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Do I Need a Lawyer for My Reckless Driving Charge?
I was charged with reckless driving by speed — do I need to hire a lawyer for this?
As a traffic and criminal defense lawyer defending people throughout Northern Virginia courts for many years, I have been asked this question countless times. While some law firms will try to scare you into hiring them immediately by suggesting you are going to jail for up to 12 months, the truly correct answer on whether to retain counsel for a reckless driving is…. “it depends.” It depends on what your concerns and goals are, the facts and evidence and legal issues you may have, your current and future employment concerns, your driving record, in which county your case is, and which judge and prosecutor may be involved in deciding your case.
Therefore, rather than try to give a “one size fits all” answer, I’ll instead discuss several of the more important considerations for anyone who has been given the yellow Virginia Uniform Summons accusing them of “reckless driving.”
These considerations include the following:
- The likelihood you will be found guilty of reckless driving by the judge;
- Assuming you are convicted, what sentence might the court impose in a reckless driving case; and
- Once a conviction is reported to the DMV, what are the DMV consequences (including demerit points, effect on insurance and effect on job).
What are the chances that you will be found guilty of reckless driving?
In deciding whether to hire a lawyer for your reckless driving case, consider the range of outcomes. The court could find you “guilty as charged” of reckless driving, or “guilty” of a less serious offense (for example, speeding, failing to obey highway signs or improper driving), or possibly “not guilty” of anything. Any case’s outcome of course depends on its facts, legal issues and evidence.
Do not make the mistake of expecting the judge to dismiss or reduce your case automatically.
Many people have the misconception that the Virginia court will have some traffic court program that you can be ordered into to get a better result. Unlike some other states, Virginia has no statewide statutory first offender program where one can expect to get a dismissal or reduction based on a clean driving record and completion of a driving school. Therefore, don’t think a traffic attorney is unneeded because you expect there’s some traffic school program the court will put you in to avoid a reckless conviction — the fact is that the Code of Virginia does not have any statutory program for reckless driving or speeding cases.
Another wrong assumption is that the judge will have mercy on you and will reduce or dismiss your case.
Perhaps your situation is truly exceptional, and the judge will be moved to treat your case as unique. But the reality of traffic court is that many people have the similar explanations or pleas for mercy, and a judge who hears the same thing repeatedly may not be so moved. Further, what sounds like a reasonable explanation to you might actually backfire. For example, perhaps you think the judge will understand that you didn’t realize how fast you were going because you were distracted by loud kids in your car. However, by highlighting this, a judge might feel compelled to impose greater punishment because driving too fast with kids in the car is worse. An experienced traffic lawyer will have an informed opinion of the best way to present your case.
Also, the outcome is affected to some degree by which county your case is in, as well as which judge you appear before.
The critical point here is that each county is different, and each judge is different. Be cautious of comparing case results with other people — what happened in your friend’s Prince William reckless case may be of little use in predicting what will happen in your Fairfax case. Even within one county, case outcomes can be widely different based on which judge or prosecutor or officer was involved — Fairfax GDC Court has about 10 judges and about 25 prosecutors, each with various views, personalities, and inclinations. Further, certain judges are stricter on reckless speed, while others tend to show more mercy in certain cases. Some judges are more receptive to technical arguments and evidentiary objections, while others may be quicker to accept the officer’s testimony as adequate.
Finally, in some courts, a person representing him/herself (“pro se”) gets the chance to plea bargain with the prosecutor in the hallway before any trial; but in other counties, a pro se defendant has no such chance and instead deals only with the judge.
As a general rule, it’s better to have two bites at the apple (plea negotiate with a prosecutor, and if that does not result in an agreeable compromise, then take the case to the judge). Pro se defendants should be careful in talking with the prosecutor because if the case cannot settle, then anything you said to the prosecutor can be used against you at trial.
As you can see from the above, there are numerous considerations when you ask yourself the first question “what are the chances I can win this?”
Do You Find Yourself In Need Of A Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you've recently found yourself in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Virginia you should speak with us as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia law office at to schedule your free consultation.
First Offender Program for Marijuana Possession Charges
One of the most common charges people face is simple possession of marijuana, in other words, possession of marijuana for personal use and not for distribution.
