Current Virginia Marijuana Laws

Cravens & Noll PC has received a number of inquiries lately about Virginia marijuana laws. While marijuana laws in Virginia are changing swiftly, the commonwealth still does not recognize medical marijuana. Simple possession of less than two ounces of cannabis can result in up to 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. Presently, the penalty for the sale of five pounds (or more) is five to 30 years in state prison.

Code Section 54.1-3445, 18.2-247

Possession Misdemeanor, jail up to 30 days and/or $500; Subsequent offense: Class 1 misdemeanor

Sale Up to .5 oz.: Class 1 misdemeanor; .5 oz.-5 lbs.: Class 5 felony; Over 5 lbs.: 5-30 yrs.; Proof that person gave drug only as an accommodation not for remuneration or to induce him to become addicted shall be guilty of Class 1 misdemeanor

Federal Marijuana Laws

This is where the law gets interesting. We have some states have legalizing recreational and medical use of marijuana, but it is still illegal under federal laws. Federal laws prohibit possession of any amount of marijuana. A first conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. A second possession offense carries a minimum 15 day incarceration, with a maximum of two years in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine. A third and subsequent offense has a minimum jail time of 90 days with a maximum of three years and $5,000 fine.

Sale and cultivation of marijuana carry even higher fines and punishment under federal law. First offenses can put someone in jail for five years, and large amounts can put someone in jail for life, with a one million dollar fine.

Virginia Marijuana Possession Laws

Possession of any amount of marijuana in Virginia is a misdemeanor. Jail time for a first possession offense can be up to 30 days, and comes with a maximum $500 fine. Any subsequent offenses are Class 1 misdemeanors.

Selling Marijuana in Virginia

Selling marijuana in Virginia is considered a worse crime because it enables others to break the law as well. Sale of up to half an ounce marijuana in Virginia is an automatic Class 1 misdemeanor. Sale of up to 5lbs of marijuana is Class5 felony. Anything sale over 5lbs comes with a 5-30 year jail sentence. Selling within 1000 yards of a school to a minor comes with much harsher penalties

However, giving someone marijuana is not as serious of an offense as selling marijuana. In Virginia, if the defendant can prove that they gave the alleged purchaser the marijuana for free, the defendant is only guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Looking Forward

SB 701 Cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil; permitting of pharmaceutical processors to manufacture and provide.
Introduced by: David W. Marsden | all patrons … notes | add to my profiles

SB 701 Concerns cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil; it permits pharmaceutical processors to manufacture and provide. Additionally it authorizes a pharmaceutical processor, after obtaining a permit from the Board of Pharmacy (the Board) and under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, to manufacture and provide cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil to be used for the treatment of intractable epilepsy. Should bill should pass and not be vetoed in 2017 session.

If you would like to know more about Virginia marijuana laws, and how they intersect with federal laws, feel free to contact Cravens & Noll for a free consultation.

Google Scholar: Search for Cases and Related Legal Publications

Google Scholar:  Search for Cases and Related Legal Publications

It is 2016 and most of us have taken advantage of Google to find information on a potential client, an old friend, a restaurant, vacation ideas, a news article, or even a movie. At Cravens and Noll P.C. we are using google to augment our legal research. In 2009, Google started to offer the ability for attorneys to search for U.S. case law as part of its Google Scholar search. 

You can now Google Scholar for Law Firmsconduct free searches for full-text opinions of cases and legal journals in addition to general articles and patents, which were previously available on Google Scholar. Searches are conducted the same exact way you would conduct a search on Google.com. There is no need for Boolean operators anymore if you don’t want to use them, and you still might get the exact case you’re looking for.  This article gives an overview on the new features Google Scholar provides for the legal research market.

Google Scholar now includes U.S. Supreme Court opinions since 1791 and U.S. federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923. Also included is U.S. state appellate and supreme court cases dating back to 1950. Cases are cited in Bluebook format, include internal page numbers, and are cross-linked within the database. In addition to case law, Google scholar provides links to secondary sources, such as law reviews and journals.

