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Roanoke Virginia Criminal Defense Law Blog

Seeking a presidential pardon

Owning a firearm is a privilege coveted by many in Roanoke, yet as you likely know, is also one that is denied to you if you have been convicted of certain criminal offenses. There is the possibility, however, that if you meet certain criteria, that right can be restored to you. The information detailing that criteria has been detailed on this blog in the past, and many come to our team here at Robert F. Rider, PLC ready to work through the process. Sometimes, however, we have to tell them that the chance to recover their gun ownership rights are slightly different for federal crimes. 

If yours was a federal crime, the approval to restore your rights must come from no less than the President of the United States. Seeking a presidential pardon (which is the only way to have gun rights restored following the conviction of a federal crime) may seem too daunting a task, yet it is possible. Per the Executive Clemency guidelines in the Code of Federal Regulations, petitions for a pardon must be submitted to the Pardon Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. Your case is then assigned to the office of the Attorney General, where an investigation into your case will be done (which may include contacting any victims of the crime you were convicted of). If the Attorney General's office believes that you warrant a pardon, your information will be sent to President for final approval. 

How long will a previous DUI impact a future charge in Virginia?

Getting arrested for any kind of criminal offense, including driving under the influence (DUI), is a frightening experience. It is not something that becomes easier the second or third time you experience it. In fact, subsequent arrests may be even more frightening, as you already have an understanding of what to expect while incarcerated and going through the court system.

More importantly, you will also likely be aware of the fact that you probably face more serious penalties and consequences for second, third or subsequent criminal offenses for the same issue. This is absolutely true for those accused of DUIs in Virginia, because the penalties for each subsequent conviction within a certain period of time increase.

Emotional sentencing in tragic DUI car crash

When people decide to drink and drive, they are instantly endangering the lives of everyone around them. Unfortunately, while many victims of Virginia DUI accidents suffer immense loss, perpetrators are also left to suffer from the devasting outcome of their poor choice. 

An example that illustrates this point is described in a tragic accident that happened in Colorado when a young mother crashed head-on into another vehicle while driving under the influence. The violent collision killed two occupants in the other vehicle including a father and his teenage son. The deceased man's wife and his daughter were also in the vehicle and sustained severe injuries. In an emotional case, supporters of the woman accused of causing the accident reminded the judge of how a prison sentence would mean she would be absent in the life of her young son. 

Looking at the expungement process

Should past mistakes follow Virginia residents around for the rest of their lives? We at the law office of Robert F. Rider believe that the answer is "not necessarily." A criminal charge or arrest can follow you around for a long time, and it can be difficult to get started on a new life when potential landlords and employers keep drudging up your past when you try to rent an apartment or apply for a job, but in some cases, it may be possible to remove past arrests or charges from your criminal record through the process of expungement, although the process is not easy and involves a lot of paperwork.

According to the Supreme Court of Virginia, the process starts with a petition for expungement, a form that you fill out with specific information about yourself, i.e., the petitioner. You need to provide information about yourself on the expungement petition, including your full name at the time of arrest, your date of birth and the specific charges you want expunged from your record.

What are demerit points and how do they impact you?

Residents in Virginia facing accusations of committing a traffic violation have likely heard of the demerit system before. Robert F. Rider, PLC, is here to help you understand exactly what you're up against when looking at this system.

Virginia uses a system of demerit points for moving traffic violations. In other words, only violations that take place when your car is being used and in motion apply. These points are assigned based on the severity of the violation at hand and can range from three points up to six. For example, exceeding the speed limit by over 20 miles or having a DUI will result in a 6 point demerit.

How red light cameras work

If you have encountered an intersection in Virginia monitors by cameras, you may well have wondered exactly how these things work and what their intended purpose is. The Virginia Department of Transportation asserts that the use of photo and video images at intersections is designed to improve safety. However, for drivers who receive tickets based on these cameras, it may well feel like just another way to issue more tickets and generate revenue.

According to VDOT, red light cameras do not take images of every vehicle but only of those that drive into the intersection once the light has turned red. If you enter an intersection while the light is still yellow, your photo will not be taken even if the light turns red before you are out of the intersection. Cameras are supposed to be programmed to allow drivers a grace period of 0.05 seconds or more.

What to do if you’re pulled over for suspicion of DUI

You're probably familiar with the many penalties associated with a DUI conviction. From loss of license to prison time to a large fine, there are many consequences that you don't want to deal with. For this reason, the best thing you can do is avoid drinking and driving in the first place.

If you find yourself pulled over for suspicion of DUI, it's important that you take a few key steps. The following will work in your favor:

  • Pull over immediately: If you see police lights behind you, immediately move to the side of the road. You don't want to give the officer any reason to believe you're trying to flee the scene. Also, stay in your car once it comes to a stop. Getting out will only complicate the situation.
  • Remain respectful at all times: This is easier said than done, but becoming upset or talking back will only make things worse. Remain respectful and polite, especially if you are under the influence and hoping to get away without an arrest.
  • Remain silent: This doesn't mean you shouldn't say anything, but, thanks to the 5th Amendment, you have the right to remain silent to ensure that you don't say anything that will incriminate you.
  • Comply with questions: It's okay to answer basic questions, such as, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" What you want to avoid is saying something that will lead to more harm than good, such as where you are coming from, who you were with or how many drinks you've consumed.
  • Stay calm during your arrest: As unfortunate as it may be, you could find yourself under arrest at some point. If this happens, you should once again strive to remain calm. If you fight back, it could lead to additional charges that will complicate your case. You'll have time to defend yourself in court, so there's no reason to talk back or fight back at the time of your arrest.

What should college students know about alcohol use?

Young people drink in college for a variety of reasons. Alcohol is considered a rite of passage for those who are involved in sports, fraternities and sororities and making new friends. Many students enjoy the newfound adult freedoms of being on their own and going to bars and parties. Some students, especially those who are new to college life, might rely on alcohol to cope with the pressures of studying and stressful class schedules. You and other Virginia residents should understand the consequences that may result from drinking too much in college.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, many college students develop problems with drinking. Binge-drinking is particularly a problem for students with an active social schedule. Every year in the United States, an estimated 1,825 college students are killed in incidents related to alcohol use, especially drunk driving accidents. However, it’s not just DUI charges and injuries that you might risk if you drink too much in college.

Misdemeanor offenses and fake licenses

Residents in Virginia might not always stop to think that a traffic violation could be a criminal offense but that is definitely the case in many situations. A drunk driving conviction is one example of an offense that has both administrative and criminal consequences. 

Activities involving counterfeit drivers' licenses may also be deemed as criminal actions and prosecuted as such. As explained by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, a person who is found driving with a fake license may be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. Interestingly, a person who is found to simply have an alleged fake driver's license in their possession may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, an offense more serious than a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Who can get an expungement?

If you have a criminal conviction in Virginia, then you probably know how it can affect the many areas of your life. You could be unable to get certain jobs. It could keep you from renting from some landlords. It also could even make it difficult for you to volunteer at your child's school. To clear your record and remove that past conviction, you have to qualify for an expungement.

According to the Supreme Court of Virginia, in order to have your record expunged, you have to meet certain criteria. There are only three instances in which can qualify. You can qualify if you received a pardon, if the charge was dismissed or if you were acquitted.

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