Possession of marijuana for personal use in Virginia is a misdemeanor, punishable by:
- up to 30 days in jail
- a fine of $
- Driver's license suspension for 6 months
These penalties do not even factor in the lifelong effect of having a drug conviction on your permanent record when you apply for jobs, school, the military, etc.
Requirements for the First Offender Program in Virginia
The Virginia Code allows for what is called the "first offender program" for first time marijuana possession charges. To be entered into this program, you must do the following:
- enter a plea of guilty or no contest to the charge
- complete a substance abuse assessment
- complete a drug education and/or treatment program based upon the recommendation of the substance abuse assessment
You bear the costs of these programs (which are substantial), as well as all court costs. Anyone enrolled in the program will be required to complete at least 24 hours of community service (but the judge may order more), and will be subject to random drug testing while enrolled in the program.
The charge is then dismissed at the end of a year if the individual successfully completes these requirements. However, even though the charge is ultimately dismissed (if you do everything right), the 6 month driver's license suspension still applies the same as if you had been found guilty.
Should I accept the first offender program?
I provide this information because the prosecutor will offer the first offender program in the vast majority of cases where individuals are eligible. But just because it is offered does not mean it is a good deal. Depending upon the facts and circumstances of your case, there may be ways to beat this charge outright; so that you protect your clean record, your driver's license, and your future.
Prosecutors are eager to offer first offender status to those who are eligible because proving a marijuana charge is a lot of work for them!
Possible Defense Strategies for Your Marijuana Possession Charge
Be wary of a defense lawyer who pushes the first offender program on you without thoroughly examining the possible avenues for acquittal in your case. They should be asking questions such as:
- Was the marijuana seized lawfully?
- If it was found in your home, why was the officer there in the first place? If it was in your car, why were the officers searching your car?
- Was it found on you, or just near you?
- If you made any statements, are they admissible against you in court?
- Did the officer complete the chain of custody forms?
- Were these forms maintained to the evidence locker?
- Was the marijuana field tested?
- Was it sent to the laboratory in Richmond?
- And on and on and on
There are so many ways for an aggressive attorney to attack a possession of marijuana charge. If all you are doing is shopping around to find the cheapest lawyer in town for your marijuana charge, then you are simply accepting the first offender program as a foregone conclusion. Hire a lawyer who will fight for you, not one who will take the first deal the Commonwealth offers.
Contact Our Office
Whatever you think about marijuana laws in this country (here is information on an organization seeking to change them), if you are facing a marijuana charge in Virginia, the stakes are high. If you are going to hire a lawyer, hire one willing and ready to fight for your rights! Contact us by calling or submitting an online form!
Charged with an Assault and Battery in Virginia? Don't let a false charge, a mistake, or a moment of bad judgment impact the rest of your life.
In Virginia, Assault (often called Simple Assault) and Battery (often called Assault and Battery) are serious criminal offenses. Typically, Simple Assault and Assault and Battery are charged as misdemeanor offenses for which one can be given a lengthy jail sentence and a substantial fine. However, under certain circumstances Simple Assault and Assault and Battery charges have a mandatory jail sentence and can even be elevated to a felony offense with a possible prison sentence.
Simple Assault and Assault and Battery Charges
Arrests for Simple Assault and Assault and Battery arise from some sort of confrontation and can involve a wide variety of behavior, such as slapping, kicking, pushing, punching, scratching, bumping, spitting, poking or throwing an object, such as a phone, a shoe, a rock, a bottle, a remote control, etc.
Battery Defined By Law (Assault and Battery)
Battery is simply the unlawful touching of another in a rude, angry or insulting way. The touching involved in a Battery does not have to be direct person to person contact. It can be accomplished by the use of an object (hitting someone with a stick) or by setting something in motion that hits someone (spitting or throwing a rock). Actual injury is not required. The unlawful touching is the crime. Of course, the extent of any injuries sustained can impact the severity of the sentence imposed.
If person A (without legal justification or excuse) punches person B, hits person B with a bat, or throws a rock and hits person B, person A has committed a Battery (Assault and Battery), even if person B was not actually injured.
Assault Defined By Law (Simple Assault)
Unlike Battery (Assault and Battery), Assault (Simple Assault) does not involve actual contact or touching. Instead, Assault involves either (1) a failed attempt to commit a Battery or (2) putting someone in reasonable fear of a Battery.
