Archive for August, 2011

Being Prepared Works!

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I hope this finds everyone safe.  Hurricane Irene has come and gone and it appears that most of us on the Virginia Peninsula are ok, although some of us are still without power.

I know that in my family, we are fine.  We were pretty lucky in that the power in our house never went out.  However, we put all of our frozen foods into a cooler with dry ice ‘just in case’.  We also brought in everything from the yard that might be picked up in the high winds, tied down those things that couldn’t be moved inside, and got most of the ‘stuff’ off of the floor in the garage (our garage almost always floods in a storm).  We moved our vehicles to higher ground so they wouldn’t be flooded.

And then we left town since the area where our house is located was told to evacuate.

It was hard to sit and wait with that feeling of being powerless.  However, it helped that we had done everything we could to be prepared for whatever might have happened.

I think of this today as I am also grateful that we have the proper legal documents to assist our family if an emergency were to happen and we were unavailable.  We have the Power of Attorney so that someone could pay our bills.  We have the medical directive so that our family would know what to do if we were injured and unable to make our own decisions.  We have the Will and Trust documents so that our property could pass more easily in the case of our deaths.

Estate plans are just one more way to be prepared.

I could have been really irritated that we went to so much trouble last Friday to get prepared for things that (luckily) we did not need.  Instead, it was comforting to know that our preparations were done ‘just in case’.

If you want to discuss how you can be prepared for a personal emergency, call the office for an estate plan consultation!

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

What is VASAP?

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

VASAP is the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.

VASAP helps police officers by assisting them to obtain state of the art alcohol identification equipment and by training the officers on the use of this equipment.

VASAP is most widely known to be the organization that provides programs and activities to educate the public on the dangers and costs of drinking and driving.

I know that I was confused about whether the name was ‘VASAP’ or just ‘ASAP’.  The ASAP programs are the local programs that are attended by the public and there are 24 local ASAP programs in Virginia.  The VASAP is the umbrella organization that oversees and evaluates the actions of the local ASAPs.  Most of the time, you can use either name to indicate the program.

It has been reported that 86% of all crimes can be somehow related to alcohol or other drugs, and there is a consensus that if we can limit the unreasonable use of alcohol or drugs, we can limit the number of crimes committed.  While there are many crimes that do not involve driving, most people today drive, and if the driver is habitually abusing either alcohol or drugs, it is very likely that he or she will eventually be given a ticket for some driving activity that can be attributed to the alcohol or drug misuse and that is one path that the state can take to get the driver into the VASAP program with the goal to eliminate, or at least minimize, the illegal use of alcohol or drugs in the future.

While most of us think of the VASAP programs as being for drivers that were found guilty of a DUI, VASAP also has programs for drug offenders and reckless drivers where the use of alcohol or drugs is not directly involved.  There is also a program for those that have been found guilty of driving on a suspended license.

The VASAP programs are funded by the fees charged to those that are ordered to take these programs.  This means that the cost of a DUI or other drug or alcohol related crime is increased by the VASAP fee.  There are usually payment plans available, but if the VASAP fees are not paid, the person’s driver’s license will generally be suspended, which can cause future problems for the driver.

You can find out more about the VASAP program at their 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

Back to School Emergency Cards

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

It’s time for a new school year and that means shopping for school clothes, meeting new teachers, and filling out emergency cards.

The emergency cards can be helpful in telling the school who is authorized to pick your kids up from school if you aren’t able to be there.  And it can help to make sure that your child is not sent home with a stranger pretending to be a relative, or anyone else that you do not want to be around your children.

What these emergency cards can’t do is authorize someone to temporarily take custody of your children if a serious accident happens to you during the school day (or any other time).  if something happens to you, the authorities can only leave your kids with their legal guardian.

So what happens if there isn’t a legal guardian?  The authorities will find someone in the foster care system to take care of your kids until ‘things can be worked out’.  That means that your kids will be with strangers during this emotional and difficult time.  Not with the neighbor who knows them or the parent of their friend from school.

Most parents know they should name a guardian for their kids in their Will, but a Will only becomes meaningful after your death, and even then it may take days or weeks to find the document and get it entered with the court.  What about in the meantime?  And what if you are injured and in a hospital instead of deceased?

In Virginia, you can draft something called a ‘standby guardianship’ which tells everyone who YOU want to have custody of your children if you are not able to take care of them yourself.

This important document should be drafted by every parent and reviewed on at least an annual basis to make sure that it contains your current wishes.  There may have been a change in your life, and there may have also been a change in the life of the neighbor or friend you had named before.  You should also make sure that your babysitter knows how to find a copy of this document, and a copy should be given to the school as well as the person named in your document.

We all have busy lives and we forget to do some things.  As you are filling out the emergency cards for school this year, take a minute and review your standby guardian designation to make sure it is still valid.  And if you don’t have a standby guardian for your minor children, now is the time to get this important document!

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

Don’t Be a Bully!

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

School is starting and many kids are heading into situations that should be filled with learning and fun.

Unfortunately, many of these kids are also heading into situations filled with some students that are using technology to bully and harass other students.

In July, a federal appeals court in Richmond refused to reinstate a lawsuit brought by a West Virginia high-school student named Kara Kowalski.  Ms. Kowalski claimed that her five-day suspension from Musselman High School, and the subsequent ‘social suspension’ in 2005 had violated her free speech and due process rights.   The actions were ordered by the school after Kowalski created a MySpace page that targeted another student with photos and suggestions that the other student was a ‘whore’ who had ‘herpes’.

Kowalski argued that she should not have been punished by the school for private, out of school speech.  The Fourth Circuit ruled that public schools have a compelling interest in regulating speech that disrupts school activities, and that bullying is a major concern for schools nationwide.  Judge Paul V Niemeyer said that “[S]chool administrators must be able to prevent and punish harassment and bullying in order to provide a safe school environment conductive to learning.”

This case has not been brought before the United States Supreme Court… yet… and it might not ever be brought before the highest court in the nation.  But for right now, the decision of the 4th Circuit is the prevailing law for Virginia.

The Code of Virginia was also modified effective July 1, 2011 to state that the use of cell phones and other wireless telecommunication devices to distribute profane, threatening, or indecent language with the intent to coerce, intimidate or harass any person is guilty of a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which carries a possible jail sentence of up to 12 months and a possible fine of up to $2,500.

As I said before, don’t be a bully.  It is being taken very seriously!

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