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Punitive Damages Available in a Virginia Drunk Driving Accident

Last month, a bicyclist in Virginia Beach became seriously injured in a drunk driving accident. He was taken to the hospital for life-threatening injuries. Police arrested the driver of the passenger vehicle and charged him with a DUI. Unfortunately, drunk driving accidents just like this one happen every day in Virginia. Despite nonprofit groups and local government’s efforts to curb drunk driving, drunk drivers still kill and injure thousands of people every year.

You May be Entitled to Compensation After a Drunk Driving Accident 

If you or your loved one has been injured in a Virginia drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. In a personal injury lawsuit, the victim can request economic and non-economic damages. When the defendant has acted egregiously, the court can choose to impose additional punitive damages to deter other people who might engage in the same bad behavior.

The Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Most people immediately think about their compensatory damages, such as their medical costs and other expenses related to their injuries. Compensatory damages cover a wide range of expenses related to your accident injuries, such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses
  • Compensation for lost income
  • Compensation for your property damage 

In addition to compensatory damages, successful plaintiffs are also entitled to non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are available for aspects of your injury that cannot be easily quantified, such as pain and suffering. On the other hand, punitive damages are not intended to compensate you for financial and emotional losses you have experienced from the injuries caused by a drunk driving accident. Additionally, courts always award economic and non-economic damages to successful plaintiffs in drunk-driving lawsuits. Courts do not always impose punitive damages. Virginia courts can only impose punitive damages in limited circumstances.

Are You Entitled to Punitive Damages?

As mentioned above, not every plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages. There are two legal grounds under Virginia personal injury law that justify a court in awarding punitive damages for a drunk-driving personal injury claim. In other words, your personal injury lawyer can demand punitive damages under Virginia law in the following circumstances:

  • The drunk driver who caused your car accident had a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of at least .15% when the car accident occurred,
  • The drunk driver knew or should have known that he or she was too impaired to operate the motor vehicle when the car accident occurred, and
  • The drunk driver’s intoxication was the proximate cause of your personal injury or your loved one’s death.

What if the Drunk Driver’s BAC Was Under .15%?

You might be wondering whether you can see punitive damages if the drunk driver who caused your injuries did not have a blood-alcohol level above .15%. Perhaps the driver’s blood-alcohol level was just under that amount, or the police did not take a blood alcohol test. In that case, you can still prove that you are entitled to punitive damages. You will need to show that the driver engaged in wildly reckless or malicious behavior. In these scenarios, a plaintiff can recover punitive damages under Virginia case law. The jury will be responsible for weighing the evidence to decide whether punitive damages are appropriate.

Virginia courts typically weigh the driver’s level of intoxication, the circumstances surrounding the car accident, and their past criminal convictions. The court will use the following standard to determine whether the defendant engaged in reckless or malicious behavior, that is, whether the driver’s actions were “sufficiently willful or wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others.” Proving this standard is challenging, and you will need an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer to help you.

In Huffman v. Love, 245 VA. 311, 427 S.E.2D 357 (1993), the defendant had a blood-alcohol level of 32% and was speeding when he collided with the plaintiff in a head-on car accident. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages, but the Supreme Court reversed and found enough evidence to prove the defendant’s conscious disregard for others’ safety. The court focused on the fact that the defendant had collided with another vehicle before the collision with the plaintiff, was speeding, and that his blood alcohol content was three times over the statutory limit. 

Proving That the Driver Engaged in Reckless or Malicious Behavior 

You will still need to prove that the driver who caused your car accident was intoxicated at the time of the accident. You can do so through several different means. Perhaps the law enforcement officers noted that the driver smelled like alcohol in the police report. A witness may have seen the driver swerving or driving way too fast before the accident. The driver may have admitted that he or she had been drinking before the car accident occurred. There could be other types of evidence, such as open containers of alcohol or a witness who knew that the driver drank at a restaurant or party before the accident occurred.

At the Straw Law Firm, we have helped many clients recover compensation and punitive damages in Virginia. We know how to conduct a thorough investigation into a drunk driving accident. We regularly work with experts, including accident reconstruction specialists, and investigators to prove that a drunk driver caused our clients’ injuries. The sooner you speak to one of our experienced lawyers, the sooner we can get to work investigating your case and building a persuasive legal defense.

Contact a Lynchburg Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today

If you or your loved one have been injured in a drunk driving accident in Lynchburg, you could be entitled to punitive damages. Additionally, if your loved one died in a drunk-driving accident, you could be entitled to damages through a wrongful death lawsuit that includes punitive damages. Coping with a serious injury or a loved one can be devastating, but recovering financial compensation can help you and your family in the future. Contact Straw Law Firm today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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What are the Penalties for a First DUI Offense in Virginia?

Deaths from drunk driving have increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Even during a pandemic, the number of drunk driving deaths in Virginia is higher than in 2019. Drunk drivers are not self-quarantining. Some localities have had up to a 34% increase in drunk driving deaths. Virginia officials have increased the presence of local and state law enforcement to combat drunk driving. If you are facing drunk driving charges in Virginia, you may receive serious penalties. If convicted, your driver’s license could be revoked or even suspended. You could also be subject to jail time.

First-Time DUI Charges are Serious in Virginia

Being charged with a DUI can be a stressful and frightening experience. First-time offenders who have not been part of the criminal justice system before do not know what to expect and can be overwhelmed. Even though the penalties for a first-time DUI are less severe than for those who have been convicted before, they are still severe. One of the most important things you can do is speak with an experienced Lynchburg DUI lawyer today.

