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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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.
How do I change my name after getting divorced in Virginia?
Virginia law allows you to change your name during your marriage, during divorce proceedings, or after your divorce. You do not need your spouse’s consent if you decide to change your name. The decision is yours to make.
Requesting a Name Change While a Divorce Is Pending
If your divorce has not yet been finalized, you can still request that the court legally change your name as part of your divorce proceedings. You do need to file a separate application for a name change. However, your name change request must be included in your initial divorce pleadings or orally during your final divorce hearing. The court may only change your name back to a name you had prior to marriage if you seek the name change during divorce proceedings.
How to Request a Name Change
If your divorce case is not currently active and you are not about to initiate a divorce action, you will need to file a separate application with the court in order to have your name legally changed. This action must be filed in the circuit court of the city or county where you live. The filing must be accompanied with the required fee.
Important Documentation for a Virginia Name Change
When you request a name change, the court will to want to see certain documentation, including:
- A Virginia Application for Name Change. The application will ask for basic information such as your current name, your current address, your parents’ names, whether you have ever been convicted of a felony, and any previous names you have had. The application must be witnessed by a notary public or a clerk of the court.
- Your Birth Certificate. This will provide proof of your maiden name.
- Your Marriage Certificate. This will provide proof of your married name.
- Your Divorce Decree (if one has already been issued). This will provide the court with a non-fraudulent reason why you want to change your name.
If all of your paperwork is in order, your name change should be granted by the court. Once the court grants your name change request, you will need to take steps to change your name with:
- The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- The Social Security Administration (SSA)
- Your banks
- Your credit card companies
- Your retirement and investment accounts
- Your insurance companies
- Your utility companies
- Your employer
- Your kids’ schools
Changing your name because of a divorce may be one of the easier aspects of the divorce process. However, if you have any questions about changing your name or any other issues concerning your divorce, please contact our experienced Fairfax family law attorneys today for an initial consultation.
What is the legal definition of aggressive driving?
In Virginia, aggressive driving is not the same thing as reckless driving or road rage. Instead, aggressive driving is a specific criminal misdemeanor. In order to be convicted of aggressive driving, you must have violated the aggressive driving statute.
Aggressive Driving Is Defined in Section 46.2-868.1 of the Virginia Code
According to Section 46.2-868.1 a driver is guilty of aggressive driving if:
- He failed to drive on the right side of the highway (§46.2-802)
- He failed to observe lanes marked for traffic (§46.2-804)
- He was following another vehicle too closely (§46.2-816)
- He failed to stop or yield the right-of-way before entering a highway (§46.2-821)
- He evaded traffic controls (§46.2-833.1)
- He failed to abide by the laws for passing when overtaking a vehicle (§46.2-838)
- He failed to give way to an overtaking vehicle (§46.2-842)
- He failed to give way to certain overtaking vehicles on divided highways (§46.2-842.1)
- He failed to obey certain limitations on overtaking and passing a vehicle (§46.2-843)
- He failed to obey maximum speed limits on highways and roads (§46.2-870)
- He stopped on the highway (§46.2-888)
In addition to violating one of these laws, a driver must have presented a hazard to another person or committed the violation of the law with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another driver.
Criminal Penalties for Aggressive Driving
In most cases, violating the aggressive driving statute is a Class 2 misdemeanor. In Virginia, a Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by jail time of not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000.
However, if the driver acted with the intent to injure another person, violating the aggressive driving statute may be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. The potential consequences of a Class 1 misdemeanor are more significant than those of a Class 2 misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor, you face jail time of up to 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.
If You’ve Been Charged With Aggressive Driving
If you have been charged with aggressive driving, you not only face jail time and a fine, but you also face a criminal conviction that will be on your permanent record. This could impact your future.
Remember that an aggressive driving charge is not a simple traffic ticket. Instead, you have been charged with a crime. Therefore, it is important to take this criminal charge seriously and to contact Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi as soon as possible. Our lawyers will make sure all of your rights are protected from the time you contact us until your case is resolved.
Do I have to be legally separated from my spouse before getting divorced in Virginia?
Virginia, unlike many other states, does not recognize “separation” as a legal status in a no-fault divorce. Therefore, there is no special designation that you need from the court in order to be legally separated before you seek a divorce.
You Still Need Proof That You Were Separated
In order to get a no-fault divorce in Virginia, you must either be separated from your spouse for one year or, if you have no minor children, be separated from your spouse for six months with a separation agreement in place.
Without a formal separation designation from a court, you will need to prove the date which you separated. Generally, Virginia courts consider the date of separation to be the date on which one of the spouses decided that the marriage was over and informed the other spouse of that decision. This may have been done through a conversation or in writing (typically, via email or text).
If the date of separation is in dispute, the court may consider things such as:
- Whether there is a voluntary settlement agreement that is dated and signed
- When you and your spouse began to identify yourselves as separated to family and friends
- Whether you continue to attend events or go out together
- Whether you live in the same house and, if you do, whether you share a bedroom
If there are grounds for divorce such as adultery, desertion, or cruelty, there are legal options that are not used in a no-fault divorce case. For example, either spouse may request temporary relief from the court to resolve immediate issues of child custody, spousal support, and use of the marital home. Additionally, a spouse may file for a limited divorce—known as a divorce from bed and board. If a divorce from bed and board is granted, neither party may remarry or legally engage in sexual relations with anyone else.
Voluntary Separation Agreements
While Virginia law does not typically require separation agreements, the spouses may choose to negotiate a separation agreement that resolves issues such as child custody, child visitation, spousal support, use of marital property, and property division pending a final divorce.
