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Avvo Client's Choice Award 2019 - Bret Danwill Offan Lee
Avvo Client's Choice Award 2019 - Benjamin N. Griffitts
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Avvo Client's Choice Award 2019 - Matthew Richard Crowley
Avvo Client's Choice Award 2019 - Seth Quint Peritz

When most people think of identity theft, they picture someone using another’s information to withdraw money or make a purchase. However, earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Virginia identify theft case discussing whether someone can be found guilty of identity theft if they use their own identifying information to obtain money. Ultimately, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction, concluding that there is no statutory requirement that a person charged with identity theft use another’s identifying information.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant went to a bank and presented the bank teller with a check that was written to the defendant. The defendant gave the bank teller her own identification and asked to cash the check. The bank teller wrote the defendant’s driver’s license number on the back of the check, but suspected something was awry, as the writing on the check was not uniform. The teller called the account holder, who gave the phone to a police officer who was currently at her home investigating a burglary. As it turns out, the checks were in the process of being reported stolen. As the teller was on the phone, the defendant left the bank.

The defendant was charged with several crimes, including identify theft. The defendant admitted to possessing the check and trying to cash it. However, the defendant claimed that the check was given to her for payment for a television she sold to a woman named “Sug.” The defendant testified that she accepted the check, not knowing the woman’s real name because she needed the money. She also explained that she left the bank because she was scared. The account holder testified that she never gave anyone that check, and that signature on the check was not hers.

By Seth Peritz, Senior Attorney

In November of 2019, Prince William, Loudoun, Fairfax, and Arlington counties elected new Commonwealth’s Attorneys. Some of these prosecutors have hinted that they will not be prosecuting possession of marijuana and/or petit larceny cases. Apparently, some officers are informing defendants that they do not need to hire attorneys for these kinds of cases because the prosecutor will just “drop” them.

In reality, none of these new Commonwealth’s Attorneys have taken office yet, and no official plans have been set as to how the offices are going to handle these cases. Currently, there are programs, such as the deferred finding program, or the OAR program, that would end in these charges being dismissed. However, these types of “dismissals” may still have negative consequences, as you cannot remove these charges from your record, even though they show up as dismissed.

By Andrew Criado, Senior Attorney

The four most important words in criminal law: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. What does that mean? It means that a person charged with a crime cannot be convicted and punished unless the prosecution can prove the defendant’s guilt in court beyond a reasonable doubt. The government’s evidence has to erase all reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. What if, at the end of the prosecution’s case, there remains some doubt about whether the defendant committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. What if the prosecution proves that the defendant probably committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. In a criminal case, any conclusion other than proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires that the charge be dismissed—forever.

The government gets one shot at proving its case. This concept is important because it makes clear that a criminal case is about whether the government can prove the crime rather than whether the crime actually happened. There are many cases where the evidence shows that the defendant most likely committed the crime but the charge is nonetheless dismissed because the evidence does not meet the high burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

By Matthew Crowley, Managing Partner

A Miranda warning is designed to be a protection against self incrimination, that is, a protection from defendants being forced to make statements or give other information that will help the government convict them of a crime. The Miranda case says that where a person is in custody and being interrogated (asked questions) those circumstances are similar to a forced confession. For that reason, the police must first warn a person who is in custody and being questioned that they have the right to remain silent, that what they do say will be used against them in court, and that they have the right to a lawyer. Unless the warning is given, the statements made by the defendant cannot be used in court.

Why did I receive a Miranda warning? Simply, because the police hope that you will make statements they can use to convict you. It is never just to “get your side of things,” it is always to build a case against you.  At the end of the warning, you may be asked if you understand you rights and are willing to waive them. The answer should be “no” 100% of the time until you can talk to a lawyer. Any statement you make, even if you declare your innocence, can be twisted and used against you.

By Seth Peritz, Senior Attorney

Fairfax County has a special program designed specifically for petit larceny and other misdemeanor theft cases. This is called the OAR program. The general requirements to be eligible for the program are a) this must be your first offense, and b) you must be charged with only one offense. The program consists of completing 1) your are required to plead guilty or no contest to the charge, 2) 50 hours of community service, 3) the shoplifter’s prevention course, and 4) a period of probation. Upon completion of all requirements the charge is dismissed.