The Penalties of a First-Time DUI Conviction

If you have been charged with a first time DUI in Virginia, the penalties you face depend on your blood alcohol content (BAC). If your blood alcohol content was less than .15% for your first-time offense, you would face misdemeanor penalties of:

  • Up to a $2,500 fine
  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • A one-year revocation of your administrative driver’s license
  • A mandatory alcohol education class
  • Increased insurance premiums
  • A mandatory one-year driver’s license suspension
  • Mandatory jail time for high blood alcohol levels
  • Ignition interlock required in some cases

If you have been charged with a first time DUI in Virginia and your blood alcohol level was between .15% and .20%, you will face the same penalties mentioned above with an additional mandatory five-day jail sentence. If you have been charged with a first-time DUI and your blood alcohol level was over .20%, you will face the same penalties with an additional 10-day jail sentence. In addition to these penalties, you may face other penalties depending on the facts in your case, such as:

  • You were involved in a car accident that resulted in property damage or personal injury
  • You were under the age of 21 at the time of your arrest
  • There were minor children in your car with you during the arrest

Other Consequences of a First-Time DUI in Virginia

In addition to the administrative and criminal penalties for a first-time DUI conviction, there are other types of consequences. Defendants convicted of DUI often experience stress in their professional and personal lives. The defendant could lose his or her job over the DUI charge.  For example, if the defendant is a commercial driver with a commercial driver’s license, the commercial driver’s license will be suspended. Some employers refuse to hire employees with DUI convictions on their driving records. 

Even if you have only been convicted of a DUI once, you could have difficulty finding a place to live. Many apartment complexes will run a background check and determine whether the potential renter has a criminal record. Some apartment complexes will not rent units out to those with criminal records. Being convicted of a DUI will also make your life extremely difficult. When your driver’s license is suspended, you will become dependent on other people to get to and from work and running errands. If public transportation is not available, you will need to pay for ride-sharing services, taxis, or arrange car rides with a friend or family member.

Underage DUI Charges

What are the penalties for a DUI conviction when the driver was underage? Dealing with a DUI charge is difficult, but when the defendant is under 21, he or she faces unique penalties. Under Virginia law, any driver under the age of 21 with a blood alcohol content of .02% or higher can be charged with a DUI. Under Virginia law, if there is any amount of alcohol in a driver system, he or she has consumed alcohol. 

Drivers are not allowed to consume alcohol when they are not yet 21, and when they drink and drive, they face charges for a class 1 misdemeanor. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail. Additionally, the driver will lose his or her license for up to a year and maybe order to complete up to 50 hours of community service. When teenagers and adults are convicted of drunk driving, the consequences can have disastrous effects. A DUI conviction can make it challenging to secure student loans, live on campus, and attend college.

Defending Against a First-Time DUI Charge

Every DUI case is different and requires a unique legal strategy. In some cases, law enforcement officials violate a defendant’s constitutional rights by engaging in an unconstitutional search and seizure. In other cases, law enforcement officers do not follow the correct procedures for measuring the defendant’s blood alcohol content. Or, the defendant could have a valid reason for having a high blood alcohol content. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will analyze your case and develop the best possible legal strategy.

Contact a Virginia First-Time DUI Lawyer

Sometimes people assume that the DUI penalties will not be severe if they have not been charged before. However, first-time DUI penalties can be significant, and defendants should take their legal defenses seriously. Finding the right lawyer for your first-time DUI case is important. At Straw Law Firm, our lawyers have successfully represented many clients in first-time DUI charges throughout the Lynchburg area. We have the resources, experience, and knowledge to provide you with an excellent legal defense. We will investigate your case and determine the best legal strategy for you. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.

what to look for when hiring a lynchburg criminal defense lawyer

What to Look for When Hiring a Lynchburg Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges in Lynchburg, Virginia, hiring a lawyer is not something to be taken lightly. Depending on your specific criminal charges, you could be facing jail time, significant fines, a loss of your professional license, a loss of your driver’s license, or possible placement on a sexual offender list. If you look up “criminal defense lawyers in Lynchburg” on the internet, you have probably seen hundreds of results. How should you go about choosing a criminal defense lawyer when there are so many different options? We have listed a few factors to consider.

  1. Do You Need a Private Lawyer?

If you have been arrested for a criminal charge, you have a right to a public defender. You do not need to hire a private law firm to represent you. However, doing so is beneficial. Public defenders work hard, but they often have massive caseloads, few resources, and not much time to spend on your case. When you hire a private attorney, that lawyer will have more resources in time to work on your case and advocate for your rights. Private attorneys also have office staff who will be able to answer your phone calls and direct your messages to your lawyer, unlike public defenders, who can be notoriously hard to communicate with. It is not feasible for public defenders to check on their clients when they could have hundreds of cases open at one time.

Multiple advantages come with hiring a private criminal defense lawyer in Lynchburg. Private criminal defense lawyers have the resources you need to effectively defend yourself, such as a network of dedicated investigators, expert witnesses, and private experts. In some cases, private lawyers also have access to other attorneys who may be able to advise on criminal procedure and jury selection should your face go to trial. Additionally, suppose you have multiple criminal charges in different counties. In that case, your public defender will not necessarily be looking to help you get out of criminal charges outside of his or her county. A private law firm will be able to develop a coordinated legal strategy to seek the dismissal of your charges in all of the countries involved.

  1. What Type of Experience Does the Attorney Have?

Another important factor involves what type of experience the lawyer you are considering has. Did they just start representing clients in the area of Virginia criminal law? Have they been to court or focus on settling nearly all of their cases out of court? Suppose you refuse to engage in a plea bargain. Will your lawyer be able to effectively litigate on your behalf in a criminal trial? Who will be handling your case? Will it be an associate, or even a paralegal or the attorney you interviewed? These are all extremely important questions to ask when considering hiring an attorney to represent you in your criminal matter. You do not want to go to trial only to discover that your lawyer is not familiar with the criminal court procedures and does not know how to effectively negotiate with the opposing party. Ask your attorney what type of experience he or she has when it comes to the charges you are facing.

  1. How Much Will the Attorney Charge?

In criminal law cases, attorneys typically charge a certain rate per hour they work on your case. You should ask upfront whether the attorney you are considering requires a retainer, which is a lump sum payment you give them at the beginning of their representation. As your lawyer bills you for hours worked on your case, he or she will deduct the amount from the retainer. If your retainer runs out of funds, you will need to pay by the hour or provide another retainer. If your lawyer does not use all the funds in the retainer, they will be returned to you.