The cases themselves are displayed with the expected Google simplicity. Similar to Google docs, search terms that retrieved the case are highlighted throughout, and all footnotes are linked. google-scholar-e1430680940234

Is Scholar Useful? Google Scholar’s free search has drawn admiration and criticism from attorneys. On the positive side, Scholar employs the clean, simple, and fast user experience that Google is well known and admired for. Google Scholar does not require a login, allowing users to very quickly check a case name or cite.  

It is clear however, that Google Scholar will not replace commercial legal publishers such as LexisNexis® or Westlaw® any time soon. However many of the Virginia lawyers we spoke to in researching this article concluded that Google Scholar is a great place to conduct preliminary research, or to review new cases that have not yet been affected by precedent. Using free services first can help narrow and focus an attorney’s subsequent search.  And because it’s Google, we should expect to see more features and coverage in the future.

Why it’s Important

For attorneys, Google’s entrance into the legal information market should help to drive down research costs.  While it may not break up the LexisNexis® and Westlaw® grip right away, it does increase competition.  As Google expands its offerings, watch for smaller players to enter the market with free or low cost add-ons to supplement Google’s work.  Check out Google Scholar’s newest legal search features at: http://scholar.google.com.

Google Scholar can also be very helpful for non-lawyers who are interested in conducting their own research that is related their own issue or case. Google Scholar can assist an individual who is interested in finding out more about their own legal issue or case. However, it is important that a non-lawyer understands that interpreting a published case, and how that case may or may not impact their own case, can be difficult. Therefore, it is important to consult with an attorney to discuss your legal matter and how published court decisions impact an individual’s case.

I would be happy to answer any questions

Pokemon and Distracted Driving

Being an attorney with one of Richmond’s leading law firms, I am well aware of both distracted driving accidents and how it relates to the new Pokemon Go craze! As a father of two and as a personal injury lawyer, the potential for catastrophic accidents of the target generation of this game is downright scary.  Of course, teens, and all drivers should never text and drive.  However, the lure of “catching” a rare Pokemon to a target driver may be overwhelming!

Richmond Virginia Pokemon distracted driving

Nintendo recently launched its Pokemon Go application and has created an obsession with some.  For those not aware, app users can now look through the camera of their handheld device and spot these adorable and interesting Pokemon creatures virtually luring around the real world! Players (trainers) can point and click their way to capturing these creatures.  Do you remember the slogan “Got to Catch Them All?”

Sharing Pokemon with my kids about 15 years ago was a lovely and engaging pastime.  I loved bringing home Pokemon cards on a Friday afternoon and preparing for the discussion of whether a Bulbasour could defeat an electric Pokemon!  Now—– my kids are driving! The lure of these sentimental creatures nearby must be exciting and overwhelming.

We hope that Nintendo can disable the app while “trainers” are driving.  Further, we can hope that the location of truly “rare” Pokemon will not create a rush on the roads that may cause needless accidents, injuries and death.  It remains to be seen whether the app is sensitive to real life— not virtual— concerns.

Adultery is Still a Player In Virginia Divorce Courts

Adultery still a defense to Spousal Support:

Virginia Court of Appeals Reverses Spousal Support Award for Adulterous Wife.

Virginia Divorce lawyers uncontested

In the recent case of Mundy v. Mundy, the Virginia Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling granting spousal support to an adulterous wife. Mundy v. Mundy, 66 Va. App. 177, 184 (Va. Ct. App. 2016)  Although the husband earned $850,000.00 per year, and the wife did not work outside the home, the court of appeals determined that given wife’s admission, and the lower courts finding, that Mrs. Mundy had committed adultery with “multiple” sexual partners, that the denial of spousal support would not be a “manifest injustice” under VA Code §20-201.1 (B).

This is in line with a line of cases beginning with Bandas v. Bandas, wherein an attorney husband was found to pay spousal support to his adulterous wife because of the relative inequities of income would produce a “manifest injustice” economically to deny her spousal support. Bandas v. Bandas, 16 Va. App. 427, 434 (Va. Ct. App. 1993)

What we can take from this new case is that adultery is still a player (no pun intended) on the divorce battlefield. Clearly, the circumstances of the adultery, multiple partners, and the relative lack of fault on the part of the husband in the dissolution of the marriage are factors the courts in Virginia will still reply upon.

