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Easley Law Firm

Check Out Some Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Law in Virginia

When you're facing serious charges and have a lot on the line, you can never ask too many questions. Darwyn is always happy to answer any questions you may have, but these are some of the questions he hears the most.

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  • Can charges be dismissed if the police don’t inform me of my Miranda rights?

    If the police did not inform you of your Miranda rights when taking you into custody, you may believe that the charges against you will be dismissed. Unfortunately, that is not what usually happens—at least not automatically. However, you may have a strong defense if the police make the big mistake of not telling you about your Miranda rights.

    What Happens When You Are Not Given Your Miranda Rights

    Your Miranda rights protect your right under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to not make self-incriminating statements. After being taken into custody, the police must tell you of the following:

    • You have a right to remain silent.
    • Anything you say could be used against you in court.
    • You have a right to an attorney.
    • An attorney will be appointed for you if you cannot afford one.

    The police cannot interrogate you until they inform you of these important rights. If they fail to do so, it can affect your criminal case in the following ways:

    • Any statement or confession you made would be considered involuntary and could not be used against you in your criminal case.
    • Any evidence the police obtained as a result of your confession or statement may not be admissible in court.

    If the police cannot use this evidence against you, they may have an extremely weak case against you—which could be grounds for the dismissal of the charges against you. However, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you raise this defense as well as any other defenses that may be relevant to your case.

    If you have been charged with a crime, I invite you to read my free book, The Criminal Legal Process in Virginia, and fill out the online form to schedule a free consultation.


  • How can I have my criminal record expunged from public access?

    If you have been arrested in Virginia, you have a public criminal record. Potential employers, professional licensing agencies, schools, and even your family and friends can see it. Because a criminal record could cause problems in your professional and personal life, you may want to consider filing for expungement of your record from public access.

    Sealing Your Record

    In Virginia, expungement is the same as sealing your records. When your criminal history is expunged, it is removed from public view. Your record will not show up if you’re the subject of a public search. The records are not destroyed; rather, they are sealed. Only Virginia law enforcement personnel and the courts can access your criminal record.

    Getting Your Juvenile Record Expunged

    Virginia handles juvenile criminal records differently. If you committed a crime before turning 18, it’s likely you can get your record expunged. Once you turn 19 and five years have passed since the conclusion of your case, your juvenile records are automatically expunged. The only exceptions are for violent felonies and motor vehicle violations. In these cases, the records are expunged when you turn 29.

    In addition, when juvenile records are expunged, they’re destroyed completely. Your case is treated as though it never happened. If there is ever an inquiry about the case, both the court and the person who committed the crime can respond that no record exists.

    You can have only one record expunged in your lifetime, so it is important to consult with an experienced attorney prior to filing a petition for expungement.

    Qualifying for Expungement

    Your records are not expunged simply because you request that they be sealed from public view. However, there are certain circumstances that make you eligible for expungement, including:

    • If you were acquitted of all charges without pleading nolo contender (no contest).
    • The charge was not prosecuted, and it was formally abandoned with a motion of nolle prosequi.
    • The charge was made against someone who used your name and identity in his criminal case.
    • You received an Absolute Pardon for what was determined to be an unjust conviction.
    • If your case was dismissed.


    Filing the Request

    Easley Law Firm can guide you through the detailed petitioning process and support your request for expungement in court. Complete our online form, or call toll free at 1-888-386-3898 to get started.


  • What are the effects of being added to the sex offender registry?

    In 1996, the Federal Bureau of Investigation instigated a database to keep track of convicted sex offenders. Registration was based on convictions of:

    • Sexual offenses against minors
    • Sexually violent acts
    • Predatory sexual actions

    The purpose of this monitoring was (and is) to prevent offenders from causing further harm to others. However, over the last 20 years, registration has meant more than just “keeping tabs.” Information about criminal sex convictions in the hands of the public has created several additional consequences. Many believe that these consequences are justified for public safety—after all, offenders should have thought about the consequences before they hurt someone. However, not all registered offenders are actually guilty, and some are guilty of minor offenses, yet they still have to endure the same consequences as rapists and child molesters.