It is impossible to know exactly how much time your case will take, but most attorneys can give you a ballpark estimate based on their experience and the facts in your case. It is important to note that you should not hire the cheapest lawyer available, as they may not provide you with high-quality legal representation. The end goal is to help you get your charges dismissed or receive a not guilty verdict if your case proceeds to trial. Your future is on the line when you are facing criminal charges in Lynchburg, and it is worth investing in a high-quality lawyer to represent you.

  1. Hire an Attorney Who Will Communicate Well With You

Many people say that one of the most important aspects of a lawyer/client relationship is communication. As you are going through the criminal trial process, you do not want to feel like you are out of the loop, and your lawyer is not listening to your questions or concerns. When finding a lawyer, ask about their communication styles. Will they get back to you within two days, or will it take more like a week before they return your phone calls? Is the attorney patient and willing to listen to your story and your concerns, or is he or she constantly rushing you or cutting you off? 

It is also important that your lawyer will give you the truth about your case. You do not want to hire a lawyer who will just tell you what you want to hear, but one who gives you realistic advice based on your different legal options. These are important factors to consider when choosing a Lynchburg criminal defense lawyer.

Contact Straw Law Firm Today

At Straw Law Firm, our attorneys work hard to ensure that we provide the highest quality legal representation in Lynchburg. When you hire our law firm, you can rest assured that our experienced and capable lawyers will advocate effectively for your rights throughout the process. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can advocate for you.

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Five Dangerous Virginia Motorcycle Accidents

Multiple dangerous motorcycle accidents have happened in Lynchburg, Virginia over the past month. Despite continued lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19, drivers continue to be involved in dangerous motorcycle collisions. Even the safest motorcyclists can become injured in a motorcycle accident. Many Lynchburg passenger vehicle drivers do not pay enough attention to their surroundings. Intoxicated drivers, distracted drivers, and speeding drivers can all cause fatal Lynchburg motorcycle accidents. The following accidents have taken place in the last month in Lynchburg and throughout Virginia. 

A Fatal Motorcycle Accident Occurred in Roanoke County

Local police are continuing to investigate a fatal motorcycle accident that left a motorcyclist from Roanoke dead. The fatal motorcycle accident happened at the intersection of Commander Drive and Williamson Road on August 8th. According to the initial investigation, the motorcyclist was heading south on Williamson Road when he struck a vehicle that was turning off of Commander Drive. First responders pronounced the 36-year-old motorcyclists dead at the scene of the crash.

The deceased motorcyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Local law enforcement suspect that the motorcyclist’s speed contributed to the accident. He may have been unable to avoid colliding with the passenger vehicle because of his increased speed. 

A Fatal Motorcycle Accident Involved Six Motorcycles

At the end of July, a dangerous multi-vehicle motorcycle accident happened in Fairfax County. Virginia State Police are investigating the fatal crash that happened on July 26th at the I-95 and I-495 interchange. A state trooper saw six motorcycles traveling together at the right rate of speed on I-495. The trooper pulled up behind the group of motorcyclists, and two of them accelerated in their speed, pulling away from the group. 

The trooper turned on his siren and activated his warning lights to initiate a traffic stop of the speeding motorcyclists. Instead of stopping, the motorcyclists accelerated to a higher speed and took an off-ramp to avoid the law enforcement offer. As they tried to curve around the ramp at a high rate of speed, one of the motorcyclists ran off the side of the road, crashing into the cement retaining way. Sadly, the 24-year-old rider flew off of the motorcycle and died at the scene of the accident. Virginia State Police officers are still investigating the crime. The other motorcyclists did not stop at the scene of the accident. 

A Virginia Beach Man Lost Control of His Motorcycle and Died From His Injuries

Another fatal Virginia motorcycle accident happened on June 28th when 28-year-old Virginia Beach man lost control of his motorcycle. Paramedics tried to save his life at the scene of the accident, near the Atlantis Apartments, but they were unsuccessful. This accident has been newsworthy after several inaccurate reports regarding what happened when local firefighters responded to the fatal accident. At first, an internal Fire Department memo stated that a crowd gathered at the scene and started harassing, kicking, and pushing the firefighters.

A firefighter at the scene said that one firefighter was shoved and another firefighter was kicked, but these actions were done out of emotion and did not stop them from providing emergency response aid to the injured victim. No firefighters suffered injuries from the incident. According to the mother of the victim, they did not do anything wrong to the emergency responders. 

The man who passed away had just purchased the motorcycle that day. He was showing off the motorcycle to his friends and had planned to go out to eat with his family later. The man’s bike went into the air, and a witness called 9-1-1. He helped provide emergency aid to the motorcyclists until the first responders arrived. His emergency phone call lasted about a minute-and-a-half.

The motorcyclists died while on the way to the hospital, which was on lockdown to the coronavirus. According to a report by the EMS Supervisor, someone pounded their fists into the EMS SUV, causing damage. Another internal report stated that some of the crowd followed the ambulance to the hospital, attacking the ambulance the entire time. 

One Dead After Fatal Motorcycle Crash 

Virginia law enforcement is investigating a traffic fatality. They discovered a dead man at the scene of a motor vehicle accident in Roanoke on August 6th. Officers reported that the motor vehicle accident involved a motorcycle. When officers arrived at the scene of the crime, they found a man laying on the road next to a motorcycle. They also found another vehicle nearby. The man lying next to the motorcycle was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officers are now investigating the crime as a traffic fatality. Their preliminary report stated that a vehicle was traveling toward the intersection, and that the motorcycle was traveling west. The motorcycle may have struck the vehicle after entering the vehicle’s lane of traffic. The driver of the passenger car vehicle is cooperating with the ongoing police investigation. 

Police officers have not yet made any arrests connected with this fatal motorcycle accident at the present time. They are seeking any information people might have about the investigation, particularly witnesses who may have seen the accident happen so they can determine whether the passenger car vehicle driver was at-fault for the accident in any way. 

