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Virginia Criminal Law: What is the difference between Petit Larceny and Grand Larceny?

Virginia, like most other states, makes a distinction in it’s criminal code between stealing tee shirt and stealing a laptop.  Both are considered a larceny, but the corresponding penalties are drastically different.  An understanding the crime you are charged with and the range of potential punishment is necessary when crafting a defense or deciding whether or not to accept a plea offer.

Criminal laws in Virginia are set out in the Code of Virginia, primarily in Title 18.2.  Section 18.2-96 of the Code of Virginia defines petit larceny (often called “petty larceny”) as stealing money or another item that has a value less than $5 from the person of another; or stealing money or another item that has value less than $200 not from the person of another.  A first offense conviction of petit larceny is punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries a punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.  A second offense conviction raises the range of confinement to 30 days – 12 months.  A third or subsequent theft offense increases the crime to a Class 6 felony, punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment.

Section 18.2-95 of the Code of Virginia defines grand larceny as stealing money or another item that has a value of $5 or more from the person of another; or stealing money or another item that has value of $200 or more not from the person of another; or stealing any type of firearm.  Grand Larceny is commonly referred to as an unclassified felony.  This means that the punishment for the crime is specifically outlined in the Virginia Code and does not conform to one of the six general felony classifications.  The penalty for grand larceny is 1 – 20 years imprisonment with the judge or jury having the discretion to impose a lesser sentence.

Whether or not the crime is charged as Petit or Grand Larceny hinges largely on the value of the item(s) involved.  If you have been charged with any form of larceny, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights and options.

* Attorney Bugg is admitted to practice law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the District of Columbia, the federal courts of the Eastern District of Virginia, and the United States Supreme Court.  This blog site is intended to give for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and should not be interpreted to create a lawyer/client relationship. 

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The Celebrity Criminal Docket – Javaris Crittenton, former Wizard, in custody on murder charge.

Despite reports that he was set to turn himself in to police in Atlanta, Javaris Crittendon was arrested after checking in for a redeye flight in California. Link follows: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2011/08/javaris-crittenton-former-wizard-wanted-on-murder-charges-in-atlanta-65778.html

The Celebrity Criminal Docket – Former NBA player Javaris Crittendon wanted for murder.

Former Georgia Tech basketball standout and former Washington Wizard Javaris Crittendon is now wanted in Georgia for murder.  Prior to this past weekend, Crittendon’s biggest claim to infamy was an argument over a gambling debt, with Gilbert Arenas, that led to the ‘guns in the Verizon Center locker room incident‘ in 2009.  Now authorities in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and the FBI are on the hunt for the hoop star.

The victim, 23 year old Julian Jones, was shot on August 19th in Atlanta.  Reports suggest that she suffered a leg wound and died during surgery.  The story takes an even sadder twist because Jones is a mother of four young children and appears to have been an innocent bystander.  Authorities believe that Crittendon witnessed a person he suspected of robbing him months earlier walking down the street.  Crittendon allegedly fired shots from a black Chevy Tahoe, missing his intended target and fatally wounding Jones.

This case invokes an interesting legal doctrine called the felony-murder rule.  In the simplest form, this legal doctrine provides that if a homicide occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony, the homicide is a form of murder.  Here, the attempted murder of the suspected robber or the discharging of a firearm from a vehicle satisfy the commission or attempted commission of a felony prong.  The death of Jones satisfies the second prong.  While Crittendon is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Georgia’s felony murder statute sets the punishment for a felony murder conviction at life imprisonment or death.  So it goes without saying that once he is apprehended, Crittendon’s counsel will have a tough battle ahead.  TLODLB will track this case and posts updates as they become available.

* Attorney Bugg is admitted to practice law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the District of Columbia, the federal courts of the Eastern District of Virginia, and the United States Supreme Court.  This blog site is intended to give for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and should not be interpreted to create a lawyer/client relationship. 

The Celebrity Criminal Docket – Rapper DMX arrested for driving 102mph.

No stranger to the criminal justice system, famed rapper DMX (born Earl Simmons) was arrested yesterday in Arizona for driving 102 miles per hour in a 65mph zone.  Reports suggest that he was charged with criminal speed, reckless driving, and driving on a suspended license.  Under current Virginia traffic laws, similar conduct could have resulted in DMX facing at least two Class 1 Misdemeanors.  In Virginia, Class 1 misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.  Maximum sentences on just two charges equates to 24 months of jail time should the judge order them to be served consecutively!

At this time it is unclear what particular method law enforcement utilized to determine the speed of DMX’s vehicle.  While 102 in a 65 is an eye-opener to read, I am certain there will be issues for X’s counsel to explore regarding proper speed detection methods.  Given DMX’s long record (at least 10 convictions), a conviction on his most recent charges could result in maximum punishment on all charges.  If I were representing Darkman X, I would immediately conduct a due diligence investigation into the equipment used to track speed and the particular officer’s training, certification, and operation of speed detection equipment that night.  I also recommend to my clients that they have the speedometer on their vehicle calibrated for accuracy.  I doubt DMX’s speedometer was off by 38 miles, but at such a high speed, anything that can help is worth pursuing.

