Should I carry my foreign drivers license if I don’t have a VA issued license?
Yes! A foreign license is better than no license! One of the issues that creates the most confusion among drivers and police is the issue of what counts as a valid license in Virginia.
Many of my clients who get pulled over for speeding or some other driving infraction are also given a ticket for No Operators License, even though they have a license from their country. But here’s some advice from someone who knows the law: showing the officer your foreign license is better than having nothing at all. You will probably still get a ticket for No Operators License, but we’ll have a much better shot at winning your case in court if you show the officer your foreign license. If you don’t have your license from your country, get it! And don’t be fooled: An International license doesn’t count.
There are a lot of complicated details under Virginia law regarding this issue, and I know them all. I won’t bore you with them here, just remember to always carry your foreign license and show it to the police officer if you get pulled over. If you were ticketed for No Operators License, give me a call today at (757) 464-9224 to set up your free consultation.
What are my rights if a police officer pulls me over?
We’ve all been there: that terrible moment when we see the police lights flashing in our rear-view mirror. Our heart starts racing and we pray the lights are for someone other than us. Reality sinks in, and we pull over. It’s a scary and intimidating moment for every driver. So what are your rights if you get pulled over?
Usually when we get pulled over it’s because we’ve committed a moving violation like speeding or running a red light, or we have defective equipment like a broken head-light or a burned out brake-light bulb. These stops are temporary detainments for a reasonable period of time and are perfectly legal.
Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, we are all protected from “unreasonable searches and seizures” of our persons and property. You might think of your car as a mobile piece of your personal property, so you are entitled to a certain expectation of privacy in your car. But unlike being in your house, when you’re driving a car, this expectation of privacy is slightly diminished. And so are your legal rights.
During one of these routine traffic stops, a police officer can ascertain your basic identifying information to confirm who you are, that the vehicle is registered, that you have insurance, and that you are licensed to drive. You do not have to answer any additional questions – but you should be polite in declining to do so.
And never give the officer false information – it will just make things worse! Under Virginia Code § 19.2-82.1, you can go to jail for up 12 months and be fined up to $2,500.00 for falsely identifying yourself to a police officer.
If the officer asks to search your car, you do not have to consent. Even if the question is worded in a way that makes you feel like you have no choice, you do. Just tell the officer, respectfully, that you do not consent to a search of your vehicle.
There are some circumstances where an officer may have probable cause to search your vehicle without your consent, such as where there are drugs in plain view. Be careful driving and check the equipment on your car before you leave!
If you were charged with a traffic offense and think you may need legal representation, give us a call today to set up a free consultation at (757) 464-9224.
What’s so important about my inspection sticker?
If you’re a driver in Virginia then you already know what a pain it is to have your vehicle inspected once a year. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably had a time or two when you were driving with an expired inspection and just prayed you wouldn’t get pulled over. Or even worse, you let your friend’s uncle do the inspection instead of taking it to an official inspection station.
Let’s all promise to never do that again. It only takes a few bucks and a few minutes of your time to have your car inspected properly. And then you can relax for the rest of the year. Failing to do so will just cause more trouble.
Under Virginia Code § 46.2-1153 “the owner or operator of any motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer registered in Virginia . . . shall submit his vehicle to an inspection of its mechanism and equipment by an official inspection station.”
And Virginia Code § 46.2-1173 makes it illegal for any person to “make, issue, or knowingly use any imitation or counterfeit of an official safety inspection sticker” or to “display or cause or permit to be displayed upon any vehicle any safety inspection sticker knowing it to be fictitious or issued for another vehicle.”
And if you get pulled over for an expired or counterfeit inspection sticker, it can lead to more serious charges and even getting arrested.
So next time you notice that your inspection sticker is up for renewal, do it right. It doesn’t matter if it’s your vehicle or not – if you’re driving, it’s your problem. And trust me – the police can spot counterfeit inspection stickers from a mile away.
If you need help fighting an illegal inspection charge, give me a call today at (757) 464-9224.
I’ve been charged with possession of marijuana in Virginia – what should I do?
Do not plead guilty! You’ve probably had a friend, a co-worker, or even an attorney tell you that you should just plead guilty to the charge and ask for “first offender” status. Listen: there is absolutely no reason you should EVER plead guilty to possession of marijuana. There are two very good reasons I say this:
- You do NOT have to plead guilty to the charge in order to be eligible for the “first offender” program; if you are eligible for the program, you can be placed into it even if you plead not guilty, have a trial, and get convicted;
- You can WIN at trial. Don’t let anyone tell you that possession of marijuana cases are impossible to win – they are not!
There are several ways to win a possession of marijuana case, from illegal searches of your car, to “constructive” possession defenses. And as I said, even if you have a trial and get convicted, you still are eligible for the “first offender” program. So, plan A should be to get the charge dismissed, and the “first offender” program should only be used as a plan B. All too often I see folks with lawyers pleading guilty when the case could have been won!
There are two main ways to win marijuana possession cases, and I’ve successfully used them both many times. One is to identify an illegal search, and the other is to identify a “constructive possession” case and argue it properly.
If you’ve been charged with marijuana possession, give Attorney John Gardner a call today at (757) 464-9224 for a free consultation.