Criminal Law & Public Safety Passed Bills
There are a number of new criminal laws which took effect on July 1, 2017. Every year the General Assembly meets in the Winter and proposes new laws and amendments to old laws. As you know, in addition to being a criminal attorney Fairfax Virginia trusts, I have served as the Chairman of the Committee which writes these laws – the House Courts of Justice Committee, so I have had a large role in the drafting of these new laws. Here are a few of the new laws I thought were significant.
- Activation of fire alarms; reimbursement of expenses; penalty. If a person activates a fire alarm maliciously and not for an emergency they will be prosecuted and fined. Removes the condition that a building must be for public use in order for the Class 1 misdemeanor for maliciously activating a building’s fire alarm to apply. The bill authorizes any locality to provide by ordinance that a person convicted of maliciously activating a fire alarm shall be liable for the reasonable expense in responding to such a fire alarm. Current law allows such an ordinance to impose liability for the reasonable expense of an emergency response to an imitation version of a weapon of terrorism, fire bomb, other explosive device, bomb threat, or incitement of a bomb threat. The bill increases the maximum amount that a locality or volunteer emergency medical services agency may recover under such an ordinance from $1,000 to $2,500.
- Sex offenses prohibiting proximity to children; penalty. In addition to severe penalties of incarceration for sex offenders, after the defendant gets out of prison, he is limited to certain areas where he may live. This bill adds to the list of types sex offenses that will prohibit a person convicted of such offenses from being or residing in proximity to schools and certain other property where children congregate or from working on school property any offense similar to such offenses under the laws of any foreign country or political subdivision thereof or the United States or any political subdivision thereof. The prohibition regarding residing in proximity to a school that is predicated upon an offense similar to any offense under the laws of any foreign country or any political subdivision thereof, or the United States or any political subdivision thereof, only applies to residences established on and after July 1, 2017. A criminal attorney Fairfax VA can explain to a person convicted of these crimes, where he may and may not go and live.
- Definition of sales draft; credit card offenses; penalty. If a person purchases a valuable good or service with a person’s credit card without permission they will be convicted of forgery. This bill includes within the definition of “sales draft,” the electronic form evidencing a purchase of goods, services, or a thing of value. A person convicted of forgery of such a sales draft is guilty of a Class 5 felony.
- A bill was passed of July 1 2017 that Computer trespass; government computers and computers used for public utilities; penalty. If a person uses a public computer to trespass, the person will now be charged with a Class 6 felony. Increases the Class 1 misdemeanor computer trespass crimes to a Class 6 felony if the computer affected is one that is exclusively for the use of, or used by or for, the Commonwealth, a local government within the Commonwealth, or certain public utilities. This increase in penalty to a felony, makes hiring a criminal attorney in Fairfax VA necessary.
- Assault and battery; health care providers; penalty. If a health care provider is assaulted while performing his duties in the hospital or other emergency care facility will be punished to a higher extent. The bill expands the penalty for battery against a health care provider who is engaged in the performance of his duties to apply in hospitals or in emergency rooms on the premises of any clinic or other facility rendering emergency care. Under current law, the penalties only apply to a battery against an emergency health care provider. Often a criminal attorney in Fairfax VA can help get this type of charge reduced to regular assault and battery. The bill requires the Department of Health to work with stakeholder groups to develop guidelines regarding the publication of penalties for battery on a health care provider and for the training of health care professionals and providers in violence prevention programs.
- Use of an electronic device to trespass; peeping into dwelling or occupied building; penalty. It is now a Class 1 misdemeanor to use an electronic device to spy into an occupied building or to enter into one’s property to spy. This bill punishes as a Class 1 misdemeanor the use of an electronic device to enter the property of another to secretly or furtively peep or spy or attempt to peep or spy into a dwelling or occupied building located on such property, unless such use occurs pursuant to a lawful criminal investigation. This bill is in response to people using drones to peep into people’s private areas, such as bedrooms or bathrooms where people are likely to be undressed.