Cravens and Noll, an experienced Virginia law firm, takes great pride in the trust our clients place in our counsel. Before taking a case, Cravens and Noll lawyers provide free consultations for clients call (804) 330-9220 to schedule. 

Cravens & Noll PC Welcomes Two Experienced Virginia Attorneys

The Virginia personal injury, criminal defense, family law and bankruptcy law firm of Cravens & Noll PC, welcomes attorneys Susan G. Andrews to our legal team. With offices in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico and Colonial Heights, we are proud to offer representation to clients throughout Virginia.

Attorney-Susan-G.-AndrewsSusan G. Andrews will be located in our Tri-Cities office in Colonial Heights. A native Virginian, Susan will be working with Cravens & Noll clients facing legal issues related to divorce and separation; guardianship; bankruptcy protection and relief; and personal injury claims. Susan has been in private practice in Richmond and the surrounding areas for over 25 years; her background and experience practicing in the Commonwealth will allow her to efficiently and effectively assist clients with any legal issue they may face.

Virginia Law Firm, Cravens & Noll, Supports Scholastic Read & Rise National Literacy Campaign

As part of our commitment to literacy throughout Richmond, Cravens & Noll PC participates quarterly in the Scholastic Read and Rise Book Fair, volunteering at and providing financial support to elementary schools throughout our community.

In February, our attorneys attended the J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School Read and Rise book fair, volunteering at the book fair and reading to students’ in classes. Our firm donates approximately $2500 to each school at which we volunteer, enabling each child in attendance to purchase a book from the fair to take home and read with his or her family.

What is the Read and Rise Program?

The Scholastic Read and Rise program is a national literacy campaign focused on providing children with the tools to learn to read. Over 35 percent of children begin school lacking the language skills needed to develop literacy; the Read and Rise program addresses this through engaging children, their families and the community in learning to read as well as providing resources to promote reading at a young age.

Our Commitment to Our Richmond Community

As attorneys, as parents, and as Virginians, we understand the importance of building reading skills and the role access to books at school and at home plays in developing those skills in our children. Contributing to take-home resources for children and volunteering in our elementary schools is part of Cravens & Noll’s commitment to our community, the learn-to-read process and ultimately the improvement of childhood literacy throughout Richmond.

Cravens & Noll plans to continue our support of the Read and Rise program and we encourage others to get involved in promoting literacy among young Virginians.

Gun Laws in Virginia 2016 Update

Laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly last February will go into effect on next week, July 1. There are hundreds of new laws on the books and some of them will impact gun owners and those looking to purchase a firearm. 

Virginia will recognize all valid concealed handgun or concealed weapon permits and licenses issued by other states, according to State Police.

That recognition will depend on the following requirements:

1. The holder of such permit or license is at least 21 years of age; and

2. The permit or license holder carries a photo identification issued by a government agency of any state or by the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Department of State; and the holder displays the permit or license and such identification upon demand by a law-enforcement officer; and

3. The permit or license holder has not previously had a Virginia concealed handgun permit revoked.

Although the new law requires Virginia to grant recognition to all states that issue permits, other states are not required to recognize or authorize Virginia permit holders to possess a firearm in their state.

Furthermore, starting July 1, people who want to privately buy or transfer firearm(s) at a gun show in Virginia can request a criminal background check on the buyer. State Police will be available at every firearms show in Virginia to conduct those checks.

A background check in a private sale ensures that the gun is transferred only to a person lawfully eligible to possess firearms and provides evidence to the seller of diligence to protect against the illegal transfer of firearms. Participation in these background checks is strictly optional and based upon agreement entered into by the firearms seller and recipient.

Those background checks would cost $2 and takes about three minutes.

Click here for information about what it takes to be eligible to buy a gun in Virginia.

