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What is a Criminal Record?

Many people do not realize that even when their arrest did not lead to conviction, they still have a criminal record. This is particularly unfair for the innocent person that a jury acquits or for whom the prosecution drops its charges because it realizes that officers arrested the wrong person. By consulting a Virginia Beach expungement attorney, you can find out about vacating or sealing arrest records and related court proceedings.

Criminal records are simply records that police authorities keep about people’s arrests and convictions. Local, state and federal governments keep databases containing criminal histories that authorities can cross-reference for everything ranging from traffic tickets to felony convictions. Prospective employers, adoption agencies, licensing authorities, immigration officers and others may discover you have a criminal record when doing a background check. Generally, criminal histories are public information, open to anyone. A criminal record can damage your prospects for obtaining a job, a loan or credit for buying a home. If you are a green card holder or present in the United States on a visa, a criminal record can lead to deportation. Virginia statutes allow you to have your arrest records and court proceedings sealed or vacated under certain circumstances, such as the following:

  • Case dismissal
  • Identity theft
  • Pardon
  • Acquittal
  • Misdemeanor with no prior criminal record

By consulting a Norfolk expungement attorney, you can receive the legal assistance necessary for expunging your criminal record.

Messman Law, PLC works with clients to defend their rights in criminal cases and help them obtain expungements.

How Knowledge about Your Constitutional Rights Goes a Long Way When Facing Criminal Charges

When you face criminal charges, your freedom, reputation and livelihood are on the line. While you should have an excellent Norfolk criminal defense attorney at your side for each step of the criminal justice process, there are initially certain rights you should understand.

Out of the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a decision that bolstered Fifth Amendment Constitutional rights for many future criminal defendants. Today, most people are familiar with this case through the Miranda warning, which is an advisement that authorities must provide to suspects taken into custody. While authorities vary in the wording used, they warn defendants about the right to remain silent, right to legal counsel and right to have the court appoint an attorney if defendants cannot afford one. The prosecution typically has already targeted the individual for arrest and is prepared to charge them when taking them into custody. Mistakenly, people often believe that their innocence protects them and therefore they can and should say whatever they want. However, prosecutors often take their communication out of context or twist it to show guilt. In their efforts to explain themselves, defendants can unwittingly end up incriminating themselves. Contrary to the natural desire to talk and be forthcoming, silence is the best advice.

Chesapeake criminal defense attorneys should be present during your questioning and can advise you when not to answer a question or to provide only the precise answer and not offer up additional information. 

Messman Law, PLC defends clients throughout the Chesapeake region, including Norfolk and Virginia Beach in a wide scope of criminal areas.

What Factors Do Virginia Courts Consider When Dividing Marital Property?

When going into a divorce, you want to know what to expect ― at least as much as possible. Couples typically have concerns about Virginia Beach property division and, many times, they can reach a fair settlement outside of court.

If you and your spouse cannot reach a property division settlement, Virginia courts base marital property division on a legal concept called equitable distribution. Under Virginia divorce statutes, courts consider the following factors when equitably distributing your marital property between you and your spouse:

  • Each spouse's contributions, monetary and non-monetary, for the family's well-being
  • Each spouse's contributions, monetary and non-monetary, in regards to the acquisition, care, and maintenance of marital property
  • Marriage duration
  • Spouse's ages and their physical and mental condition
  • Contributing factors and circumstances to the marriage dissolution, such as divorce grounds (adultery, cruelty, bodily harm, abandonment, and felony conviction)
  • How and when you acquired marital property
  • Each spouse's debts and liabilities, especially when property secures the debt
  • Marital property's liquidity or lack of liquidity
  • Tax consequences for both spouses
  • Either spouse's use of marital property for non-marital purposes when done in anticipation of divorce or separation
  • Factors the court deems necessary or appropriate for equitable distribution

By consulting a knowledgeable divorce lawyer about Norfolk property division, you can understand your rights and protect your interests. 

Messman Law, PLC handles cases involving complex asset division and has access to experts for business valuation, appraisals, real estate and other sophisticated issues to help you arrive at the best decisions.

Alternative Dispute Resolution in a Divorce Case

If you want to get divorced but also want to avoid a court battle, consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  ADR generally provides a more amicable method for resolving issues that arise in a divorce case and is usually less costly and quicker. There are different forms of ADR, including mediation and collaborative divorce.

Mediation

Mediation in a family law case is an informal process in which a mediator helps spouses resolve their differences. The mediator is a neutral party who does not represent either spouse nor have the authority to make any decision. He or she simply helps the spouses reach agreement on the open issues before them. Courts in Virginia will order parents who cannot agree on a parenting plan to participate in mediation except in certain types of cases. For example, if there is a history of domestic violence, child abuse or mental illness, the court may decide not to order mediation. Generally, mediation is less expensive and quicker than traditional court litigation.