    Consequences of Being on the Sex Offender Registry

    No matter what the cause of the sex offense charge, once you’re convicted you’re branded a sexual offender. You will be required to register and remain registered until the court states otherwise (in some cases you may be required to stay registered for life). However, even if your registration is temporary, the label, and consequences of that label, will remain.

    Some of the consequences include:

    • Registering requirements. Although the sex offender registry was initially created for federal use, each state now has its own database in which to keep track of registered citizens. This means that every time you relocate to a different state you’ll be required to re-register on their database as well as become subject to that state’s laws regarding sex offenders.
    • Restricted residency. Most states prohibit sex offenders from living within a certain distance of gathering places for children such as parks, schools, daycare centers, and playgrounds. As a result, it may be difficult to find housing that meets all of your requirements while also taking your personal needs into account.
    • Restricted employment. In addition to housing restrictions, most states also limit where a sex offender can work. For instance, anywhere near the following places may be restricted: schools, clothing stores (with changing rooms), salons or spas, as well as in positions of power over someone else (doctor, psychiatrist, etc.).
    • Loss of child custody. No matter what your conviction was for, if registered as a sex offender your ex can use the registration as a reason to deny you custody of your children, stating that you may be a danger to your own child.
    • Decreased privacy. Since the registry is meant to keep tabs on past offenders, privacy is extremely limited.
    • Bias, prejudice, and intolerance. Once convicted and registered, family, friends, and acquaintances may view you as a threat or at the very least an outcast. Some may even become withdrawn or abusive (mentally and physically).

    Fighting to Preserve Your Reputation and Future

    Once you’re branded as a sex offender, there is no turning back. This is why it is extremely important to get the help you need before it’s too late. Contact us at 888-386-3898 to see how our extensive experience and determination can protect your rights and help you avoid a darkened future. Your name and reputation are important. Allow us the chance to protect them from being sullied. Contact us today!

    Need more information on sexual assault and offense laws? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


  • How can I learn more about sexual assault on campus?

    Claiming you were unaware that your actions constituted a crime is no defense, especially where sexual assault is concerned. This is an issue for college students who find themselves caught up in rape charges after what they believed to be a consensual encounter. This is a very serious matter as a rape charge could not only result in expulsion, exorbitant legal costs, and a prison sentence, but it could also require you to register on the national sex offender database.

    Darwyn Easley is here to help you build a strong defense if you are accused of a sex crime. However, the better approach is to avoid the charge in the first place. The key to ending date rape on college campuses is education, and one national organization is starting the year off with events on campuses all over the country to get the word out.

    RAINN Day 2015: Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention

    The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization, launched RAINN Day several years ago. It takes place on the third Thursday of September each year and encourages students to sponsor events on their campuses to educate their communities about sexual assault. In 2015, RAINN Day falls on September 17th, however, many student groups extend the awareness campaign to an entire week or month.

    How Can This Help You?

    The program is designed to empower college students to learn more about their risks, educate their peers, and allow for a better understanding of the consequences involved (for both parties) after an assault. By attending RAINN Day activities, you can get the information you need to not only decrease the rate of sexual assaults on campus, but to also prevent future mistakes which could land you on the sexual offenders registry—or worse

    Protecting Your Future While Helping Others

    Do you want to protect your friends and family from a sexual assault or unwarranted sexual offense charge?  Use your social media connections to spread the word about RAINN Day. By educating your loved ones about risks and consequences of sexual misconduct, you can help them secure a brighter future.

    Need more information on sexual assault and offense laws? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, contact us today to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help you better understand the law and recognize the options you have for a strong defense.

  • If I was treated with excessive force by police, does that affect my criminal case?