TLODLB will track this case and post updates as they become available.

*This blog site is intended to give for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and should not be interpreted to create a lawyer/client relationship.  Attorney Bugg is admitted to practice law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the District of Columbia, the federal courts of the Eastern District of Virginia, and the United States Supreme Court. 

Radar certification does not always equal proper operation.

Every hour of every day, drivers in Virginia are pulled over by officers and troopers for exceeding the posted speed limit.  In many of these cases, the officer or trooper is operating a radar gun to determine the vehicle’s speed.  Despite receiving a uniform traffic summons stating that they were exceeding the speed limit, many drivers maintain their innocence.  “It’s not possible that I was going THAT fast!”

I have always been skeptical of blindly accepting radar gun results as proof that a driver was speeding.  When I represent a client charged with exceeding the speed limit or reckless driving based on the radar gun readout, I am always sure to do my due diligence to ensure that proper protocol has been followed.  Those lovely little radar guns must be calibrated and in proper working order at the time of use; the officer/trooper must be properly trained; and most importantly, they must use the equipment in the proper manner.

A fellow member of the bar, David Good, was doing his due diligence recently in the General District Court of Petersburg and hit a shocker that resulted in dozens of cases being nolle prossed immediately!  Mr. Good was able to elicit from the officer that he had no idea what a “tracking history” was and went so far as to tell him he would have to ask a radar tech.  In fact, tracking history is a critical element of proper radar operation.

Police are hired to do a job and for the most part they are good at what they do.  However, just like everyone else officers make mistakes in the execution of their job duties.  Just this past week I heard an officer testify on cross examination that he did not know what he was looking for when administering field sobriety tests to a driver suspected of DWI.  Our criminal justice system is only effective if defense attorneys are not asleep at the wheel and doing their due diligence.

*This blog site is intended to give for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and should not be interpreted to create a lawyer/client relationship. 

Reckless Driving by Speed – Fairfax County

Reckless Driving (83mph/55mph zone) – Virginia Code section 46.2-862 – Class 1 Misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.00. Reckless driving also carries with it 6 demerit points that remain on a driver’s record for 11 years.

Case Disposition: Charge reduced to speeding with a $75 fine plus court costs. Unlike reckless driving, speeding is not a misdemeanor conviction. This was an important factor in this case because my client was in the process of a character and fitness review which a misdemeanor conviction could have jeopardized.

The results shown above are actual case dispositions achieved by Criminal Defense Attorney, Dontae L. Bugg.  Please note that the results of these cases are contingent upon a number of factors unique to each case and previous results to not guarantee or predict future results.  Client privacy is of the utmost importance.  Thus, client names or identifying facts will not be published.    

Virginia Traffic Law: Is Leaving The Scene of an Accident Considered a Felony or Misdemeanor?

In juridictions throughout Northern Virginia, the charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident, or Hit and Run as it is commonly referred to, frequently appears on the traffic/criminal docket.

Traffic laws in Virginia are set out in the Code of Virginia, primarily in Title 46.2.  The Code of Virginia also defines whether a crime is considered a misdemeanor or a felony.  Generally, misdemeanors are offenses that come with no more than 12 months in jail and felonies are offenses for which jail time can exceed anything over one year.  That is the basic distinction between the two.  As you would assume from the penalties involved, a misdemeanor is a lesser offense than a felony.

Section 46.2-894 of the Code of Virgina places a duty on any driver involved in an accident to immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing the flow of traffic.  Section 46.2-894 also requires any driver involved in an accident to provide certain information to the other driver and/or law enforcement, as well as render reasonable assistance to any injured persons.  Failure to do so is a jailable traffic traffic offense that carries with it the possible punishments described above.  Whether or not the offense is a felony or misdemeanor hinges on if the accident results in injury to or the death of any person, or if the accident causes more than $1,000.00 in damage.

Essentially, failing to stop at the scene of a garden variety fender-bender where there are no injuries and only miminal damage to a vehicle should proceed as a misdemeanor offense.  However, anyone that has ever had to take their car to a body shop following an accident knows that $1,000.00 in damage is a benchmark that is easily reached.  Depending on the year, make, and model of the cars involved, a broken taillight and crushed bumper can cost thousands to repair.  Also, you likely noticed that the amount or type of injury sustained is not defined by the Code of Virginia.  Obviously death and serious physical injury are intended to be covered.  But what about a sprained wrist or a small bruise to a knee?

If you’ve been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, you should speak with an experienced traffic law attorney to discuss your rights and options.

*This blog site is intended to give for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and should not be interpreted to create a lawyer/client relationship.