Common Questions About Personal Injury, Family Law, and Criminal Defense in Virginia
Do you have questions about how Virginia laws apply to your situation or what you can do to reach your legal goals after an accident, arrest, or divorce? Our experienced attorneys in Fairfax answer some of the most frequently asked questions from clients here. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, or if you need more information about your rights, reach out to us today at 877-652-1553.
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Is my spouse’s substance abuse problem relevant in our divorce?
Substance abuse may be relevant to some aspects of your divorce agreement or court decree. Therefore, you should share your spouse’s substance abuse problem with your divorce lawyer as soon as possible.
Substance Abuse as Grounds for Divorce
Substance abuse is not listed as a statutory reason for an at-fault divorce in Virginia. However, if substance abuse leads to a felony conviction, puts you at risk for physical harm, or causes your spouse to desert you, it could be a reason for a fault-based divorce. Otherwise, substance abuse may be the reason that you seek a no-fault divorce.
Since you can seek a no-fault divorce in Virginia, grounds for divorce may not be your primary concern. Instead, you may be worried about the details of your divorce.
How Substance Abuse Impacts a Divorce
In most cases, your spouse’s alcohol or drug addiction will not affect alimony, division of marital property, or division of marital debt. However, if your spouse spent a significant portion of your family money on drugs or alcohol or incurred debt because of his addiction, it could impact alimony and the division of marital assets and debts.
Substance abuse is more likely to impact child custody and visitation. The courts decide child custody issues based on the best interests of the child and not what is equitable for the divorcing spouses. Therefore, if you can prove that it is not in your child’s best interests to spend time with a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol, you may be able to prevent your child from spending unsupervised time with the parent who is not always sober.
If you’re worried about your children’s safety due to your spouse’s substance abuse, our experienced family law attorneys will help you obtain a fair and legal divorce settlement that protects your kids. To learn more, please fill out our online contact form, or call us today.
What defense is possible if I’m charged with statutory rape?
In Virginia, a person under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual activity, and the penalties for someone who violates the law and has sex with an underage child can be significant. However, there are exceptions to the law, and sexual activity with a teenager is not always a crime.
Virginia Statutory Rape Laws
Several different statutes apply to what is commonly called statutory rape, including:
- Having sexual intercourse with a child who is under the age of 13 is rape, according to Va. Code § 18.2-61
- Having sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or sexual penetration with an object with a child between the ages of 13 and 15 is a crime, according to Va. Code § 18.2-63
Sexual abuse, incest, exposing oneself to a child, and suggesting an illegal sexual act to a child are also against the law in Virginia.
Defenses to Virginia Statutory Rape Laws
A potential defense depends on the unique circumstances of an individual case. However, some defenses include:
- The ‘Romeo and Juliet’ exception. This exception is used when there is consensual sex between minors who are less than three years apart in age. For example, teens between the ages of 13-15 or 15-17 could have consensual sex, and the penalty is reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
- The ‘Marital’ exemption. This allows consensual sex between a minor, 15 years or older, who is married to someone over 18.
Don’t Leave Your Defense to Chance
If you’ve been charged with statutory rape, you may believe you’re morally and ethically innocent. However, if convicted, you face a potentially significant sentence that includes between one year and life in prison and a fine of $2,500 - $100,000. Additionally, you will be required to register as a sex offender. Contact our criminal defense lawyers today to learn more about your rights and what you need to do to protect yourself.
Are punitive damages allowed in Virginia personal injury cases?
Punitive damages, or damages that are meant to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff, are allowed in Virginia personal injury cases. However, punitive damages are only allowed in specific situations, and they can be very difficult to obtain.
Punitive Damages for Egregious Behavior
Although you may have suffered a very serious injury or your loved one may have been killed in an accident, this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically recover punitive damages. Instead, if you are pursuing a punitive damage award, the court will consider the defendant’s behavior that resulted in your injury.
Punitive damages may be awarded to you if you can prove that the defendant acted with either malice or with willful and wanton disregard for the rights of others. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages. If the defendant’s conduct is not malicious, willful, or wanton, but the defendant failed to use reasonable care, and that resulted in your injury, you may still be able to recover compensatory damages for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Punitive Damage Limits in Virginia
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant, and this financial support will provide you with compensation over and above the value of your compensatory damages. As with other kinds of damages, you will need to prove the value of the punitive damages you are seeking by providing convincing evidence to the court.
While the exact value of your potential punitive damage award is dependent on the facts of your case and the arguments you make, Virginia law limits the amount of punitive damages to a maximum of $350,000.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer About Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are not awarded in every case. Our experienced Virginia personal injury lawyers will review the facts of your case and provide you with our professional opinion about whether or not you should pursue punitive damages. Call us, or start a live chat to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your rights and all of your potential compensation.
Who gets the pet when a couple divorces in Virginia?