If you are interested in entering a voluntary separation agreement or establishing a clear date of separation from your spouse, it is important to contact an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Our lawyers understand that the decisions you make now will significantly affect you and your family. We will always listen to your concerns, provide you with honest advice, and help you make a realistic plan to achieve your goals. Contact us today.
Can prescription drug misuse lead to criminal charges in Virginia?
Prescription drugs are legal drugs that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved for doctors to prescribe to patients in certain circumstances. For example, these types of drugs may cure an infection, control pain, or treat a chronic illness, and they help millions of people every day.
However, prescription drugs are also controlled substances, and it’s a violation of Virginia law to use prescription drugs in certain ways.
Prescription Drug Abuse Is a Problem in Virginia
According to the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, some prescription drugs that are often abused include:
- Painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Demerol
- Depressants such as Valium, Xanax, and Ambien
- Stimulants such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall
The Three Major Prescription Drug Crimes in Virginia
In Virginia, it is against the law to do any of the following with a prescription drug unless you are specifically authorized to do so by the government:
- Manufacture a prescription drug
- Sell, give away, or distribute a prescription drug
- Possess a prescription drug with the intent to manufacture, sell, give away, or distribute the drug
Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, and you may face significant fines and jail time. Relevant circumstances may include how the drug is classified according to the Virginia Drug Control Act, your age, the age of the other people involved in the incident, and other factors.
Get Help If You’ve Been Charged With a Crime
Don’t let the word “prescription” confuse you. Legally, a prescription drug can only be used by the person it was prescribed to. If you’ve been charged with a prescription drug crime, you need an experienced Virginia drug defense lawyer to help you.
The Law Firm of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi will review your case carefully and help you make informed decisions if you are facing prescription drug crime charges. To learn more about your defense, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.
Have red light cameras reduced the number of car accidents at intersections?
The answer is yes. According to study commissioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), red light cameras have reduced fatal intersection accidents by 21%, and red light cameras have reduced all intersection accidents by 14%.
How Red Light Cameras Are Used in Virginia
In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly approved the use of red light cameras at Virginia intersections, and in 2009, Virginia Beach became the first city in the commonwealth to use this technology. Over the past decade, the use of red light cameras has expanded to other Virginia towns and cities.
Red light cameras are attached to traffic signals and sensors. If a vehicle enters an intersection after the light turns red and the mandatory grace period of at least one half a second has passed, a series of pictures or a video may be taken by the camera. This information is then reviewed by law enforcement officials. If a police officer determines that the driver of the vehicle violated the law by running a red light, a ticket will be mailed to the owner of the vehicle, if appropriate.
Contact Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi
If you’ve been hurt in a Virginia intersection crash, it is important to contact an experienced car accident lawyer for help. Your attorney will consider all of the evidence related to the accident, including any footage from a red light camera, and advise you of your rights and potential recovery. To learn more, please contact us today via this website or by phone to schedule your free, no-obligation initial consultation.
What happens if I'm caught driving on a suspended license in Virginia?
If the state has suspended your license, you’re not allowed to drive unless you have a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from specific locations such as work, school, and medical appointments.
Penalties for Driving With a Suspended License in Northern VA
Virginia law classifies driving on a suspended license as a criminal misdemeanor. The potential legal penalties depend on how many times you’ve been caught driving with a suspended license. Specifically, you may face:
- Up to 12 months in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and an additional suspension of your license for your first or second offense.
- A mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence plus up to 12 months in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and an additional suspension of your license for your third or more offense.
How a Lawyer Can Help in A Criminal Case
To be convicted of driving on a suspended license, the Commonwealth of Virginia must prove that you were driving a motor vehicle on a public road, that your license had been suspended, and that you knew that your license was suspended when you were driving. If the prosecutor cannot prove one or more of these elements, you cannot be convicted. An experienced lawyer can help determine whether you have a defense that could be successful in court.
However, our experienced lawyers may be able to help you even before you are charged with a misdemeanor. If you believe that your Virginia driver’s license was wrongfully suspended, we may be able to help you get your license reinstated. Likewise, if you believe your license is about to be wrongfully suspended, we may be able to help you before that happens.
Not being able to drive can have a significant impact on your life, on your ability to work, and on your ability to take care of your family. However, it is important that you don’t make matters worse by driving on a suspended license. For more information about how to protect your rights, please contact our experienced defense lawyers now by calling 877.652.1553.
How does Google Maps know when there’s heavy traffic or a car accident?
Technology has certainly changed since Google Maps debuted on February 8, 2005. Today, Google obtains some of its information about traffic and car accidents from people who don’t know they’re providing it and from others who want to share it.
Three Ways Google Maps Gets the Info it Needs
Google can’t get the information it needs to report on traffic and car accidents without help from others. Specifically, Google Maps gets its information about road conditions from:
- Crowdsourcing. People are encouraged to report traffic conditions through Waze, and that information is included in the traffic condition data reported back by Google Maps.
- Local highway authorities. Local highway authorities may have road sensors or cameras and may share that information with Google.
- Information from your phone you may not know you’re sending. If you have location services turned on in your phone settings, you may be transferring information about traffic conditions to Google without even knowing it. Google analyzes how fast you are moving while the Google Maps app is open and uses that as part of its traffic condition analysis.
Google Maps provides many benefits to users who are traveling to a new location or who are stuck in traffic. The app may tell them how to bypass traffic, which lane to be in to ensure getting off at the right exit, and the length of time for certain slow-down points.
Google Maps may be a helpful tool for you and other drivers, but as with any map or GPS, it’s important to not become distracted when using it and to keep your eyes first on the road.
If you have been in a car accident, please contact Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi today by sending us a message or calling 877.652.1553.