- Providing support to terrorist to organizations; penalty. If a person knowingly provides information for a group or individual whose main objective is to perform an act of terrorism will now be guilty of a Class 3 felony. If a person or persons were harmed or killed as a result of the information it will then be treated as a Class 2 felony. Provides that any person who knowingly provides any material support to an individual or organization whose primary objective is to commit an act of terrorism and does so with the intent to further such objective is guilty of a Class 3 felony. If the provision of such material support results in the death of any person, the penalty is increased to a Class 2 felony. The bill also expands the definition of an act of terrorism to include an act committed outside the Commonwealth that would meet the definition of an act of violence if such act was committed within the Commonwealth. This bill was necessary because local police did not have jurisdiction to issue search warrants where a person was planning an attack out of the state. A criminal attorney Fairfax VA respects can explain what acts are considered an “act of terrorism.”
THE FAIRFAX COUNTY FELONY PLEA OF GUILTY PROCESS
Most people facing a plea, have never been in that situation before. This article explains what a person is agreeing to, if he/she pleads guilty to a felony. A criminal attorney Fairfax VA trusts, should spend a great deal of time with his client to assure that the client understands all the elements and ramifications of a plea. Only after an extensive discussion with your attorney should you enter a plea agreement and plead guilty.
All pleas to a felony are done in open court and through the use of a written plea form. This form’s purpose is to assure that the defendant knows his rights, is of sound mind, and is not being forced to enter the plea. Each plea agreement form can be different, so consult your form specifically. However, all plea agreement forms will cover the following basic elements:
- The defendants understands the charges against him (the things that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the prosecutor to prove the case) and any defenses available to the defendant.
- The defendant has discussed with his criminal attorney Fairfax, VA trusts about the plea and that in the end it is the defendant’s decision to plea and no one else’s.
- The defendant is pleading guilty because he is, in fact, guilty.
- The defendant understands the punishment range. For example, a Class 6 felony carries a penalty of 0 – 5 years in prison. Your criminal attorney Fairfax VA should fully explain all possible sentences and how the sentencing guidelines can affect the sentence. sentencing guidelines are used to provide a judge with the range of punishment that the average Defendant with a similar charge and criminal history has received. The guidelines are not mandatory. Judges can go above or below, but in order to go above, the Judge must document aggravating factors to justify why he went over. Some charges have mandatory minimum sentences too. To describe the interplay between the maximum sentence, the guidelines and a mandatory minimum, perhaps an example will help. For a plea of guilty on Class 6 felony with a mandatory minimum of one year, and the sentencing guidelines say 6 months to 2 years, that means that while a Judge can give up to 5 years in prison, he should follow the guidelines which say 6 months to 2 years. However, since there is a mandatory minimum of one year, the 6-month sentence is impossible. So in reality, the judge should sentence between 1 year and 2 years. The judge, however, could go over 2 years, but to do so, he would have to document aggravating circumstances to justify such a departure from the guidelines.
- Following the termination of his sentence, the defendant can receive up to 3 years of probation.
- The defendant is giving up his right to a trial by a judge or a jury. He is also giving up other constitutional rights such as his right to testify or right to remain silent, he right to compel witnesses to attend whom he believes would be useful in his case, and his right to cross-examine all those who testify on behalf of the prosecution. He is also giving up his right to use the power of the court to obtain evidence to help his case. Basically, this makes sure the defendant knows he has a right to a trial, and is giving up that right.
- If at trial there is an error of law made, the defendant can appeal the case to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. A plea of guilty basically gives up the right to a trial (see above). Thus, the plea form always includes an acknowledgment that the defendant is giving up his right to appeal. This basically means that if you do not like the decision of this court on sentencing, you do not have a right to ask another court to overturn that decision. This decision will be final.
- Plea agreement which often accompany a plea of guilt, come in all shapes and sizes. The agreement that your criminal attorney Fairfax VA and the prosecutor have negotiated usually include one or more or any combination of the following: (1) a deal that drops (the Court uses the Latin term for “not prosecute”) one or more charges if the defendant pleads guilty to one or more other charges, (2) reducing a charge to a lesser offense, (3) an agreed punishment. If there is no agreement to the sentence (#3 above), then the prosecutor and defense attorney can argue for any punishment – usually the Prosecution wanting the max and the defense attorney arguing the minimum.
