Norfolk Police Officer Gets Community Service For Drug Dealing
Earlier this month, former Norfolk Police Officer Kristin Wayne Harris, was sentenced in Virginia Beach to 100 hours of community service in exchange for a two-year suspended prison sentence. (See Virginian-Pilot Article)
Harris resigned from his position with the Norfolk Police Department immediately after being charged. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance; and the Commonwealth Attorney dropped 11 other charges.
As with Harris, a drug conviction can have adverse effects on one’s life over and above the legal consequences. A conviction of a drug crime may result in loss of employment, loss of your driver’s license, as well as place a strain on your business, social and family relationships.
If you have been charged with a drug crime in Virginia Beach, contact our criminal lawyers for a free consultation. (757) 422-4646. Our phones are answered 24/7/365 to serve you!
What Is A Guardian Ad Litem & Why Do I Need One For My Child Custody Case?
Most family court judges do not favor having children testify in court during a child custody hearing. Custody cases are stressful and emotional matters for the parents involved, and even more so for the children. A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an experienced family law attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the interest of the children in a contested child custody case.
The GAL will interview the children and gather their thoughts on their relationship with the parents and the custody situation in general. In some cases, the children may express a preference to live with a particular parent that they may not otherwise disclose to the parents. The GAL will also meet with the parents and discuss custody and visitation plans, living arrangements, education issues, etc.
After investigating the case, the GAL will issue a report of their findings and recommendations to the Court. A good GAL will issue a written report that is available to the attorneys for each of the parents. This report is not binding on the court in any way, but often the judge will adopt the recommendations of the GAL.
It is important to understand the role of a GAL in your child custody case. Many parents view a GAL as an adversary. Some parents make the mistake of making disparaging comments about the other parent during a GAL interview. The GAL ‘s role is not to favor one parent or the other, but to form an opinion as to what is in the best interest of the children, their client.
You should always be respectful to the GAL and never get emotional about your relationship with your children, the other parent, or the other parent’s relationship with the children. The GAL will assume that if you are open to making unfavorable comments regarding the other parent to them, then you are likely to do so in front of your children which will hurt your case.
If you have a contested child custody case in Virginia Beach, a GAL can be a major asset in your case. Our Virginia Beach child custody attorneys will advise you on the role of a GAL and how you can better prepare yourself to get the best possible outcome in your child custody case.
Contact a family law attorney today for a free consultation. (757) 422-0195. Our phones are answered 24/7/365. Or please visit the website for Garrett Law Group, PLC
How Are Sentencing Guidelines Used In Criminal Cases In Virginia?
After someone is convicted of a felony in Virginia, whether it be after entering a guilty plea or a trial, the Circuit Court judge will order a presentence report. A presentence report is prepared by a probation officer and includes various background, family, and employment information about the defendant. One of the items included in the presentence report is a calculation of sentencing guidelines.
Sentencing guidelines give a point value to several factors, including the particular charge, the defendant’s prior criminal record, and some aggravating factors such as use of a weapon and victim injury. After calculating the various factors, that score is compared to a sentencing table that has been established by the Virginia General Assembly to set a recommended sentencing range. The purported purpose of this range is to ensure that defendants convicted of similar crimes who are in similar situations receive similar treatment from the various judges and courts throughout the Commonwealth.
When judges impose sentences, they will generally suspend a portion of that sentence. They may impose a five year prison sentence and suspend four years, leaving one year to serve – the active sentence. The only legal restriction on the court for sentencing is the maximum sentence set by the statute. The sentencing guidelines recommend to the judge what that active sentence should be. While departure from the recommendation is not uncommon, judges do sentence within the guideline range in most cases. It is important to remember that sentencing guidelines are advisory only, and a sentencing judge may impose a sentence within those guidelines or depart from them either downward in favor of the defendant, or upward in favor of the Commonwealth.
When preparing for a sentencing hearing, a criminal defense lawyer should evaluate not only the presentence report and sentencing guidelines, but also things not included in that report, such as other sufferings of the defendant due to the offense, positive contributions by the defendant to the community, and their involvement in the community through church, business or civic organizations.
A sentencing hearing is the opportunity for a criminal attorney to show the defendant in a more positive light that just that of a convicted felon. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Hampton Roads, VA, you should contact an experienced Virginia Beach criminal attorney to help you.
Contact our criminal lawyers today for a free consultation about your case. (757) 422-4646. Our Virginia Beach criminal defense attorneys are available to answer your questions 24/7/365.
Garrett Law Group, PLC
Virginia Beach Criminal Defense Lawyers
I Don’t Know Where My Spouse Is – How Do I File For Divorce In Virginia?
Contemplating a divorce can be a stressful situation under the most normal of situations. Trying to file for a divorce when your spouse has abandoned the relationship and you don’t know where they are certainly adds to that anxiety.