    The news has been flooded lately with videos and testimonies of the use of excessive force by police officers. The “Black Lives Matter” campaign and the sadly consistent cell phone videos of police attacking unarmed civilians brings the subject of excessive force to the forefront.

    For their own safety, police officers are granted the authority to determine when and how much force is required in a given situation. If they feel their lives or the lives of bystanders are in danger, they are permitted and even expected to use the force necessary to subdue the suspect. However, when a civilian’s civil liberties are violated as a result of an officer’s decision to use force, the injured party (whether guilty of the accused crime or not) may have a federal case for police brutality. This civil case could either help or hurt his criminal case.

    Positive and Negative Effects of an Excessive Force Claim on Your Defense

    When you’re accused of a crime, no matter the severity, you are guaranteed certain rights by the Constitution of the United States. It doesn’t matter if you’re being pulled over for a traffic violation, or being accused of a felony, your civil rights can’t be ignored. One of these rights deals with equal protection. If an officer uses excessive force on you and causes severe injuries, he has violated your civil rights.

    But what does this mean for your defense?  Plenty.

    The legal risks of pursuing a police brutality case during a criminal case include:

    • Trial postponements. If you are hospitalized, your trial can be postponed allowing prosecutors more time to build their case. On the flip side, if you’re severely injured, your lawyer can make recommendations to postpone your hearing until you’re able to safely represent yourself.
    • Incentive to maliciously prosecute. Filing a civil claim or lawsuit while your criminal case is pending might cause the government to work harder to secure your conviction.
    • Negative full disclosure. When pursuing your claim you’ll be required to make statements about the incident, which in turn could provide “discovery” or evidence of guilt for the prosecution of your criminal case.

    The legal options available if you wait until after your criminal trial to pursue your civil suit include:

    • Positive “discovery.” You may find that your criminal defense attorney has gathered valuable discovery in your criminal case. Ultimately, benefitting your civil suit.
    • Plea bargain. Once your criminal trial is underway, you can use the leverage of the civil rights violation to help your plea bargain.

    Bringing a civil rights charge for police brutality against an arresting officer or police department could help or hurt your defense. However, an experienced lawyer such as Darwyn Easley can make sure that the effects of inexcusable police actions are used in your favor, not against you.

    Contact us at 888-386-3898, or follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more information on civil rights violations and criminal defense strategies.

  • If I cooperate and talk to the police when accused of a crime, will I get a better deal?

    When the police are investigating a crime and you are involved, they are likely to try and get you to give a statement or confession. Many people think that giving the police what they are looking for will help them in the long run. It is important to understand how to protect your legal rights when facing this type of situation. For example, it is typically not in your best interest to give a statement to the police in the hopes that doing so will benefit you in some way.

    5 Things the Police Cannot Do In Exchange for Your Confession

    When the police suspect you of involvement in a crime, the manner in which you respond can significantly influence the outcome of the case against you. Even though it may feel like the right thing to do or like it may alleviate some of the emotional burden you are carrying, confessing or giving a statement to the police when they come knocking on your door is rarely in your best interest. The police, however, will likely give you the impression that cooperating will get you a better long term outcome. It is important to remember that the police cannot do any of the following:

    1. “Go easier” on you in exchange for admitting what you did wrong
    2. Try to help you by “putting in a good word” with the prosecutor
    3. Grant immunity
    4. Negotiate plea agreements
    5. Make deals

    Since the police do not have the power to take the above actions, there are few reasons for you to offer them a statement or a confession before consulting with your attorney. Opening up to the police could actually cause you more harm than good. Fortunately, we can help ensure that you take actions that are in your best interest. We encourage you to contact us today for help at 888-386-3898.

  • What is the difference between pleading guilty and pleading no contest?

     If you are facing criminal charges, you have various options with regard to how you plea. For example, you can plead “guilty,” “no contest,” or “not guilty.” Unless you have been through the criminal process in the past, you may not understand the differences between “no contest” and “guilty” pleas. It is important that you understand these differences, however, before making a decision for your own case.