- The defendant asserts on one is forcing or threatening him to plead.
- If the defendant is no a citizen of the United States, then he is told that this plea could have serious immigration consequences including deportation. It is advisable for a non-US citizen to retain an immigration attorney in addition to his criminal attorney Fairfax VA.
In Fairfax, the prosecutors tend to use the standard form put out by the Supreme Court. Other jurisdictions use expanded plea agreement forms, but Fairfax seems to be bare bones. This is most likely because Fairfax is, by far, the busiest Court in Virginia. After all, Fairfax has 1.2 million residents. The prosecutor’s office does not hire enough prosecutors per population as other jurisdictions. Thus, the prosecutors stick to the standard forms as they don’t have a lot of time to do individualized plea Agreement forms. This can be good and bad for the defendant. Good, if the prosecutor forgets to put some restriction in the form. Bad if the defendant is represented by an inexperienced attorney who cannot eyeball the potential future pitfalls. For example, Fairfax prosecutors do not routinely put in the plea agreement what type of plea it will be. You want the type of plea that allows you to withdraw the plea if the judge does not accept it. And you better get it in writing! Obviously, you need an experienced criminal attorney Fairfax, VA trusts to look out for you.
If I don’t take a plea and it looks like I’ll be convicted, why hire a good criminal attorney Fairfax, VA trusts?
Contrary to popular belief, a good criminal attorney Fairfax, VA offers can get charges dismissed, and for those charges that cannot be beaten, it is possible to dramatically reduce the punishment you may receive by representing yourself. And, maybe most importantly, a criminal attorney Fairfax VA provides can hold your hand and guide you through what can be the frightening process of being charged with a crime.
Note: Our lawyers practice in Fairfax, and all other counties of Virginia. We have offices in Fairfax, Arlington, and Staunton. We reference Fairfax, VA in this article because it is the largest jurisdiction in Virginia with the most rigid procedures. Work done to Fairfax standards meets or exceeds the standards in every other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth, so it is common to use it as a benchmark.
At the least, being charged even with the smallest crime is stressful and confusing. Those normally in a position of trust — the police and prosecutors — are suddenly “on the other side.” Now you need a criminal attorney Fairfax VA residents trust to be on your side. Face it, if you go on your own, no one is fighting for your rights, and on top of that, Virginia’s criminal law procedures seem tilted against the defendant. Sure, there are platitudes such as “presumption of innocence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” But a good criminal attorney Fairfax VA clients recommend doesn’t rely on that – he fights for you. And what about people who are innocent? It does happen, and whatever the cause, it is a fact that some people are wrongfully convicted of crimes. A criminal attorney Fairfax VA relies on is the only person making the prosecutors prove the case against you. Without a criminal attorney Fairfax VA trusts on your side, judges and juries will only hear one side of the story – and it won’t be your side.
We Are Your Best Defense
Criminal charges are almost always very serious and the consequences of a conviction can be life changing. This is why it’s so important to work with a Fairfax criminal attorney who has the experience and knowledge to make a difference in the outcome of your case. Our attorneys at Dave Albo are skilled at presenting rock solid defenses and representation for clients for any of the following:
- Bail and arraignment hearings;
- Illegal narcotic violations, including possession, intent to distribute, sales, and manufacturing criminal charges;
- Post conviction relief including modification of sentence, a new trial, release on security, and custody matters;
- Sexual assault;
- Money laundering;
- Deportation and illegal reentry;
- Alien smuggling;
- Driving under the influence;
- Domestic violence;
- Juvenile criminal defense; and
- Assault and battery.