Contact an Experienced Lynchburg Motorcycle Accident Today

If you have suffered an injury caused by a Lynchburg motorcycle accident, you may have a right to compensation for your injuries. The sooner you speak to an experienced lawyer, the better. At Straw Law Firm, our lawyers have extensive experience when it comes to personal injury lawsuits. If you have suffered an injury through no fault of your own, you deserve compensation for your injuries. 
We understand that a motorcycle accident can be some of the most dangerous and deadly accidents. Our law firm has a reputation for advocating aggressively so our clients can receive the most compensation possible. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

Five Benefits of Hiring an Attorney to Review Your Business Transactions

Five Benefits of Hiring an Attorney to Review Your Business Transactions

Whether you own a small business or a large corporation, you will need a Lynchburg business lawyer at some point. Business lawyers can provide legal advice to help you with your business contracts, the selling or buying of a business, or lease agreement. All of these business transactions require review, negotiation, and preparation. 

In many cases, business owners and managers do not have the time or experience to thoroughly review business transactions. Hiring an experienced business lawyer can help you protect your business, your legal rights, and your business interests. 

An Experienced Lawyer Can Help with Business Transactions

If you have already formed your business, you may benefit from hiring an attorney to help you draft and review business contracts. Forming contracts with your distributors and suppliers is significant. Should your contract not adequately protect you and your business, the results could be devastating for your business. When contract disputes arise, judges look to the terms of the contract as well as contract law to determine the matter. 

Every day, business owners enter into business relationships with customers, employees, distributors, and suppliers. Today, many businesses need to expand to meet the demands of a global network. For those businesses that work with customers and other companies in different countries, hiring a lawyer is essential. An outside lawyer can help you anticipate and resolve the day-to-day legal realities of today’s business client. Specifically, business lawyers can help your business with the following issues:

  • Project finance
  • Contract negotiations
  • Advice on Free-Trade Agreements
  • Customs and issues related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)
  • International intellectual property issues
  • Overseeing and managing litigation as well as due diligence issues 

A Lawyer Can Help You With Your Business Taxes

Dealing with tax issues can be one of the most frustrating and challenging matters for business owners. Many business owners spend hours trying to file their taxes properly, hours that they could spend working on other pressing issues, such as their product and profit. By hiring an outside attorney to work on your business taxes, you can save yourselves from many stressful weeks and expensive errors. 

An experienced tax lawyer can help you plan and pay your taxes. Should the IRS audit you, an experienced tax lawyer can help you defend your business. It only takes one innocent mistake on your business tax returns to create an expensive and lengthy tax issue. 

The IRS often does not resolve matters quickly, and any problem can take significant time and resources to resolve. In some cases, there is no way to predict whether your business would be audited. Do not give the IRS any reason to flag your business for an audit. By hiring a tax lawyer, you will protect yourself from unnecessary audits. 

Attorneys Can Help You with Setting Up an Online Business

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many brick-and-mortar retail locations are not able to remain open. If they can stay open, many stores have seen a significant drop in sales as customers stay home or attempt to social distance. Many small to medium-size businesses are starting online e-commerce businesses, or they are expanding their current online businesses. 

Keep in mind that if you operate an online business, or you are thinking about starting an online business, unique legal issues can arise. Starting an ecommerce business can help your business increase your profits. When you begin selling online across state lines and country lines, you will need to follow Federal Trade Commission regulations. Selling products across state lines will also change the way that you need to pay sales taxes

Each state regulates taxes on interstate sales differently. An experienced lawyer can review your business model and help you anticipate any legal challenges that can arise. They can also help you make sure you are paying taxes correctly. When possible, they can help you avoid higher taxes. 

Lawyers Can Help You With Human Resource Issues

You have started your company, and it has grown. You are working around the clock. The time has come to hire your first employee. The excitement of receiving much-needed help can be quickly overtaken by the challenge of complying with all of the federal, state, and local requirements for hiring an employee. 

For example, many business owners do not understand all of the requirements for hiring a new employee. Federal and local laws even apply to the interview process. Well-meaning employers can unknowingly violate employment laws on an every-day basis. Employment laws regulate everything from hiring employees to paying employees, to providing break rooms and medical leave. 

An experienced lawyer can help you establish an employee handbook as well as a procedure for hiring and terminating employees. If you have a contentious situation with an employee, it is wise to speak with an employment attorney who can guide you as to the best options to take to protect your business from liability. 

Lawyers Can Help Protect You From Litigation

Anytime a person opens a business, the business is exposed to liability. A single lawsuit can wipe out a business. Business owners should not live in fear, however. Instead, with the help of an outside lawyer, you can protect your business from litigation. A skilled lawyer can review your business contracts, human resource documents, and your company policies and identify any potential red flags for litigation.

Unfortunately, litigation is sometimes unavoidable. While ensuring that your business is protected from litigation, it is also important to understand how you will handle a lawsuit should it happen. Litigation attorneys can assist you in all different types of lawsuits, including class action lawsuits, disputes, and contract cases. 

Contact Our Experienced Lawyers Today

Whether you are a new business owner, or you have been in business for a while, consultation with an experienced Lynchburg business lawyer can help you tremendously. Contact Straw Law Firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

Law Enforcement Arrests a Lynchburg Man for Multiple Drug Crimes

Law Enforcement Arrests a Lynchburg Man for Multiple Drug Crimes

People continue to be charged with drug crimes in Lynchburg even during the ongoing civil unrest and coronavirus pandemic. Lynchburg law enforcement arrested a man for failing to appear in court. During the arrest, they discovered illegal drugs and a gun. The discoveries made by the Lynchburg Police Department led prosecutors to charge the man with several different criminal offenses.

The Lynchburg Man Faces Charges for Several Crimes

The investigation into the suspect’s conduct is ongoing. Based on the discovery of drugs and guns, Lynchburg prosecutors brought the following charges against the suspect:

  • Two counts of possession of controlled substances
  • Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
  • Two counts of possession with the intent to distribute a schedule I or II drug
  • Possession of a firearm while in the possession with the intention to distribute schedule I or II drugs
  • Carrying a concealed weapon

Possession of a Controlled Substance in Virginia

Possession of a controlled substance is one of the most commonly charged drug crimes in Lynchburg, Virginia. Under Virginia law, it is illegal to possess any controlled substance without a valid medical prescription. Virginia uses a schedule for controlled substances. There are six different schedules, or categories, of controlled substances. 