In Virginia, a pet is considered personal property. Therefore, unlike child custody which may be shared, a pet will be awarded to one spouse if the court must get involved and make the decision for you.
What the Court Considers When Deciding Pet Custody
If you and your soon to be ex-spouse can’t decide who should have the pet after the divorce, the court will decide. Often the court will consider factors, such as:
- Who is home more often
- Who the pet is most attached to
- Who brings the pet to the vet or groomer
- Who feeds, walks, and plays with the pet
- Who owned the pet prior to marriage (if applicable)
The court may also consider whether one spouse neglected or abused the pet.
Should Pets Be Personal Property?
Because both spouses may share in the care of a pet, some states are considering other ways to assign pet ownership after a divorce and may no longer treat pets as personal property. However, this is not yet the case in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Pets are personal property, and you should be prepared to fight for ownership of your pet if you want the pet to live with you after a divorce.
Talk to Your Divorce Lawyer About Pet Ownership
If keeping your pet is a priority for you, it is important to let your lawyer know. He can work hard to help you keep your pet, as well as help you divide the rest of your property fairly. Contact us today via this website or by phone to learn more.
What’s the best way to hire a criminal defense lawyer?
If you need a criminal defense attorney, the person you hire could play a pivotal role in whether you go to jail, pay significant fines, or face other legal penalties.
What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney
As you consider different attorneys to represent you in your criminal case, it is important to think about:
- Whether the lawyer has experience in the local court system
- Whether the lawyer will explain all of your options to you, so you can make informed decisions
- Whether the lawyer has trial experience and can/will participate in plea bargaining
- Whether the lawyer will be available and willing to answer questions as your case progresses
- Whether the lawyer will represent you if you need to appeal
When you’re making a decision about legal representation, it is often a mistake to hire a lawyer who does not specialize in criminal law. You may have a used a great attorney for a real estate closing or to draft your will, but if you have been charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense lawyer to represent you.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
When you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney, it’s important to schedule an initial meeting before you hire anyone. At that meeting, you can get to know the lawyer and how he can help you. You may consider asking questions, including:
- How long have you been practicing criminal defense law?
- How often do you appear in the court where my case will be heard?
- How frequently do you go to trial? How many of your cases end in plea bargains?
- Have you ever handled a case similar to mine before?
- What are my legal options?
- Do you see any potential problems with my defense?
- Who else at the firm will be working on my case?
- Can I call you if I have any questions about my case?
- How are you paid?
If you would like to schedule your first appointment with the experienced Northern Virginia criminal defense lawyers at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC, please call us, or fill out our online contact form today.
What happens if a dog bite results in an infection?
If a dog bit you, it may result in an infection. Symptoms of an infection may include redness, swelling, fever, or discharge from the wound site. After any dog bite, it’s important to get immediate medical care, as a proper diagnosis and treatment plan are necessary to prevent further illness and, in some cases, death.
Types of Dog Bite Infections
An infection may develop because the dog bite broke your skin and exposed you to bacteria. Some specific infections caused by a dog bite include:
Consult a Northern Virginia Dog Bite Lawyer
If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s dog, you may be entitled to financial damages for all of the injuries you’ve suffered. Our Fairfax dog bite lawyers will work hard to help you recover for all of your past, current, and future expenses related to your injuries, which may include but are not limited to:
- Doctor appointments
- Rehabilitation therapies
- Lost income
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
Together, the attorneys of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC have more than 100 years of legal experience. We apply this experience and our passion for justice to every client we represent. To find out more about your rights and potential recovery, please contact our Fairfax dog bite law firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
What strange or outdated laws in Virginia can still affect the public?
Most people take for granted that their state has understandable, reasonable laws that everyone must follow. It’s against the law to steal, assault or kill another person, and drive recklessly or while intoxicated. However, the Commonwealth has some laws on the books that you may not know about.
Strange Virginia Laws
As a Virginia resident, you should know that it is technically illegal to:
- Use profane, indecent, or threatening language on the phone. This includes the language you use in your text messages.
- Tickle a woman. Men, however, may be tickled.
- Hunt any animal other than a raccoon on a Sunday. If you are going to hunt a raccoon on a Sunday, however, you must do so by 2 a.m.
- Have sex with the lights on.
- Have sex outside of marriage. This is punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
Additionally, different counties and municipalities have their own strange laws. For example, it is:
- Illegal to flip a coin to decide who pays for coffee in Richmond.
- Illegal to wash a mule on the sidewalk in Culpeper.
- Illegal to spit on a seagull in Norfolk.
- Illegal for a woman to be out at night in Norfolk unless she is wearing a corset and is accompanied by a male chaperon.
- Legal for a man to beat his wife on the courthouse steps in Stafford County as long as he does it before 8 p.m.
Will You Face Legal Penalties for Breaking These Laws?
