Archive for June, 2011

New Virginia Laws take effect July 1, 2011

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

The Virginia Legislature passes new laws each year.  Most of the time, these laws become effective on July 1 of that year, although some laws are considered to be so important that they become effective earlier, and occasionally the laws need more time for people to prepare and they might become effective on July 1 of the following year.

These new laws can have an impact on any part of your life in Virginia and can cover any facet of the law from regulations of industries that only affect a few people to traffic regulations that can possibly affect everyone.

This is important, because you are bound to obey these laws as soon as they become effective.  This means that as of July 1, 2011, you may be found to be in violation of a law by performing an act that was perfectly legal on June 30th.

So, where do you find these laws?  Some more popular laws are discussed in newspapers and in news stories.  If you ride a motorcycle, you probably know that as of July 1, 2011 a motorcyclist can go through a red light if he/she has been sitting at a red light for at least 2 minutes, and has exercised due care in venturing into the intersection.  This will be a new sub-section of section 46.2-833(B) with the current sub-sections B and C being now designated as C and D.

I admit that I like to read code sections.  But I’m a lawyer and that’s my job.  For most people, a short, simple outline of the new laws is more appropriate.

The Virginia Division of Legislative Services has prepared an easy-to-read summary of the new laws for 2011 in the pdf document “In Due Course” that can be found here.  There is also a page devoted to new laws in 2011 on my website here.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Improper Driving in Virginia

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Improper Driving is not something that will be written on a ticket.  Instead it is a statutory creation found in Virginia Code section 46.2-869 that says “upon the trial of any person charged with reckless driving where the degree of culpability is slight, the court in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving.”

The penalty for improper driving is much less than the penalty for reckless driving.  There are only 3 points assessed by the DMV, as opposed to 6 points for reckless driving.  There is also a maximum fine of $500 instead of the max fine of $2500 for reckless driving and there is no jail or license suspension duration either.  Of course the biggest difference is that improper driving is a traffic violation while reckless driving is a crime!

How do you get your charge reduced from ‘reckless driving’ to ‘improper driving’?  It’s up to the judge.  You need to convince the judge that you really should have your charge reduced because ….

The … after the because is where you would put in your arguments to try to convince the judge that you deserve the break.  The judge can take a lot of things into consideration including whether you were cooperative with the officer, whether you have had multiple driving offenses in the past, whether you were speeding because you didn’t plan your trip correctly, or any other thing that the judge feels might make a difference.  And yes, often your demeanor in court will have an impact on the judge’s decision too.

The judge will not always agree to a reduction in the charge to improper driving, but it is usually worth it to make that request and have an explanation ready to help the judge make the decision in favor of the reduction.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Reckless Driving in Virginia

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Have you been charged with Reckless Driving?

Reckless Driving in Virginia is more than a glorified speeding ticket.  It is a class 1 misdemeanor that can result in up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2500!

That’s right!  Reckless Driving in Virginia is a CRIME that will remain on your record FOREVER.

The judge will probably not order the maximum penalty for a first offense Reckless Driving charge.  However, there is a really good chance of receiving a hefty fine and a suspension of your driving privileges.  Regardless of the other conditions, the part of the guilty verdict that results in the finding of guilt of a crime remains.

Why is this important?  I had a potential client call me because she was trying to rent an apartment in Florida and they did not approve her application because her name came up when they did a criminal background check.  Yep…it was the Reckless Driving ticket she got 5 years before that showed up as a ‘criminal conviction’ with really no other information explaining that it was for driving at excessive speed.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do except try to get the records to explain that this was a speeding matter and not something that most of us think of as ‘more criminal’ in nature.  By the time we could arrange all of this, the apartment was no longer available, but at least the Potential Client has the information for the next time this happens.

So, what is Reckless Driving?  Reckless Driving is driving at any speed that is in excess of 20 miles over the posted speed limit OR driving at a speed in excess of 80 MPH (regardless of the posted speed limit) OR any driving action that is perceived by the officer to be driving in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.

When they raised the speed limit on most of the interstates in Virginia to 70 MPH, they did not change the limit for Reckless Driving.  I know most people think you can go 10 miles over the speed limit and not get caught, but this is something you should really be aware of.   (As a side note, I’ve been in court when people were found guilty of going 4 miles over the posted speed limit.  After all, it was technically over the posted limit.)

The bottom line is to take a ticket for Reckless Driving very seriously.  I would suggest that you consider the ticket for Reckless Driving as being the same as being arrested for any other crime.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Can a notary make a document ‘legal’?

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

I often get calls from people who tell me that they wrote up an agreement and had it notarized so it would be legal.  They are usually really surprised when I tell them that the notarization doesn’t make the agreement more legal than it was without the notary stamp and signature.

Yes, a notary can administer an oath and when you swear that oath to a notary, it has the same meaning as when you take an oath in court.  This means that you can be found guilty of perjury if you lie under the oath administered by a notary, just like you can be found guilty of perjury if you lie in court.

But the most common form of notary action is an acknowledgement.  This notarization says that the person who signed the document is either personally known by the notary, or they have provided valid identification that says they are the person who signed the document.

This protects people from actions like having a girlfriend sign a document saying she is the wife, but it does not make the document more legal.

In fact, any agreement between two people can be considered legally binding even if it is not written at all.  It may be harder to prove what the terms of an oral agreement might entail, but it would still be legal.

If you have a written agreement that has been signed by all parties, that agreement should be able to be upheld in a court of law, whether the signatures are notarized or not.

So why have things notarized?  To make sure that the person signing the document has valid id stating that they are in fact the person who signed the document.  Most people don’t go to the trouble of getting false identification in the name of someone specific just to sign a document so the chances are pretty good that the person is who he says he is.  The notary is required to inspect the identification to make sure it has every appearance of being valid.

Most banks in the area will notarize documents for free if you are a customer of the bank.  There are also other places that will notarize documents for free too.  In fact, our office will notarize documents (with valid identification of course) for free.

To Learn more about Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law visit the website at