    Important Facts About No Contest and Guilty Pleas

    One major difference between a “no contest” and a “guilty” plea is that generally, those pleading “no contest” cannot later be sued in a civil suit. When pleading “no contest,” the following is true:

    1. You are conceding to the charge against you without admitting guilt.
    2. You are not presenting a defense.
    3. In general, you cannot use a no contest plea in a death penalty case.
    4. In some cases, a judge may have discretion as to whether to accept a plea of no contest.

    Before accepting a no contest plea, the judge will typically have a conversation with the defendant in order to be sure that he or she understands the plea and the possible punishment they face.

    When pleading “guilty,” the following is true:

    1. You are admitting to the charges against you.
    2. You are stating that you have no defense to the charges.
    3. You are allowing the court to go ahead and levy a punishment against you.

    Before accepting a guilty plea, the court first ensures that the guilty plea is entered into voluntarily and that there is reason to believe that the defendant is telling the truth.

    Regardless of which plea you ultimately choose, it is important to seek legal representation rather than trying to make these important decisions on your own.  We encourage you to contact us today for help at 888-386-3898.

  • How are drugs categorized by Virginia law enforcement?

    Currently, the drug Schedule in Virginia closely follows that of the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration.

    • Schedule I. This class of drugs has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Schedule I drugs don’t have an accepted medical use.  Examples: Heroin, ecstasy, LSD, GHB. While marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, penalties for possession of marijuana in Virginia are less severe than other Schedule I drugs.
    • Schedule II. Drugs in this class have a high potential for abuse and severe dependence but they do have a currently accepted medical use. Examples: PCP, cocaine, methadone and methamphetamine (meth), hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, Ritalin.  
    • Schedule III. These drugs have less potential for abuse than Schedule I drugs and the potential for dependence is moderate. There is also an accepted medical use for these drugs. Examples: anabolic steroids, codeine, ketamine, and various barbiturates and depressants.
    • Schedule IV. With less potential for abuse and dependency than Schedule I through III, these drugs are also accepted as a medical treatment. Examples: Valium, Xanax and other tranquilizers or sedatives.
    • Schedule V. These drugs have the lowest potential for abuse and addiction of all Scheduled drugs. They do have accepted medicinal uses. Examples: Cough medicines with codeine.
    • Schedule VI. Though not actually considered a “drug” these substances can be abused. Examples: Inhalants such as spray paint, amyl nitrite, and nitrous oxide. The majority of these inhalants are found in aerosol cans.

    Have You Been Charged With Drug Possession in Virginia?

    A possession charge can derail your life; leaving you without a job, without money and, it may seem, without hope. But don’t give up! I have many years of experience helping people just like you beat a conviction and get their lives back. Please call 888-386-3898 and let me defend your rights.

  • Who sets the amount of my bail when I’m accused of a crime? How can an attorney help make sure it’s fair?

    When you are accused of a crime, part of your arraignment will usually entail a discussion and setting of your bail. Bail is the amount of money that needs to be paid as a retainer to get you out of jail until your trial. The assumption is that if you or a loved one pays the bail amount, you’ll honor your trial date and appear in court in order to get that money back. However, depending on the crime you’re charge with, your bail could be set for anywhere between $100 to an excess of $1 million.

    So how does bail work? Who sets it and why does the severity of the crime affect the amount?

    Setting Bail and Paying the Price for Limited Freedom

    The U.S. Constitution limits setting excessive bail as a way to prohibit cruel and unusual punishment. However, depending on how severe the judge deems the charges (as well as your criminal past), he can set an extremely high bail in order to keep you from being able to afford to miss your trial.

    This is how it works...