Whether you can face penalties for breaking these laws depends. In 2012, for example, the Virginia Supreme Court applied the law making it illegal to use profane, indecent, or threatening language over the phone. However, there are no known recent cases where a couple having sex with the lights on was prosecuted.
What are your rights at Virginia sobriety checkpoints?
Police can legally operate sobriety checkpoints in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but their right to stop and search a driver is not unlimited. Instead, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects drivers from unreasonable search and seizure and gives drivers certain rights at sobriety checkpoints.
What Police Can and Cannot Do at a Sobriety Checkpoint
The police must publicize a sobriety checkpoint before operating it. This information may be found on the police department’s website and usually in the local newspaper. At this checkpoint, the police can’t do the following:
- Stop every vehicle that goes through the checkpoint. Instead, police may stop vehicles according to a predetermined pattern such as every third or fifth car. Of course, this does not prevent the police from pulling you over if they have reasonable cause to believe that you have violated the law.
- Insist that you take a BAC test or field sobriety test simply because you drove through the checkpoint. However, the police may require one or more of these tests if they reasonably believe you are intoxicated.
- Require you to answer questions about where you are traveling from or what you were doing prior to being pulled over. While you should always be polite to the police and provide your license and insurance information, you do not have to answer questions that may be self-incriminating.
While you may not be able to prevent being pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, you can control what happens after the police stop your car.
Protect Your Rights at a Virginia DUI Checkpoint
Understanding what the police can and cannot do is the first step in protecting your rights at a sobriety checkpoint. However, if you are arrested for drunk driving in Virginia, you need to take further action. You need to contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer quickly for help getting the charges against you possibly reduced or dismissed.
The criminal penalties for drunk driving in Virginia can be significant. Call us, or contact us via this website for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights, so you can protect your future.
How is child custody handled if my child is breastfeeding?
The court will prefer that you and your child’s other parent come to an agreement about child custody. However, if you can’t come to an agreement, the court will make a decision about child custody based on the best interests of your child, and breastfeeding may be a factor in the court’s decision.
Breastfeeding May Be Considered in Child Custody Decisions
Nursing moms will not be automatically granted sole custody in Virginia. Instead, the court will consider the evidence presented by the nursing mom and the child’s other parent to determine if breastfeeding is in the best interests of the child. This evidence may include:
- The age of the child and how long the child has been breastfeeding
- Information about whether the child takes a bottle or eats solid food
- Information about how feasible it is for the nursing mom to pump and provide breast milk to the other parent for the child’s feedings
- Medical studies or expert testimony showing the importance of breastfeeding for a baby’s health
- Information about the potential impact on the child if the child is to be weaned
Modifying a Child Custody Agreement When Breastfeeding Ends
At some point, breastfeeding will end, and this will likely be seen as a material change in circumstances by the court. For that reason, a child custody agreement may be modified when a child is no longer nursing or when the non-breastfeeding parent can prove that the nursing mom is breastfeeding in order to keep the current physical custody agreement in place. In order to get the child custody agreement modified, you will need to petition the court and explain the material change in circumstances.
Whether you are creating an initial child custody agreement or are seeking to modify your current child custody agreement, it is important to work with an experienced Fairfax family law attorney who can make sure that your rights are protected. Call us, or reach out to us for an initial consultation about your rights.
What is the difference between full tort and limited tort car insurance?
Full tort coverage and limited tort coverage are car insurance options that impact how much an injured party can recover in a car accident case. Limited tort is not available in all states, but it is an option in some. It is an option that must be exercised at the time auto insurance is purchased and not at the time a crash occurs.
Full Tort and Limited Tort Car Insurance
People with full tort car insurance can pursue full damages from a negligent driver or an insurance company after a crash. This includes damages for lost wages and pain and suffering. While injured parties must still prove the value of these damages, the amount they can recover is not limited by their insurance contract.
People who instead choose to purchase limited tort insurance pay less in insurance premiums than people with full tort coverage, but they are also paying for less insurance. If a person with limited tort insurance is hurt in a crash, that person may only recover pain and suffering damages if his injury hits a certain threshold and is classified as a serious injury.
Virginia is a Tort (Fault) Car Accident State
In Virginia, the driver who caused the crash is responsible for paying for the injuries resulting from the crash. This includes pain and suffering. While there is no exact science in determining the value of pain and suffering, insurance companies and courts may consider things such as:
- The extent of your injuries
- The medical treatment that you have received and will need in the future
- The impact the injuries have had on your daily life, your ability to work, and your family life
Auto insurance policies contain a lot of technical language that can impact your recovery of damages after a crash. If you have been hurt in an accident, the best way to ensure that your right to a fair recovery is protected is to contact an experienced Fairfax car accident lawyer. Our attorneys are here to help you. We would be pleased to offer you a free, no-obligation consultation, so you can learn more about your rights and potential compensation. Please call us, or reach out to us today via this website to learn more.