Bankruptcy in Virginia

There are essentially two kinds of individual bankruptcies, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.  Chapter 7 Bankruptcies are a liquidation of all of your debts.  It essentially wipes the sleight clean.  In order to determine whether or not you qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy we evaluate your case in a consultation.  The first thing we examine is whether you qualify under the Means test.

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The means test essentially is the average household income, per household size, per the area you live in as set out by the IRS.  It is adjusted quarterly by the IRS to keep up with changing economic times and inflation.  If you are below the means test threshold then you may qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  If you are above the means it is presumed that the filing of a Chapter 7 would be an abuse of the Bankruptcy system.  There are exceptions to this rule, however I would say in about 95% of all cases this holds true.

The second thing we examine is do you have any equity in any property.  If you have equity in property, let’s say a house, then filing a Chapter 7 would cause the trustee to take this property, sell it and pay off your individual creditors with the proceeds.  The Bankruptcy Code as well as the Code of Virginia provide us with many exemptions to protect your property and in most cases you do not risk loss of any of your property.

The third prong that we examine is what is your income to expense ratio.  If your expenses exceed your income then you may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, however if your income greatly exceeds your expenses you cannot file a Chapter 13.

It is also important to know the ramifications of filing the Bankruptcy.  The largest of which is the effect it has on your credit.  Most people who are in the position to do a Chapter 7 already don’t have good credit, but filing will plummet your score even further.  A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will affect your credit on average for about 5-7 years.  It is not that you will not be able to buy anything or that you will not be able to get any loans, you just will get much worse interest rates than the average consumer.

The positive of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is that it will clear your unsecured debt.  Basically the only debts that are not dischargeable are taxes, student loans, support obligations, and court fines fees or costs.  Pretty much all other debt can be discharged through the bankruptcy.  This will clear your debt, stop those pesky debt collectors and allow you a renewed lease on life.

MEDICAL BILL LIENS IN PERSONAL INJURY CASES

What you should know and how we can help

When medical treatment is sought as the result of a motor vehicle accident the medical provider is entitled to payment for services rendered to treat your injuries. The medical provider will first look to the health insurance carrier whether it is a private plan such as Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield or popular government plans, Medicaid and Medicare. When a personal injury case settlement is being negotiated or after a verdict has been rendered it is important to know your rights and responsibilities with respect to any liens.

Private Health Insurance

Chances are if you have private health insurance it is provided by your employer and falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act better known as ERISA. An ERISA plan can recover for damages received from third parties. In laymen’s terms, the effect is the plan can seek reimbursement for medical bills they have paid on your behalf which are directly related to injuries sustained as the result of the negligence of a third party.

In the event your health insurance plan does not fall under ERISA the plans contract language will dictate the insurers right to any proceeds arising from a personal injury award.

Medicaid

The Department of Medical Assistance Services administers the Virginia Medicaid program. To be eligible for Medicaid an applicant must assign to the state any rights to payment of medical care from any third party. In the event the injured party fails to pursue the claim, the state has the ability to pursue reimbursement from the third party. Medicaid is required to be reimbursed from the proceeds of a personal injury award for medical expenses related to the injury.

Medicare

Medicare has a federal statutory lien for payments made under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP”). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Contractor (“MSPRC”) enforces the lien against the party receiving a personal injury award. Similar to Medicaid, only medical expenses related to the injury are recoverable by Medicare.

Hospital Liens

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 8.01-66.2 each hospital, nursing home, licensed physician, registered nurse, registered physical therapist, pharmacy, or ambulance service shall have a lien for services rendered on care to any person injured in an accident as a result of the negligence or alleged negligence of any other person. The lien shall be for the amount of a just and reasonable charge for the services rendered, not exceeding $2,500 in the case of a hospital or nursing home, $750 for each physician, nurse, physical therapist, or pharmacy, and $200 for each ambulance service.

How we can help

ERISA, Medicare, Medicaid, and Hospital Liens should be scrutinized and negotiated on the client’s behalf. In some instances the lien holder will agree to reduce their lien in an amount proportional to the amount the client has paid in attorney’s fees and costs. We at Cravens & Noll believe even though the case has settled, our job is not over, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf until the job is done.