A criminal charge of murder is one of the most serious crimes that someone can be charged with, and having a qualified criminal attorney Fairfax VA locals choose for representation is almost mandatory. Public defenders are often overburdened and are rarely as effective as a dedicated private attorney. At Dave Albo we regulate our caseload so as to ensure that each client receives our utmost focus. When you need a skilled criminal attorney Fairfax VA residents turn to with confidence, contact us for a free consultation during which one of our attorneys will review your case. Our legal team is adept at representing clients who have been charged with any of the following:
First-degree murder. This is commonly associated with cases that involve the pre-planned and intentional murder of another individual which results in their death. If convicted, the accused can be imprisoned for life as well as be responsible for paying a substantial fine of up to $100,000. When you hire a criminal attorney Fairfax VA community members trust from Dave Albo it’s possible that your charge can be reduced or dismissed altogether.
Second-degree murder. This is when someone is believed to have intentionally killed another person on the spur of the moment, rather than as a pre-planned event. Though not as serious a charge as first-degree murder, convictions can result in prison terms as long as 40 years. A criminal attorney in Fairfax VA who represents you must prove that there is reasonable doubt that in fact you were the perpetrator or that you acted in self-defense.
Capital murder. This is a Class 1 felony which can be just as serious as first-degree murder and can result in life in prison or a death sentence. The act of killing another person willfully, deliberately, and in a premeditated fashion falls under this category. After consulting with a criminal attorney Fairfax VA relies on, you should have a clearer understanding of this charge.
Here are several common examples:
- The killing of someone after or while abducting them;
- Murdering someone for hire;
- Killing someone while committing a rape or robbery; and
- Murdering a law enforcement officer or other public service official.
Felony murder. If someone kills another person while in the commission of a felony, they may be charged with felony murder in the first or second degree.
Manslaughter. There are two types:
Involuntary: When the perpetrator did not intend to kill the person. More often than not, the person died as a result of an accident which was avoidable. A criminal attorney Fairfax VA offers may be able to prove that the accident was not avoidable, or that you acted in self-defense.
Voluntary: When the perpetrator intended to kill the person but did not act with malice.
We Can Help
We are confident that there is a criminal attorney Fairfax VA depends on at our firm with experience in the criminal charge you, your family member, or friend are charged with. That means that we have helped people in your same situation literally thousands of times. How can I confidently say that we have a criminal attorney Fairfax VA with vast experience in the charge you are interested in? It is because we have handled thousands upon thousands of cases.
For example, our criminal attorney Fairfax VA section leader Erik Jurgensen, served as a Fairfax County Prosecutor before devoting his full time to criminal defense. Two other attorneys in our firm are former prosecutors as well. Every morning a prosecutor handles between 10–15 misdemeanors and every afternoon, between 5-10 felonies. That means a prosecutor gets 15 to 25 times the legal experience per day that a regular criminal law attorney does. One of our attorneys is even a former police officer.
In addition, because each of us is an experienced criminal attorney Fairfax VA needs, we teach criminal defense law to other attorneys at leading continuing legal education programs, have written important criminal defense manuals used by our colleagues, and even are invited to teach judges the law.
Finally, two of our attorneys worked in legislatures. Dave Albo has served in the Virginia House of Delegates where he Chairs the Courts of Justice Committee. That means that he has had a hand in drafting every criminal law passed in Virginia over the past quarter century. And Mike May served 8 years as a Prince William County Supervisor. During that time he played a role in the legislation of all Prince William County’s criminal laws.
So if you need an experienced criminal attorney Fairfax VA residents depend on, call our office today.
What Can I Do to Defend Myself for a Reckless Driving Charge?
The moment someone gets pulled over by an officer is the time when their mind starts to race over what they may have done that could have resulted in being asked to stop on the side of the road. The officer may have witnessed the driver maneuvering the vehicle in an unsafe or threatening manner, that could have put others on the road at risk of serious harm. After having a brief or long conversation, the officer may determine that the driver should be arrested for reckless driving.
One of the next thoughts the driver may have is what he or she can do to defend themselves from being convicted of reckless driving. This is a serious charge that may require assistance from a seasoned reckless driving lawyer in Fairfax, Virginia in criminal defense cases.
