving, say for speeding 20+mph over the limit, if you are convicted, the Court documents will say “Guilty – Reckless Driving”, but it will not be on your Criminal Record. But there are exceptions. In order for an offense to show up on someone’s criminal record, they would have to be fingerprinted. So if you get stopped for Reckless, say 20 mph over the speed limit, and get ticketed, the offense should not show up on your criminal record. If however, you got stopped for DUI and were arrested and finger printed, and your very good attorney got the charge reduced to Reckless Driving, then it would appear on your criminal record, but it would probably show no disposition for the DUI. Instead, it would show that the charge was reduced to Reckless Driving. So, in summary, for the most part, if you were arrested and fingerprinted, the Reckless will be on your criminal record. If you were never printed, then it will most likely not appear on your criminal record.

However, be aware. If you have been convicted of a Reckless Driving and are ever asked on a job application or in a security clearance interview, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime.” You would have to state, “Technically Yes. I was convicted of Reckless Driving, which in VA is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.”

ACCOLADES

"Best Lawyers," by Washingtonian magazine (2015, 2013, 2011, 2004).**
"AV-Preeminent" byMartindale-Hubbell(2015). This is their highest ranking for legal ability and ethics. **
"Legal Elite," by Virginia Business magazine(2015-2006; 2003, 2002).*
""Power Player of the Year for Litigation," by SmartCEO magazine (2013).*
"Leaders in the Law," by
"Top Criminial Lawyers," by Northern Virginia magazine (2014, 2012,2010).**
Super Lawyers," by Thomson Reuters (2015-2006). *
* This award is given annually
** This award is given every two years
*** This award can only be given once