If person A (without legal justification or excuse) attempts to punch person B but misses, swings a bat trying to hit person B but misses, or throws a rock trying to hit person B but misses, person A has committed an Assault. Similarly, if person A (without legal justification or excuse) through some combination of words and actions puts person B in reasonable fear of being the victim of a Battery, person A has committed an Assault.
Summary – Simple Assault vs. Assault and Battery
Battery (called Assault and Battery) is the completed act – the unlawful touching of another done in a rude, angry or vengeful way, even if it caused no actual injury.
Assault (called Simple Assault) is either an attempted Battery or placing someone in reasonable fear of a Battery.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Fight Your Simple Assault and Assault and Battery Charges
If you have been arrested for Simple Assault, Assault and Battery or some other Serious Traffic or Criminal Offense and the outcome of the case is important, call The Wilson Law Firm and put our experienced criminal defense lawyers to work for you, immediately. Call toll free CRIM-LWYR or .
RELATED CRIMINAL OFFENSES INVOLVING ASSAULT OR BATTERY
Simple Assault and/or Assault and Battery Hate Crimes (See Va. Code §)
If the victim of a Simple Assault was intentionally selected based on race, religion, color or national origin, the punishment includes a mandatory jail sentence.
If the victim of an Assault and Battery was intentionally selected based on race, religion, color or national origin and the victim was injured, the offense is elevated to a felony offense and the sentence includes a mandatory jail sentence.
Simple Assault and/or Assault and Battery of School Personnel (See Va. Code §)
If the victim of a Simple Assault or Assault and Battery is a principal, teacher, guidance counselor, etc. and the offense takes place while the victim is working as such, the sentence includes a mandatory jail sentence.
Assault and/or Assault and Battery of Other Protected Groups (See Va. Code §)
The law mandates additional punishment when a Simple Assault or Assault and Battery is committed against someone in a protected group, such as judges, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, rescue squad members, etc. If the offense is committed knowing or having reason to know the victim is from one of these protected groups, the offense is a felony offense with a lengthy mandatory jail sentence.
Assault and Battery Against a Family or Household Member (See Va. Code §)
In Virginia, Assault and Battery against a Family Member or Household Member is often times referred to as Domestic Assault and Battery. As these words suggest – the victim must be a Family Member or Household Member as defined by the Virginia statute. Typically, Domestic Assault and Battery is charged as a misdemeanor offense for which one can be fined and sentenced to serve time in jail. However, if the offender has prior convictions for similar offenses, what would otherwise have been a misdemeanor offense can be elevated to a felony offense for which the offender can be sentenced to serve years in a state prison.
Unlike other Assault and Battery charges, Virginia law allows for some offenders accused of Domestic Assault and Battery to request the case be handled under a First Offender program which essentially gives the offender the chance to persuade the Court that the incident in question was unusual and is not likely to happen again. If the offender is permitted to participate in the program it can lead to an eventual dismissal of the Domestic Assault and Battery charge upon successful completion of a probationary period and fulfillment of certain conditions placed upon the offender by the Court. If the offender fails to successfully complete the program, a conviction will be entered and the Court will determine the appropriate sentence to impose.
Satisfaction and Discharge / Accord and Satisfaction (See Va. Code §)
Virginia law allows the Court to dismiss certain types of criminal charges – including some Assault and Battery charges - when the accused and the alleged victim have resolved their differences. This is often referred to as a Satisfaction and Discharge or an Accord and Satisfaction. It requires the victim to acknowledge in writing having received satisfaction from the accused, and often involves the payment of money, so utilizing this statute can sometimes be tricky. Successfully navigating through an Accord and Satisfaction dismissal often requires the guidance of a tactful, professional, and experienced Criminal Defense Attorney.
We Fight Your Simple Assault Charges
Do you have questions about what happens next in your case? Call us now and get some answers today at and speak with one of our experienced Northern Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer. Our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers will begin your defense by identifying your goals and interests, getting your side of the story, investigating your case, locating evidence including audio or video recordings, and interviewing witnesses. Your best interest is our #1 concern - whether your interest lies in negotiating an optimal plea deal or thoroughly, aggressively challenging everything with a trial. Don't let a false charge, a mistake, or a moment of bad judgment impact the rest of your life, fill out a contact for here and we will contact your shortly.
What are the penalties for a first DUI offense in VA?