Here are some examples of defense strategies a reckless driving lawyer may suggest using, after performing a more in-depth evaluation of your arrest:
You were not being willful in your reckless driving. That means perhaps you were speeding to get to the emergency room or home because a loved one needed help. When someone we care about is in danger, we may run stop signs, plow through red lights and go as fast as we can in order to get to them quickly. If your reckless driving was motivated by an emergency situation, you may have a strong defense that your Fairfax, VA reckless driving lawyer can use.
You were not aware of the rules of the road. Sometimes, we may accidentally break a driving rule due to not having enough signage to know better. You may have been speeding but were not aware of it because you hadn’t seen a speed limit sign posted for that area. You cannot be willfully reckless if you were not properly informed of the rules in the first place.
Perhaps you were being negligent, not reckless. There is a difference between negligence and recklessness. You may not have been careful, but were not doing anything that was of an extreme nature either. Speeding a few miles per hour over a speed limit is probably not reckless. If you can show how what you were doing was closer to negligence, your reckless driving lawyer from Fairfax, VA may be able to get the charges against you lessened or dropped.
Your speed was not properly calculated. You may be able to challenge evidence brought against you. Just because proof is shown does not mean it has substance or has been interpreted in the correct light. With guidance from a reckless driving lawyer, you can question what tool was used to calculate your speed and whether this device was even allowed to be utilized in that area. The officer may have been new or tired, and not determined your speed with accuracy.
Reckless driving charges are not to be taken lightly. The laws pertaining to what is deemed reckless driving can vary by state, so it is important that you consult with a reckless driving lawyer Fairfax VA clients recommend from Dave Albo – Attorney to see if perhaps you had been arrested for something that is not legally punishable. When it comes to fighting a reckless driving conviction, you may want all the help you can get.
Frequently Asked Questions: Managing Criminal Charges
Learning that you may be charged with a crime can be devastating. Criminal charges and the possibility of a criminal conviction can be quite impactful, mainly because you will be facing the possibility of severe consequences. A criminal defense lawyer will play a key role in helping you to manage your case and answering the number of questions you may be facing.
How will I know if I am being charged with a crime?
If you are under investigation, your thoughts will turn to whether you are being charged with a crime. If you have been charged with a crime, often, the process begins with an arrest. However, it’s essential to know that the police may attempt to question you first. The police will likely have been investigating your case. Following your arrest, a prosecutor will review the case and determine whether they will charge you with the crime you have been accused of.
What will happen if I am arrested for a crime?
If police have investigated a case and believe that you are a suspect in the legal case, they may arrest you. You will likely not be charged with a crime until after the police report has been filed and reviewed by the prosecutor. If you are arrested, your first step should be to contact a criminal defense lawyer before answering any questions.
If I’m arrested, will I have to remain in jail until my trial?
If you have been arrested, among the many questions you have will be whether you will be required to remain in jail. Whether or not you will stay in jail will largely depend upon whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or more serious crime. A person is often released when charged with a misdemeanor; however, they must appear for their future court date. However, in some cases, you could be taken into custody until your court date. Your lawyer can advise you on whether you will be able to post bail.
What is an arraignment?
Following an arrest, an arraignment is a court proceeding that initiates the process. This is when the charges that are brought against you are formally read, and your lawyer will enter your plea.
If the police want to question me, should I speak to them without my criminal defense lawyer?
If you are a suspect in a criminal case or have been charged with a crime, law enforcement will most certainly want to question you. This can happen in a variety of ways. Law enforcement may want to question you informally, or they may try to question following an arrest. Regardless of how the situation plays out, before answering any questions, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer. They can help you navigate questions, ensure that you do not make any statements that could be damaging to your case, and ensure that your rights are protected.
At what point in my case should I consider reaching out to a criminal defense lawyer?
You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. This can help them to get ahead of things by providing you with the best legal defense possible. They can ensure that the proper steps are taken and give you the best opportunity at a favorable outcome. Waiting too long can result in mistakes being made, which could be damaging to your case.
If you are facing criminal charges, your first call should be to a criminal defense lawyer in your area. Not only can a criminal defense lawyer protect your rights, they can help you navigate your legal case.