    • A judge will listen to arguments from you (if you choose to represent yourself) or your lawyer and the prosecutor to determine your past criminal history as well as how likely you are to attempt to flee to avoid your trial.
    • Once the judge weighs your arguments against the severity of the crime you’re charged with, he’ll determine and set a reasonable amount for bail.
    • If you are able to pay that amount, you’ll be allowed to leave until the time of your trial.
    • When you do show up for your trial, the full amount you paid will be returned.
    • If you don’t show up, that money will be forfeited, a warrant will be issued for your arrest, and you’ll most likely be fined and charged for jumping bail.
    • If you’re unable to pay the bail amount, you’ll either be forced to stay in jail until your trial, or seek the help of a bail bondsman.
    • If you choose to use a bail bondsman, he’ll pay the entirety of your bail, but charge you at least 10% of the bail amount up front. For example, if your bail is set at $50,000, he would require a non-refundable payment of $5,000.
    • If you keep your trial date after using a bondsman, he will get back the money he paid, however, you won’t get anything except the time you had between your arraignment and trial.
    • If you don’t keep your trial date, in addition to a warrant for your arrest and additional fines and charges, the bondsman may attempt to track you down and bring you back in order for him to get his money from the court.

    Unfortunately, many people are unable to pay their bails (or in some cases even the 10% for a bondsman) and either remain in jail or just plead guilty as they believe it is the only course of action.

    There’s Another Way

    Thankfully, Darwyn Easley can help make sure the judge doesn’t set your bail excessively high and he can also help you plead down the amount if you’re unable to pay. Make sure you’re not forced to sit in jail or waste money on a bail bondsman when you don’t have to. Fill out our contact form, or call us directly at 703-865-6610 to set up an appointment and see how we can help secure your pre-trial freedom.

  • When I’m accused of a crime, what should I expect to happen?

    The criminal process in Virginia should be predictable and consistent. Police and prosecutors are required to follow certain protocols in order to maintain a suspect’s rights and prevent guilty parties from being released on technicalities.

    For your own protection, it is extremely important to understand what police and prosecutors can’t do as well as what they should do. If anyone involved in your case fails to follow the proper protocols, you could have grounds for a dismissal, whether you are guilty or not.

    From Accusation to Conviction: Virginia Circuit Court Proceedings

    The common procedure for criminal cases when it comes to charging, processing, and convicting a suspect of a felony in a Virginia court is as follows:

    • If you’re accused of a crime, you’ll be arrested on a warrant and brought before a magistrate. At this point, it is a good idea to contact an experienced defense lawyer to make sure your rights are being upheld.
    • The magistrate will then decide whether to place you in jail pending a hearing or release you on bail.
    • A preliminary hearing will then be held in district court to determine if there is probable cause that you committed the crime.
    • If probable cause is found, the case is sent to the grand jury.
    • If the grand jury agrees that there is probable cause, they will issue a formal charge against you, called an indictment.
    • The complete charges will then be read to you to make sure you understand exactly what you are being accused of. Your lawyer can also help break down the charges and provide you with legal options to go forward.
    • You’ll then have the opportunity to state your plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest).
    • Once you have entered your plea, the prosecution has the opportunity to present you with plea-bargain options. You may have the chance to “make a deal” with the prosecution to settle out of court or bargain for a reduced sentence for pleading guilty.
    • If you and your defense attorney cannot agree on a plea bargain, you will then proceed to make your defense in a trial.

    Get the Help You Need to Improve Your Outcome

    Although the process is fairly rigid, the criminal process can be cut short with the proper defense tactics. Contact us today to see how we can help you change the outcome of your arrest. Simply fill out our contact form, or call us directly at 703-865-6610 to set up an appointment. Remember, it’s your story. How do you want this chapter to end? Call now!

Contact Us Today

Easley Law Firm

  • 10521 Judicial Drive
    Suite 205

    Fairfax, VA 22030
  • Phone: 703-865-6610
  • Fax: 703-842-6101
  • Toll Free: 888-386-3898
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