If you have been charged with your first offense of Virginia DUI, you may face penalties including fines, a driver's license suspension, and time spent in jail. To avoid these penalties, you may be able to fight your Virginia DUI charge. You can learn more about creating a DUI defense against your Virginia DUI charge by consulting with an experienced Virginia DUI defense attorney.
If you are convicted of a first Virginia DUI offense, your penalties will depend on your blood alcohol content (BAC) level. In addition to what is listed below, there may be other penalties depending on if there was an accident that caused property damage or personal injury, if you were younger than 21 years old at the time of your DUI arrest, or if there were minor children in the car with you at the time of your Virginia DUI arrest.
If for your first offense your BAC was less than , you will face a class 1 misdemeanor with penalties of:
- Up to a $2, fine;
- Up to 12 months in jail; and
- 1 year revocation of your administrative driver's license.
If for your first Virginia DUI offense your BAC was between and , you will face the same penalties with an additional mandatory 5 day jail sentence.
If for your first Virginia DUI offense your BAC was greater than , you will face the same penalties with an additional mandatory 10 day jail sentence.
If you are convicted of a first offense for Virginia DUI, and your driver's license is revoked, you may be eligible for a Restricted Operator's License. However, if you do receive a Restricted Operator's License, and your BAC was measured at or above, you will be required to install an ignition interlock system in your car.
To know more about the penalties for a first Virginia DUI, you can get the advice of a Virginia DUI defense attorney.
How can a Virginia DUI defense attorney help me?
No state is faster at moving cases through the system than Virginia. In the face of a defending a criminal charge, the decision of who will be your lawyer will be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Before you speak to any lawyer, get a FREE copy of Bob Battle's consumer guide, How to Choose a DUI Lawyer in Virginia or contact Bob Battle to schedule your legal consultation today at
First Offender Program for Marijuana in Virginia
By Rob Dean on Aug 20,
As a student, you may be wondering if you can get a first offense for marijuana possession dismissed, so that you can protect your record upon graduation. Under Virginia Code Section , the judge may assign the student to the First Offender Program for Marijuana in Virginia, which allows dismissal after certain conditions are met.
Under the First Offender Program, you will be required to complete community service; a substance abuse class; and, pay a fine or court costs, while the case is taken under advisement for a year. Your license to drive may also be restricted for a period of six months. So long as you complete these steps and do not incur further violations, the charge is dismissed by the court.
In my experience handling these cases, a firstoffender dismissal is treated as a full dismissal for employers and graduate schools. Further, by affording you the benefit of the firstoffender program, you will be able to truthfully answer on job applications and graduate school applications that you have not been convicted of a crime because the charge itself. Most employers only check for convictions, not charges. In any event, this is the best possible outcome under the circumstances if the government can otherwise prove actual possession and if there is a confession to knowingly possessing marijuana.
One final consideration: if the government cannot prove each of the elements under Virginia Code Section (Possession of Marijuana), then it may be possible to get the charge dismissed completely without having to enter into the First Offender Program. Further, please note that charges under the First Offender Program are not eligible for expungement, whereas a dismissal is eligible for expungement. Therefore, you should speak with a Blacksburg criminal defense lawyer to see what can be done to get the charge dismissed prior to court.
Manassas Fentanyl Criminal Defense Lawyer
Possession of Fentanyl - § of the Code of Virginia
The opioid epidemic has made the possession and distribution of fentanyl a major focus of law enforcement. As a result, someone found in possession of fentanyl must be aware that their case will garner extra scrutiny from police, prosecutors and judges.
In Virginia, the possession of fentanyl is an extremely serious offense. A conviction for possession marks a person with a felony record. This conviction deprives a person of their rights and creates difficulties securing employment. The penalties for possession include incarceration for up to 10 years and a fine for as much as 2, dollars.
As a result of these serious consequences, Dischley Law’s attorneys will fight to secure your best possible outcome. This can be in the form of a “First Offender” disposition or negotiating with prosecutors for an alternative disposition.
First Fentanyl Possession Offense - § of the Code of Virginia
As an alternative to saddling a person with a felony conviction for the possession of fentanyl, the Court has as an option the “First Offender” program. Generally, if this is your first time charged with a drug offense, you are eligible to have your charge dropped pursuant to meeting certain conditions of the Court.