Collaborative divorce

Collaborative divorce is a process for resolving disputes in which the lawyers for each spouse try to assist them in reaching agreement on their differences through negotiation rather than litigation. Both the clients and the lawyers sign a participation agreement, in which they agree that the lawyers will withdraw from the cases if a settlement is not reached. The cost of financial and other experts are shared, which significantly reduces costs for both parties. Informal discussions enable the spouses to explore their issues and resolve them amicably. This usually results in a quicker resolution at a lesser cost than traditional litigation.

Put a Virginia Beach family law attorney to work for you

If you are contemplating getting divorced, consult with experienced Virginia Beach divorce lawyers who can advise you on the most appropriate divorce strategy for your situation. Contact Messman Law, PLC today to schedule a personal consultation with a divorce lawyer.

What Do the Terms “Divorce from Bed and Board” and “Divorce from the Bond of Matrimony” Mean?

Legal terms along with the statutes governing a divorce can be confusing. For this reason, legal guidance from a Virginia Beach divorce lawyer is vital for spouses when considering divorce. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide you with explanations and valuable advice for navigating the legal system.

The terms “divorce from bed and board” and “divorce from the bond of matrimony” are unique to the State of Virginia and are found in the state’s divorce statutes. The Virginia State Bar explains that Virginia recognizes two types of divorce:

  • divorce from bed and board is a legal separation and couples obtaining this type of divorce cannot remarry. To that degree, it is only a partial divorce.
  • divorce from the bond of matrimony completely severs the bonds of marriage and is final, the way you think of divorce as being final in most states.

Individuals obtaining a divorce from bed and board, after being separated for at least one year, can request that the court "merge" this type of divorce into a divorce from the bond of matrimony. Merging their partial divorce with the final form of divorce makes the couple’s divorce absolute and no longer a mere separation.

If you have questions about Virginia divorce and your available options, seek legal help from a skilled Chesapeake divorce lawyer

Messman Law, PLC devotes much of its practice to providing clients with legal assistance for divorce.

What Happens When You Refuse a Breath Test in a DUI Stop?

When stopped for DUI (driving under the influence), drivers are often concerned about whether or not to submit to a breath test. The best way to decide about a breath test is to consult with a Virginia Beach DUI lawyer. However, in some cases, that may not be possible.

Here are some facts you should know about refusing a breath test in Virginia. Virginia has an implied consent law and, under this law, every driver implicitly agrees to submit to a chemical test, a breath or blood test if stopped for DUI. This test is not the preliminary breath test at the scene of the stop, which you can refuse without consequences. The chemical test is the test administered after you are taken to the police station. If you refuse to submit to that and it is your first DUI offense, the refusal results in an automatic driver’s license suspension for one year, and the prosecutor can use the refusal as evidence in the DUI case brought against you. If you refuse to submit to the chemical test in a second DUI offense, authorities charge the refusal as a misdemeanor, which is a crime and goes on your criminal record. If the DUI stop is within 10 years of the first DUI offense, then your license suspension lasts three years.

In many instances, refusing to take a breath test does not prevent a DUI conviction and results in additional penalties. If you can reach a Virginia Beach DUI attorney at the time of your arrest, you can get legal advice about taking the test.

Messman Law, PLC defends your rights in DUI arrests and works closely with you throughout the judicial process.

The Difference Between Expunging and Sealing a Criminal Record in Virginia

Criminal records are open to the public ― anyone can look up a person’s arrests, convictions and even browse through court documents if they choose to do so. Even if a person was not convicted of a crime, an arrest record can affect one’s ability to find a job, rent an apartment and otherwise lead a normal life. However, there are instances when a criminal record may be protected from public viewing.

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, “expunging” a record means destroying it and “sealing” a record means that it remains in existence but hidden from public access. 

Sealing a Criminal Record

When a case is “sealed,” it is blocked from public viewing. A Virginia court may seal records in a criminal case ― for example, if disclosure might threaten a defendant’s right to a fair trial. The defendant has the burden of proving that this is the only reasonable manner of protecting their interests.   

Expunging a Criminal Record

When a Virginia criminal record is “expunged,” on the other hand, all police and court records pertaining to the case are removed from the public view. In some cases, it involves complete destruction of the record, and for others it means the matter is placed under lock and key. An application must be made by the individual wishing to have the matter expunged. If approved, the applicant may omit reference to the criminal record in job, rent and license applications, etc.   

The Commonwealth of Virginia is very strict about expunging criminal records. Under Virginia Code § 19.2-392.2, an application for expungement may be made only in the following circumstances:

  • Criminal Convictions. A record of a criminal conviction may be expunged only if an absolute pardon has been granted by the Governor. All other convictions remain a matter of permanent record. 
  • Arrest Records. Police arrest and court records may be expunged only if the defendant went to trial and was acquitted of the charges brought against them; the case was not prosecuted (nolo prosequi) or was otherwise dismissed; or where the person named in the record was a victim of identity theft, meaning the actual offender used their name without consent or authorization.
  • DNA Records. A person whose DNA profile was entered into the Department of Forensic Science databank and a felony conviction based on the DNA profile was reversed and the case dismissed, may apply to have the DNA record and all identifiable information purged from the database, and all physical samples destroyed.
  • Juvenile Records. The clerk of the juvenile and domestic relations district must destroy files, papers, and records (paper and electronic) of a juvenile proceeding if the juvenile that was the subject of that proceeding is 19 years or older, and it has been five years or more since their last hearing. If, however, the case involved a motor vehicle violation, the records will be destroyed only when the juvenile is 29. If an adult committing the same delinquent act would face felony charges, then the clerk retains the juvenile records permanently.
  • Purging an Inaccurate Criminal History Record. A person may apply to have an inaccurate criminal history record purged, modified or supplemented.