While most divorces are anything but civil, a divorce case is referred to as a “civil” matter and is governed by the Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure. Unlike a criminal case where the defendant is required to be personally notified of legal action against them, a civil case can be initiated and based on other less reliable notice to the other party. After filing for divorce, you may notify your spouse by leaving official notice with some other resident of their home, posting the notice on the front door of their residence, publishing notice in the newspaper, and in some cases, by certified mail.
When you do not know the whereabouts of your spouse, the most common procedure is to publish a notice in a local paper of common circulation. Contrary to what you might think, this is not necessarily the daily local newspaper. The various local courts have established publications they accept for notification by publication. You will need to contact the clerk’s office or a divorce attorney for more information on your jurisdiction.
Before a court will accept service by publication in your divorce case, you will have to prove that you have exercises due diligence in locating your spouse. Simply stating that you have not heard from them in some time is not sufficient. You may establish the foundation by contacting your spouse’s family, employer or friends. In addition, you may want to check any social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter. Also, you may try sending them a letter to their last known address where the letter may be forwarded to them or returned to you with notice of a new address or simply “not found”.
If you are looking to file for divorce in Virginia Beach, please feel free to contact our divorce lawyers for more information. Our Virginia Beach family law attorneys will be happy to discuss various methods of service to begin your divorce procedure. (757) 422-0195. Our phones are answered 24/7/365.
Garrett Law Group, PLC - Divorce Attorney Virginia Beach, VA
No More Serving Jail Sentences On Weekends For Convicted Felons
Virginia law allows a judge the discretion to allow individuals sentenced for a misdemeanor or traffic violation to serve any jail sentence on weekends or other non-consecutive days so as to allow the defendant to maintain employment. Routinely, judges have also allowed those convicted of felonies this opportunity, provided the sentence was relatively short (usually 90 days or less).
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has issued an opinion indicating judges, under the language of the statute, are not permitted to offer weekend or non-consecutive days to individuals convicted of a felony. Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle has indicated that he will advise the half a dozen inmates in the Virginia Beach jail they will have one week to make arrangements to serve the balance of their sentence straight through.
The new policy in Virginia Beach will result in some individual convicted of non-violent offenses, such as a third or subsequent DUI, petit larceny third or subsequent offense, drug possession, or destruction of property if over a certain amount of damage, will be required to serve any sentence straight through.
If you or a family member is currently affected by the new guidelines and needs to file a motion to reconsider, or if you have been charged with a felony in Virginia Beach, contact our office today for a free consultation. (757) 422-4646. Our Virginia Beach criminal attorneys are available 24/7/365 to answer your questions.
Garrett Law Group, PLC
Abduction Cases Are Not Always Tied Neatly With A Bow
The Virginia Code defines abduction as the unauthorized holding or transporting of someone against their will by force, threat, intimidation, or deception. It doesn’t require years of law school to be able to recognize abduction, also referred to as kidnapping, when a victim is tied up, gagged, blindfolded, thrown in the trunk of a car and carried off to be ransomed. These acts certainly fit the legal definition of abduction under Virginia criminal law; but many other situations not so obvious to the casual viewer are also considered kidnapping and carry the same penalty – up to twenty years in Virginia State Prison.
A non-violent abduction charge could be filed against someone who uses trickery or deception in order to coerce the victim who may otherwise be cooperative. For instance, impersonating a police officer by flashing a blue strobe light in order to entice a motorist to pull over is guilty of abduction. A homeowner who threatens their housekeeper to report them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless they work overtime may be charged with abduction. During a lover’s spat if one holds the purse and driver’s license of their estranged to keep her from driving away may be charged with abduction.
There are other non-violent situations where no actual force is used against someone, but force is implied. For instance, a passenger in a moving vehicle who demands to be let out and the driver refuses to stop the car; the driver may be charged with kidnapping. Also, under Virginia law, there is no requirement that the victim be held for a particular time period. The abduction is completed at the instant the victim’s movement is curtailed.
A common non-violent abduction offense involved parental kidnapping. Parental kidnapping usually involves little to no coercion or force; most cases involve a complicit, and often willing, victim. The parent may be charged with abduction simply by not returning the child to the custodial parent or guardian. Similarly, abduction may be charged in cases involving young lovers when one is kept from their parents, or when a runaway child who is harbored against the will of their parents.
If you or a family member is charged with the abduction in Virginia Beach, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in abduction cases. Our criminal lawyers will advise you on a proper course of action, plan an aggressive defense, and may be able to negotiate a reduction of the charge or dismissal altogether. (757) 422-4646. Calls answered 24/7/365.
Garrett Law Group, PLC - www.GarrettLawGroup.com
What Can You Do To Help Prepare For A Child Custody Case?
By James Garrett
Child custody issues are the most emotionally challenging of all family law cases. Outside of cases of abuse or other harm to the children, under Virginia law, each parent is entitled to a meaningful, nurturing relationship with their children. There are things you can do to enhance your chances to prevail in court in matters involving decisions on primary physical custody and visitation schedules as well as modification to previously decided issues.