Recreationally used prescription drugs are usually Schedule II, III, IV, and V drugs. Drugs that fall into the category of Schedule VI usually include other prescription drugs that do not fall into one of the other schedules. Schedule VI drugs are typically prescription drugs that do not have a recreational value. 

Schedule I Drugs:

  • Heroin
  • Peyote
  • LSD
  • MDMA
  • Meth
  • GHB
  • Ecstasy

Schedule II Drugs:

  • PCP
  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Demerol
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Crack
  • Cocaine
  • Crystal Meth
  • Opium

Schedule III Drugs:

  • Anabolic Steroids (Oxandrin)
  • Vicodin
  • Lorcet
  • Tylenol or Aspirin with codeine
  • Ketamine (special K)

Schedule IV Drugs:

  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Equanil
  • Talwin
  • Xanax
  • Rohypnol (Roofy)
  • Diazepam (Valium)


Schedule V Drugs:

  • Robitussin AC
  • Phenergan with Codeine

Schedule VI Drugs:

  • Any prescription drugs that are not included in other drug schedules

The Requirements for Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge

Prosecutors will need to prove several elements for a possession of controlled substance charges. In Virginia, possession of a controlled substance happens when drugs are in your “dominion and control.” The prosecutors will need to prove that you had the power to do what you wanted to do with the drugs. Possession of drugs requires two key elements:

  • That you knew that you were in possession of drugs, and
  • You knew what you were in possession of were drugs

Possession of drugs does not mean that you were merely near drugs or around drugs. In Virginia, it is not enough to find drugs in someone else’s home or car. Law enforcement must prove that the defendant actually knew that the drugs were there. They must also prove that you knew the substance was drugs. For example, if you think that something in your possession is candy, or some other substance, you are not guilty of possession of drugs.

How do Prosecutors Prove Drug Possession Charges?

Typically, law enforcement proves drug possession through circumstantial evidence, or through the confession of the defendant. For example, the police will be able to prove that you knew there were drugs in your car when the drugs were in plain sight. For example, they will prove that you knew what the drugs were based on your statement to the police. 

However, when the police officers find drugs in your car, but you do not confess that you knew the drugs were in your case, it will be difficult for prosecutors to prove drug possession without extremely strong circumstantial evidence. 

The Penalties for Drug Possession in Virginia

  • Possession of a Schedule I or II drug is a Class 5 felony with up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Possessing a Schedule III drug is a Class 1 misdemeanor with up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
  • Possession of a Schedule IV drug is a Class 2 misdemeanor with up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine.
  • Possession of a Schedule V drug is a Class 3 misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500.
  • Possession of a Schedule VI drug is a Class 4 misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $250.

Understanding Charges for Possession with the Intent to Distribute

The defendant in the case mentioned above, prosecutors also brought charges for possession with intent to distribute. Virginia law makes it unlawful for a person to manufacture, sell, give, distribute, or possess with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute a controlled substance or imitation controlled substance. The penalties for possession with the intent to distribute depend on the schedule of drugs involved.

If the drugs involved fall into the category of Schedule I or Schedule II drugs, the defendant will face between five and 40 years in prison for a first-time offense, as well as a fine of up to $500,000. When the drug is a Class II controlled substance, the defendant will face separate penalties. 

When the defendant is a large volume dealer, the defendant will face a minimum prison sentence of 20 years. Virginia courts can sentence the defendant to life in prison, and a fine of up to one million dollars. Additionally, if you are charged with transporting controlled substances, you will face a separate felony offense charge. 

Contact an Experienced Lynchburg Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Many times, suspects who face drug crimes charges in Lynchburg are also charged with other related crimes. Virginia uses mandatory minimum sentencing for many crimes. It is important that you seek out a criminal defense lawyer who will advocate assertively for your rights. 
Given the potential lengthy prison sentences and large fines that you face if you are convicted, hiring a skilled defense lawyer will be incredibly important. Contact Straw Law Firm as soon as possible to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

How Do Judges Make Child Custody Decisions in Lynchburg, Virginia?

How Do Judges Make Child Custody Decisions in Lynchburg, Virginia?

If you are anticipating going through a divorce in Lynchburg, Virginia, you might have concerns about child custody decisions. As parents, our children are the most important part of our lives. Child custody and visitation issues are often some of the most difficult experiences that a parent can face. Child custody refers to a determination of whom the child will primarily live with after the divorce.

Lynchburg Judges Consider the Best Interest of the Child

Knowing that a judge who you do not know personally will determine whether your child will live with you or not can be extremely stressful. When Lynchburg judges determine custody issues, they will make their decision based on the best interest of the children. Keep in mind that child custody and visitation orders are never final. They are always subject to modification or revision by a Virginia court. 

Virginia Courts Should Not Prefer a Mother or Father 

When making custody determinations, Virginia courts should not prefer or favor a mother or father. Instead, judges are legally required to consider specific factors found in Virginia law. Judges must consider all of these factors to determine the best interest of the child. 

Virginia Courts Prefer to Give Custody to the Natural Parents

Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can seek custody of children. Virginia courts presume that the natural parents should receive custody of the child unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary. In some cases, when both natural parents are unable to properly care for their children, the grandparents or other relatives may need to step in and take over when it comes to custody. 

Understanding the Best Interests of the Child Standard

The most important consideration in any custody and visitation case is the “best interest of the child.” This consideration applies regardless of any agreement that the parents wish to enter regarding child custody and visitation. The court considers a number of different factors when determining the “best interests of the child.” These standards can be found in Virginia Code 20-124.3

Factors Involved in Determining the Best Interest of the Child

When judges determine the best interest of a child for the purposes of determining child custody or child visitation, judges must consider the following factors. 