Superior Legal Support in Virginia Beach

If you are looking for a Virginia Beach expungement attorney to help you clear a criminal record, contact our office.  Messman Law, PLC focuses on criminal defense work and has extensive experience both in and out of the courtroom. We defend clients from Norfolk to Virginia Beach and throughout the Chesapeake region on a wide range of criminal charges, and will stand at your side from arrest to resolution. Call us today to schedule a confidential consultation.

What are Drug Schedules and Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Virginia?

Potential penalties for controlled substance possession vary depending on the classification of the drug and the amount in possession. When you face prosecution for drug possession, a Virginia drug crime attorney can provide a vigorous defense to protect your rights.

Under Virginia Code Chapter 34 Drug Control Act, different classifications of drugs, called schedules, are subject to penalties that increase in harshness based on the nature of the drug. The law classifies the most serious drugs as Schedule I drugs and the least serious as Schedule VI. Schedule I is the most serious classification because of the drug’s associated abuse and the user’s dependence. Schedule I includes drugs such as LSD and heroin. Schedule II includes PCP, cocaine, methadone and methamphetamine. Schedules III through V are drugs used as medicines, and illegal possession penalties decrease with each schedule based on decreasing abuse and likelihood for addition. Schedule VI drugs are not drugs as such, but can be used as drugs and include substances found in paint and glue. Marijuana possession that involves less than a one-half ounce and is a first offense is a misdemeanor carrying potential penalties of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A second or subsequent offense is also a misdemeanor, but with potential penalties of up to one year in jail and a $2500 fine. Possession of amounts between one-half ounce and five pounds with the intent to distribute become felony charges and sentencing can range from one to 10 years in prison.

Obtaining an experienced Virginia Beach possession lawyer is vital for your defense and protecting your rights.

Messman Law, PLC handles drug crime cases aggressively and can challenge charges based on procedural grounds, such as illegal searches and traffic stops.

What is a Wobbler and How Does this Apply to Your Criminal Defense?

How authorities charge you for a crime can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your case. Whenever possible, a Virginia Beach criminal defense attorney applies case strategies to help you avoid more serious charges.

A “wobbler” is a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. For example, take the Virginia law assault and battery against a family or household member. First offense charges are a Class 1 misdemeanor. For a person convicted of two previous offenses of assault and battery against a family or household member, these factors also come into play when charging the suspect:

  • Malicious wounding with intent to main, disfigure, disable or kill is a Class 3 felony, but if not done maliciously, the offense is a Class 6 felony
  • Aggravated malicious wounding when the person shoots, stabs, cuts, wounds or by any means causes bodily injury with the intent to maim, disable, disfigure or kill, and the victim suffers permanent or significant physical impairment is a Class 2 felony
  • Aggravated malicious wounding of a pregnant woman that causes bodily injury with the intent to main, disfigure, disable or kill the woman or that causes involuntary termination of pregnancy is a Class 2 felony, when permanent or significant physical impairment results (pregnancy termination is permanent and significant physical impairment)

At one extreme, authorities can charge you with a Class 1 misdemeanor, and at the other extreme they can charge you with a Class 2 felony.

Virginia Beach criminal defense lawyers can devise strategies that show the assault lacked the intent, was in self-defense or use other arguments to reduce charges.

Messman Law, PLC has defended numerous clients successfully in violent offense charges and works diligently to obtain reduced charges whenever possible.

How Can Expungement Make a Difference in My Life?

When you are arrested in Virginia, even when acquitted, you acquire a criminal record. However, through expungement, you can have arrests and related court proceedings vacated. A Virginia Beach expungement attorney can help you expunge your record.

The Virginia Code on expungement allows anyone with a case dismissal or acquittal to expunge their record. Persons subjected to identity theft where someone else acquired a record in their name can also have their records expunged. You might wonder why you would want to go through the trouble of expunging your record if you were innocent. However, despite your innocence, a criminal record can have a negative effect on your life. There are significant benefits to expungement, which include the following:

  • More job opportunities. When filling out job applications, you can legally deny that you have a criminal record. When employers see that a criminal background check says expungement instead of an arrest, it presents you in a better light.
  • An improved reputation. You no longer have to deal with the stigma of a past arrest or what to say when someone asks whether you have a criminal record.
  • Better credit reports. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), agencies who do background checks indicate expungement on records instead of arrests. This may help you when your credit is run for a mortgage or a bank loan.

Virginia Beach expungement lawyers can handle all the necessary legal requirements for you to expunge your record.

Messman Law, PLC defends clients in criminal cases and also helps them obtain expungements when eligible.