One of the easiest things to do is to keep a log or journal detailing your involvement in your children’s lives, or the other parent’s lack of involvement. You should also consider this documentation even if no litigation is yet pending. Being able to provide your child custody lawyer with a lengthy, detailed journal may be a major advantage in your child custody or visitation case.
When keeping a journal, be sure to note things such as visitations, noting when you showed up, how the exchange was handled by the other parent, and if there were any witnesses present. Keep notes concerning phone calls to your children when they are in the custody of the other parent. Maintain accurate child support and spousal support noting any late or under payments.
In addition, you should be well informed about your children’s daily activities and be sure to note your involvement in your child’s school and extracurricular activities. Attend parent-teacher conferences, doctor’s visits, school plays, baseball games and piano recitals. The more involved you are with your child, the more a court will agree to grant you more time with them.
If you are a party to case of child custody and visitation in Virginia Beach, contact our office today for a consultation. (757) 422-0195. Our Virginia Beach family law attorneys are available to answer your questions 24/7/365.
Garrett Law Group, PLC - Family Law Attorneys in Virginia Beach
New Virginia Law Mandates Life Sentence For Some Sex Crimes
Sexually bases crimes, including rape and sodomy, tend to evoke the most visceral reactions from the general public, many times more so than from serious violent crimes of murder or robbery. In response, the laws in Virginia now mandate a life sentence for some sexual offenses as it does for those serious violent felonies.
Effective July 1, 2012, anyone charged with and convicted of rape, sodomy or object sexual penetration, who is eighteen years of age or older, and whose victim is age thirteen or younger, will face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. The three listed offenses cover essentially any sexual act, including intercourse, oral sex, and any object penetration.
Given the new penalty associated with a conviction for a sex crime, it is extremely important to have legal representation by a criminal attorney who knows and understands the law, and has the necessary experience in handling these cases. Many sex crimes are charged based on little more than accusations of the alleged victim. Cross-examination is vital in such cases. A skilled criminal lawyer will be able to evaluate the evidence and challenge any evidence that may be questionable, inadmissible, irrelevant, or simply doesn’t indicate criminal wrongdoing.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a sexual offense in Virginia Beach, our criminal defense attorneys are available to help. Contact our law offices today for a free consultation (757) 422-4646. Your calls are answered 24/7/365.
My Child’s Mother Won’t Allow Me Visitation
In today’s society, there are many children who are born to unwed parents. Regardless if the parents were involved in a relationship, or if they had a one-time encounter, both parents are equally entitled to enjoy a relationship with the child under Virginia child custody laws.
In Virginia, the laws are very clear that gender of the parents shall have no bearing on child custody and visitation. Custody and visitation is determined by what is in the best interest of the child. Unless it is shown that your relationship with your child is somehow detrimental to the child, the other parent may not deny you a parental relationship with your child.
It is important that both parents also understand that child support and custody/visitation, while certainly related, do not affect one or the other. The custodial parent may not withhold visitation rights from the other parent due to non-payment of child support. On the other side, the non-custodial parent may not stop paying child support because they are denied visitation.
Virginia child custody and visitation cases are complex and are governed by several detailed state statutes and numerous Virginia Appellate and Supreme Court decisions. To be successful in your child custody case, you will want a Virginia Beach child custody lawyer who is familiar with the law and cases. Contact our office for a free child custody consultation. (757) 422-4646. Our phones are answered 24/7/365.
Garrett Law Group, PLC - Virginia Beach Family Law Lawyers
How Is Military Retirement Split During A Military Divorce?
Due to the extensive military presence in Hampton Roads, it is no surprise that many divorces filed in Virginia Beach are filed by military members or military spouses. Military divorces in Virginia Beach are subject to the same state guidelines as any civilian divorce, but they are also subject to federal regulations, the most frequent being the Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (USFSPA).
Under the USFSPA, a military spouse is entitled to a portion of a military member’s retirement. Unless the military spouse waives this entitlement, the federal law requires Virginia divorce courts to enforce this act. It is important that your military divorce attorney is familiar with the federal laws and is knowledgeable of drafting a proper Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).
Military retirement pay is subject to distribution under the 20/20/20 rule. The USFSPA mandates that any spouse who a) has been married for 20 years or more to a military service member, who b) has at least 20 years of qualified military service, and c) those two periods overlap by at least 20 years, is entitled to one-half of the military member’s retirement pay. In those military divorces that do not qualify under the 20/20/20 rule, military retirement pay is still subject to distribution under Virginia equitable distribution laws.
If you are a military service member, or a military spouse considering filing for divorce, it is important to discuss your situation with a divorce attorney familiar with military divorce issues. Please contact our office today for a free consultation. (757) 422-4646. Our attorneys are available to answer your questions 24/7/365.
Garrett Law Group, PLC
Virginia Beach Divorce Attorneys