In the “First Offender” program, a person will plead guilty to the charge in question but the Court will withhold a finding of guilt. Instead the case will be continued for a year and a person will be put on probation. They will be required to meet with their probation officer, attempt to secure employment, complete hours of community service and take drug screens. After a year of good behavior and meeting all the requirements of the Court, the charge will be dismissed.
Distribution and Possession with the Intent to Distribute Fentanyl - § of the Code of Virginia
Due to the gravity of the opioid epidemic, law enforcement and prosecutors treat the Distribution and Possession with the Intent to Distribute Fentanyl very seriously. The penalties for such offenses are severe. For a first conviction, a person can be sentenced to not less than five years and not more than forty years of incarceration along with a fine not to exceed , dollars. Consequently, a person charged with such an offense needs the best possible legal team to fight for their charge to be dropped or reduced.
Distribution offenses are generally involve the selling of a substance to a undercover police officer. Under those circumstances, we will review discovery to ensure that a person was not entrapped by law enforcement and thereby induced to commit a crime they otherwise never would have committed. If such inducement can be shown, we will fight to have the case dismissed.
Possession with Intent to Distribute Fentanyl cases require a different type of analysis. In those cases, it must be shown that the fentanyl possessed was not for personal use. An expert will need to testify that what a person possessed was inconsistent with personal use.
Experts will point to:
- The weight of the substance seized,
- The manner it was packaged,
- The presence of paraphernalia consistent with drug distribution,
- Evidence located upon a person’s cell phone indicative of distribution,
- The presence of large amounts of currency,
- The presence of firearms.
As a result, Attorneys with Dischley Law will examine every factor and piece of evidence in possession of the Commonwealth. We will fight to prove that the drugs in question cannot be connected to a person or that the evidence simply does not support the conclusion that possession was with the intent to distribute.
Contact us today for more information about Fentanyl possession/distribution.
First Time Offenders In Virginia
Most people think that the first time they get in trouble, the justice system will give them a break since they don't have a prior record. Sadly, the request for leniency has different results depending on where that person goes to court.
For many years some Virginia courts refused to enter deferred dispositions or take a case under advisement unless there is a law that allows such a finding. The Virginia Code only has express first offender status for the following crimes: Underage Possession of Alcohol (Virginia Code § (F)); Domestic Violence (Virginia Code § ); and Possession of Drugs (Virginia Code § ).
Contact us for your free consultation.
Can Criminal Convictions be Expunged?
A criminal conviction is a devastatingly permanent matter. Virginia convictions cannot be expunged and they do not come off of a record like a speeding ticket. Many otherwise law abiding citizens have occasions when they make a bad decision.
Alcohol and trying personal circumstances can lead to bad judgement. There is no reason why a mistake someone makes in his twenties should prevent him from getting a job when he is forty or fifty years old.
THE BAD DAYS:
Lawyers and citizens were frustrated that a person could keep a clean record after a felony cocaine charge but not after a $ shoplifting charge. Most judges in Virginia robotically followed the law on this issue. Despite the tireless work of a great lawyer, there was limited discretion. If the evidence was sufficient for guilt, a court would find a defendant guilty; permanently affecting his record.
Regardless of how clean a person's record once was, one mistake could permanently affect him. The Virginia Court of Appeals directed trial judges to act this way. The Appeals Court ruled that trial judges could not decline to convict a person based on a belief that a defendant deserved leniency.
In some cases prosecutors realized how unfair this was. A good lawyer could negotiate a resolution that did not result in a permanent conviction. In this small number of jurisdictions common sense prevailed over case law. Some judges and prosecutors worked around the Appeals Court by continuing cases to allow a defendant to complete a probationary period, crime awareness classes or community service. At the end of that term, the court would dismiss the charge.
FINALLY A CHANGE
In , the highest court in the state finally changed the law. The Virginia Supreme Court held Virginia courts have the "inherent discretionary authority" to take a matter under advisement “and to continue the case for future disposition, subject to such lawful conditions as the court might proscribe.”
In , the Virginia Supreme Court issued another decision that gave judges even more power to craft unique dispositions for citizens that deserved a second chance.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW:
Courts and prosecutors have the authority to do the right thing. A good lawyer can negotiate to reach a resolution that keeps a person's record clean. In most situations (other than drugs, domestic violence and alcohol) there are still no specific first offenders programs. Attorneys must be creative and persuasive to get what their clients need.
For more information, contact us 24/7 for your free consultation.