  • The physical and mental condition of the child as well as the child’s age.
  • The child’s developmental needs
  • The age and physical and mental condition of each parent
  • The relationship between each child and each parent, including the positive involvement of each parent in each child’s life.
  • The ability to accurately assess and meet the intellectual, emotional, and physical needs of the child
  • The needs of each child, including the important relationships of the child with siblings, peers, and extended family members
  • The role that each parent has played in the upbringing and care of the child and the role that each parent will play in the future
  • The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s relationship and contact with the other parent
  • Whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent visitation and access to the child
  • The willingness of each parent to maintain a continuing and close relationship with each child
  • The ability of each parent to resolve disputes and cooperated with the other parent
  • The reasonable preferences of each child as long as the court determines that the child is of reasonable intelligence, age, understanding, and experience to express such a preference
  • Any history of sexual abuse or family abuse. When the court finds any history of sexual or family abuse, it may disregard the factor related to each parent supporting a relationship with the other co-parent
  • Any other factor the court determines to be necessary and proper

Understanding a Lynchburg Judge’s Child Custody Decision

After a Lynchburg judge has evaluated and considered all of the factors, he or she will make a decision that is in the best interest of the child or children. By law, the judge must communicate to the parents the basis of his or her decision, either in writing or orally. Judges must provide some reasoning about their analysis of the factors. The court may order that the parents exchange the child at an appropriate meeting place, depending on the outcome of the judge’s decision. 

Modifying a Child Custody or Visitation Decree

Sometimes judges do not make a decision that is in the best interest of the child. Or, circumstances might change in the lives of one or both parents, requiring a modification of the child custody or visitation decree. Virginia judges can modify a decree on their own, when necessary. Or, the parents can file a petition to modify the agreement as the circumstances of one or both parents and the benefit of the children may require. 

Protecting Your Child During a Lynchburg Divorce

If you are facing a hostile or volatile divorce, or if you are involved in a contested custody issue, we recommend obtaining legal representation. Even when your custody issue is not contentious, hiring an experienced child custody lawyer can be extremely helpful. At the Straw Law Firm, our lawyers have the experience needed to represent you and your interests.

The Value of Speaking to a Lynchburg Family Law Attorney

There is a large body of law when it comes to Virginia child custody and visitation cases. This body of law contains interpretations of the relevant statutes as well as other factors that are applicable to child custody determinations. 

Whether you are facing an initial custody and visitation determination, or you need to petition the court to modify the decree, it is wise to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. At Straw Law Firm, we handle all different types of cases and issues involved in child custody disputes. 
We handle parental fitness challenges, child custody cases, and visitation cases. Contact our Lynchburg law office as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

The Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Virginia

The Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Virginia

People all over the United States are experiencing significant financial hardship. Due to the shutdowns that have happened all around America because of coronavirus, many Americans have faced financial hardships. In the last two weeks, a record number of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits. According to a recent poll, half of all Americans report financial hardships due to the coronavirus outbreak. With increasing financial pressure and business closures, many Americans are considering filing for bankruptcy.

Contact Our Western District of Virginia Bankruptcy Lawyers

The near-total shutdown of the American economy has pushed many Americans to consider bankruptcy for the first time. If you are not sure whether or not you qualify for bankruptcy, the legal team at Straw Law Firm can help. We can advise you as to which type of bankruptcy will work best in your situation. Many people file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Contact our law firm as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation. 

Filing for Bankruptcy in the Western District of Virginia

The United States Bankruptcy Court Western District of Virginia has office locations in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Harrisonburg. When you decide to file for bankruptcy, it is important to file in the right location. There are 94 different federal judicial districts that handle bankruptcy matters. You will need to file for bankruptcy at one of these federal courts, not in Virginia state court. If you live in the western part of the state, you will need to file in the Western District of Virginia. 

The Primary Purposes of Bankruptcy 

Bankruptcy laws protect consumers as well as troubled businesses. Bankruptcy laws allow people to have a fresh start in life by relieving the debtor of most of their debts. The bankruptcy court will help debtors repay creditors in an orderly manner to the extent that they can. 

Every type of bankruptcy has different regulations and rules. In some bankruptcy cases, the debtor can reorganize his or her debt and establish a repayment plan. In other cases, the debtor will need to liquidate their property to pay back the debt. In all types of bankruptcy, however, the court will stop your creditors from harassing you while you put together a plan to make repayment. 

The Process of Filing for Bankruptcy in the Western District of Virginia

Bankruptcy cases normally begin when the debtor files a petition with the bankruptcy court. An individual has the right to file for bankruptcy in the Western District of Virginia, or a husband and wife can file for bankruptcy together. Or, a business or corporation can file for bankruptcy. Those who file for bankruptcy must provide statements of their income, liabilities, assets, and the names and addresses of all of their creditors as well as how much they owe. 

When you file a bankruptcy petition, the court will automatically stay or prevent debt collection actions against you and your property. As long as a stay remains in effect, creditors are not able to bring or continue lawsuits, make phone calls that demand payment, or make wage garnishments. The clerk of the bankruptcy court will send the debtor’s creditors notice of the bankruptcy petition. 

Understanding a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are two of the most common types of bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcies are liquidation bankruptcies. You will need to meet certain income requirements to become eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcies. If you make too much income, you will need to file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. 

After filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will issue an automatic stay. This process will immediately stop most of your creditors from pursuing debt collection efforts. The court will then appoint a bankruptcy trustee to administer your case. The trustee will review your bankruptcy papers and all of your supporting documents. 

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee’s job is to take account of all of your assets. They will sell your nonexempt property to pay back your creditors. If you do not have enough nonexempt assets to pay your debts, your creditors will receive nothing in terms of payment. Many debtors seek after Chapter 7 bankruptcy because it offers them many benefits. However, this type of bankruptcy only works for debtors who are low-income with little or no assets or property. 