There some problems with this program. First, the charge is not expungeable, which means that it will stay on your record as a dismissed charge permanently. This means that it is something that you will most likely have to explain to employers. This can also have an impact on both qualifying for and maintaining security clearances. Second, if you are not a United States citizen, this will still count as a conviction for immigration purposes. This is due to the fact that under Federal Law, a plea of guilty or no contest is sufficient for the conviction itself. Therefore, even though the charge is dismissed, it can still have a negative impact on your immigration situation. We at Robinson Law can assist you in managing your case to determine the best outcome for your specific situation and work towards achieving it.

by Benjamin Griffitts, Senior Attorney

It would be tough to think of a classification of criminal acts that stir up as much emotion and strong feelings as those in the sex crimes category. Homicides are clearly horrible and tragic for the loss of life and the emptiness that a deceased person leaves behind in their survivors. So while sexual assault cases in themselves do not result in a loss of a physical life, it is commonly thought that sex crimes are homicides of the soul and spirit.

It is also the one category of criminal acts that I hear so often from colleagues in the defense bar that they are just unwilling to take such cases. I understand the feeling. In a business that seems so often cold and shallow, it is difficult to separate your own emotions and feelings when you are faced with representing a defendant who is accused of doing something to someone that you experienced yourself or that someone close to you experienced; or someone is accused of doing something to a child, and you have a child of a similar age, or a niece or nephew. Attorneys are not robots. At the same time, our justice system fails if we decide that due process and Constitutional rights do not extend to those accused of committing the most horrific crimes. So we at Robinson Law do take on these cases.

By Andrew Criado, Senior Attorney

How long can a traffic stop be?

If the police observe a traffic violation, they may stop the car. But how long can that stop last? Surprisingly, until 2015 there wasn’t a clear legal answer to this common situation. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed this question in Rodriguez v. United States. Rodriguez had been stopped by the police for driving on the shoulder of a roadway. The officer spoke to Rodriguez, obtained his information, ran his license, and then issued him a ticket. After the officer issued the ticket, however, he didn’t let Rodriguez go. The officer instead held Rodriguez on the scene and then walked his police dog around Rodriguez’s car. The dog alerted that there were drugs present, and the officer searched the car and found drugs.

In the world of criminal law in Virginia, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts oversee cases that involve juveniles (anyone under the age of 18 at the time of the offense) accused of crimes, or crimes committed by adults where a juvenile or a “family or household member” is the alleged victim. In Prince William County, the J&DR Court handles cases that take place in the County, as well as the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, the Towns of Haymarket, Quantico, Dumfries, and Occoquan. In this post, I will briefly discuss the basics of cases where a juvenile is accused of a crime.

The primary role of the Court in any criminal case is to uphold the rule of law. If a person is found guilty of a crime, it is the responsibility of the court to impose a sentence that takes into consideration the appropriate punishment for the Defendant in relationship to what has been done, as well as the possibility of deterring the Defendant and others from committing similar acts in the future, or rehabilitating the Defendant to be a more productive member of society. In J&DR Court when it comes to the criminal conduct of juveniles, the Court often sees its role much more as rehabilitative—to teach the juvenile to learn from their mistakes and mature into adulthood.

When a juvenile is accused of committing a crime, the process can begin in a variety of ways. The juvenile can be arrested just like an adult. If that happens, they can be held at the Juvenile Detention Home until the next day court is in session, where a hearing is held to determine whether the juvenile can be returned home until their court date or not. If a juvenile is detained, the law requires that a hearing must be held within 21 days to review that status or resolve the case, and then every 21 days thereafter until the case is resolved.

By Bret Lee, Senior Attorney

Northern Virginia is a hub of federal activity. Throughout Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Prince William County are numerous federal agencies, parks, and buildings. Traffic crimes committed in national parks or on military property can result in different charges than you would normally face in Virginia state courts. One very common charge is driving while intoxicated (DWI) or under the influence (DUI), which becomes a federal charge if it occurs on federal property. DWI and DUI charges in Federal Court are a cross between state law violations and federal laws and regulations such as the CFR.

Whether you received a DUI charge on the grounds of Fort Belvoir or a DWI leaving Wolf Trap, you need to be prepared and have the right advocate by your side. Federal charges can have massive implications for immigration, job applications, and security clearances. There are a wide variety of consequences that a federal judge can impose in a DWI sentencing. Jail and loss of driving privileges are a real risk with these charges. Federal security clearances can be severely affected if you are convicted of a federal DUI.

By: Seth Peritz, Senior Attorney

July 1, 2019 addition to reckless driving – Va. Code §46.2-861.1

Aside from all of the Reckless Driving statutes that have been in existence for a while, recently, the Legislature passed a law making passing an emergency vehicle on the roadway a misdemeanor offense and combined it with the other Reckless Driving statutes.

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