Chapter 7 bankruptcies can also work for debtors whose discharged debt exceeds the value of their assets that the trustee will sell to pay off debts. This is especially true if the trustee applies the funds to nondischargeable debt, such as support arrearages or income tax. The skilled bankruptcy lawyers at Straw Law Firm can help you determine the best type of bankruptcy for your circumstances, and we can help guide you through the process. 

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcies are available for debtors who don’t qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are known as reorganization bankruptcies. Unlike in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, those filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy do not need to liquidate all of their assets to repay debtors. Instead, you will need to reorganize your debts and work with the trustee to create a plan to repay the debts, usually over a 3 to 5 year time period.

When debtors have nondischargeable debts such as child support or alimony that is in arrears, they may benefit from filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy because they will have time to pay off the debt. Also, those who have fallen behind on their house or car payment and just need some time to get caught up may benefit from filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Only debtors who have more than $419,275 in unsecured debt, or $1,257,850 in secured debt will be eligible for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Contact Straw Law Firm Today

If you are having difficulty making your monthly payments, you might benefit from filing for bankruptcy in the Western District of Virginia. At Straw Law Firm, we can advise you as to which type of bankruptcy filing works best for you. We can walk you through the entire process. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Which Virginia Cities Have the Highest Divorce Rates

Which Virginia Cities Have the Highest Divorce Rates?

It is said that 50% of all American marriages end in divorce. If true, that makes getting married a significant gamble. It is not uncommon for those who are happier in their marriages to think about divorce at some time over the many years they are together. Staying with one person through thick and thin and handling life’s challenges together as a team takes work.

There are any number of factors and reasons that can divide a couple. In the state of Virginia, there is no shortage of people who have chosen to separate and divorce; there are approximately 336,550 of them. Across the country, there are 28,339,199 Americans divorced so far in 2020 and we are only three months into the year.

What are the Most Common Reasons for Divorce?

No single situation or relationship is the same. The circumstances and details of each couple’s decision to split can be straightforward to highly complex. No one goes into a marriage thinking that the marriage is not going to last, and it can be an emotional, stressful, and scary thing when you are looking at a marriage that is over. These are some of the most common reasons behind a dissolved marriage:

  • Infidelity (the number one cause of divorce)
  • Money issues and financial strain
  • Poor communication or lack of it
  • Constant arguing
  • Changing appearance specifically when a partner gains weight
  • Unrealistic expectations of what you want from your spouse and how you want them to be which may not be true to life
  • Limited intimacy
  • Inequality in power, responsibilities, affection
  • Getting married too quickly and not being prepared for it. The most vulnerable group to divorce are those that are in their 20’s who repeatedly admit they weren’t properly prepared for the relationship.
  • Physical and/or emotional abuse
  • Addiction issues
  • Different parenting styles and methods
  • Marriages that never had a foundation in love. When you marry someone for something intangible like money or artificial, their is little strength in your union to work through challenging times.
  • Lying, no syncerity, deceit
  • Losing your self-identity 
  • Long-distance relationships
  • Controlling partners
  • Parents constantly meddling in the relationship
  • Emotional instability, jealousy,poor self-esteem, unhealthy codependency
  • Ongoing conflict that is never resolved

What are the Cities in Virginia With the Highest Divorce Rates?

As explained above, many reasons and combinations of them can lead a couple to divorce. Sometimes, there are regions in which certain risk factors are higher. For instance, if you live in an area with poor economic opportunities, you are at higher risk for having financial issues, which is an added stress on a marriage that has been known to lead to divorce. 

How does Viringia’s divorce rate stack up with the rest of the country? Data taken from the 2014-2018 Community Survey, shows Virginia has a 5% divorce rate. This is pretty good news for prospective life partners as the national average is just under 11%.

In Virginia, the cities with the highest rate of divorce are:

  • Marion with a population of 5,787, the divorce rate is 12% with 555 divorcees. The median income is $33,138.
  • Emporia with a population of 5,381, the divorce rate is just below Marion at 11% and 473 divorcees. The median income is $30,857.
  • Franklin with a population of 8,211, the divorce rate is 11% with 722 divorcees. The median income is $40,375.
  • Vinton with a population of 8,074, the divorce rate is 10% with 645 divorcees. The median income is $48,186.
  • Roanoke with a population of 99,621, the divorce rate is 10% with 7,969 divorcees. The median income is $43,028.
  • Richlands with a population of 5,439, the divorce rate is 10% with 435 divorcees. The median income is $30,149. 
  • Danville with a population of 41,512, the divorce rate is 9% with 2,988 divorcees. The median income is $36,301.
  • Front Royal with a population of 15,240, the divorce rate is 9% with 1,097 divorcees. The median income is $52,717.
  • Galax with a population of 6,638, the divorce rate is 9% with 477 divorcees. The median income is $31,938.
  • Woodstock with a population of 5,192, the divorce rate is 9% with 373 divorcees. The median income is $36,659.

As mentioned above, the location where you live may play a part in the demise of your marriage. In addition to financial concerns, age and education are also factors. There are regions that have more highly educated couples versus other regions where college educations are lacking. This makes sense as the cities with the lowest divorce rate in the state include:

  • Vienna
  • Alexandria
  • Herndon
  • Purcellville
  • Fairfax
  • Falls Church

Each of these cities have a divorce rate that is 1%. The lowest divorce rates are seen in the highly populated region of northern Virginia. This area of the state also holds the some of the highest median income not just in the state, but across the country. In 2018 the median income of Loudon County was $139,915 and was the richest county in the country. That same year, Arlington County came in fifth across the country with a median income of $122,394 and Fairfax County was right behind at number six with a median income of $122,227.

In 2018, Virginia ranked number six on the top 10 list of most educated states. This, along with so many of our counties boasting high median incomes, may be a factor that keeps Virginia’s divorce rate much lower than the national average. 

Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer in Lynchburg, Virginia?

Divorce is not easy. It is expensive, mentally exhausting, and it can be highly stressful. It is likely that you did not plan on divorce or ever believe that divorce was in the cards for you, but whether you want it or not, it is your new reality. You are not alone; many people have found themselves in the same situation. The Lynchburg divorce attorneys at the Straw Law  Firm understand this reality and we have tremendous compassion for our clients who are dealing with divorce.

The knowledgeable and experienced Virginia family law attorneys at the Straw Law Firm will help you smoothly navigate the complex legal system that exists in Virginia so you can move on with your life.

Call us at (434) 595-3581 and speak to one of our resourceful Virginia divorce attorneys today during a free consultation.

Virginia Senate Passes Drunk Driving Bill

Virginia Senate Passes Drunk Driving Bill

The Senate passed a bill allowing Virginians to drive while intoxicated if they are on their own property or adjoining property. In 2018, a bill introduced by Senator Richard Stuart, R-King George, allowing similar liberties was struck down by the House. The failed 2018 legislation was meant to reinforce that the drunk driving laws in the state are only applied to those who drive on public roadways. When an individual is drinking and in a vehicle on that individual’s own property, then he or she cannot be charged.

In 2018, Senator Mark Obenshain voted for the original bill but against the more popular 2020 legislation that ultimately passed. Conversely, Senators Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, and Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, voted against the 2018 bill but for the 2020 legislation.

Currently, the law in Virginia states that you cannot operate a motor vehicle if you are intoxicated. However, it does not define a difference between public and private property. The bill was put forward to better clarify the difference. Senator Obenshain voiced concerns that the legislation would compromise drunk driving laws. Additionally, he cited that there was not a need to distinguish a difference in public and private property because there was no evidence that people were being arrested when they are intoxicated on their own property. 

Obenshain indicated he saw a potential problem with the legislation undermining law enforcement’s ability to protect the public from drunk drivers. If someone is drunk in their car in a store’s parking lot, for instance, and the police cannot arrest them, the implication is that the individual had to get to where they were by driving there. They will also have to leave their location by driving when they clearly have alcohol in their system. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and law enforcement also oppose the bill and were in agreement with Obenshain’s opinions.

Kurt Erickson, president, and CEO of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program had his own concerns. The proposed bill will make the drunk driving laws in the state confusing. It aims to tell you where it is ok to drive intoxicated and where it is not. He echoed the explanation that the issue of people being arrested on their property was not occurring. 

Additionally, It may risk undermining the appropriate process and penalties associated with killing someone when drunk driving. If a person is inebriated and driving on their own property and ends up killing someone, what is the outcome? These cases may be treated much more differently than if they took place on a public road.

The bill has to pass the House to become law. Obenshain reported that he was hopeful that the House will kill the bill. The bill will be seen by the same House Courts of Justice subcommittee that struck down the 2018 attempt at the same legislation.

What are the Drunk Driving Statistics in Virginia?

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national average percentage of people who admit to driving when they drink too much is 1.9%. In Virginia, that number is 1.4%. In 2012, those aged 21-34 suffered more deaths in drunk driving accidents than any other age group. The number of fatalities that occurred in Virginia where a drunk driver was involved from 2003-2012 was 2,613 people.

There have been significant efforts on the part of elected officials and other organizations to help reduce the number of drunk drivers and thus, catastrophic drunk driving accidents. Across the country anyone driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher is illegal. However, if a driver is under the age of 21 and they have any amount of alcohol in their system, it is illegal. The age of 21 is the minimum age that any individual can consume alcohol legally in every state in the nation. 

What are the Penalties for Drunk Driving in Virginia?

Drunk driving is called “driving while intoxicated (DWI)” in the state of Virginia. Both driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol are covered under the DWI classification. Anyone driving under the following circumstances will be charged with a DWI:

  • BAC of .08% or higher
  • Blood concentration of .1 mg per liter and up of methamphetamine
  • Blood concentration of .02 mg per liter and up of cocaine
  • Blood concentration of .02 mg per liter and up of phencyclidine (PCP)

Even if you have not started up your vehicle and put it into motion, if you have drugs and alcohol in your system you can still get a DWI. The Virginia Supreme Court describes the operation of a vehicle is appropriate when a person is in “actual physical control” of it. The courts have not clarified parameters describing what “actual physical control” means, but if you are caught doing the following you are subject to arrest for DWI:

  • Seated in the driver seat 
  • Have the keys in the ignition

Those who have had past DWI arrests or other convictions will likely face the harsher ranger of the penalty threshold than those that are first-time offenders or have little or no history of convictions. Also, the extent of damage that was caused by the DWI will also factor into determining how severely you are penalized. If you are arrested and charged with a DWI, it will tarnish your record for 10 years before it is removed. 

The penalties a drunk driver in Virginia faces are:

  • The first offense will be jail time up to 12 months with fines from $250- $2,500 and a one-year license suspension. Also an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) of a minimum of six months.
  • A second offense will be a minimum of 10 days in jail and as much as 12 months with fines from $500-2,500 and a three-year license suspension. Also an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) of a minimum of six months.
  • A third offense will be a minimum of 90 days in jail and up to five years with fines from $1,000-2,500 and an indefinite suspension of license. Also an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) of a minimum of six months.

You are required to submit to a blood or breath test through Virginia’s implied consent laws. There are penalties if you refuse. 

  • Those who have a first offense and refuse to submit to the test will face a one-year license suspension.
  • Those who have a second and third offenses and refuse to submit to the test face a three-year license suspension. 

What Should You do When You Have Been Arrested for DWI in Virginia?

It is vital to the outcome of your case that you have a Virginia DWI defense attorney supporting you and protecting your legal rights. The penalties for drunk driving are severe and not only can they inconvenience your life, but they can negatively impact you for the duration of your life. Serving a long jail sentence and paying an expensive fine is hard for many.

You need a skilled attorney advising you on what to do and what not to do after your arrest. The Lynchburg DWI defense attorneys at the Straw Law Firm have considerable experience defending those who are facing DWI charges. The attorneys at the Straw Law Firm also have a proven track record of success helping these individuals avoid the harshest of penalties.

We look forward to speaking with you during a free consultation. Call our team Virginia criminal law attorneys today at (434) 595-3581.