New Virginia Law Sets Tougher Penalties for Teens Who Drink and Drive

Author: Attorney David M. Williams, Jr.

A new Virginia law increasing the consequences for underage drinking and driving went into effect July 1, 2011.

The 2011 Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed a bill establishing a "zero tolerance" (0.02% BAC) for underage drinking and driving by making it punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor. The punishment for teens that drink and drive - teens convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) - now includes two additional severe penalties:

1.    loss of their driver's license for one year from the date of conviction, AND

2.    either a mandatory minimum fine of $500.00 or 50 hours…

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LARGER ROLE FOR SMALL COURTS: New Law Means Faster and Less Expensive Resolution of Cases Worth Less Than $25,000

In March 2011, the Virginia General Assembly passed a new law increasing the jurisdictional maximum limit for a lawsuit in General District Court from $15,000 to $25,000.[1] Effective July 1, 2011, a person with a civil claim - including  personal injury claims - may sue in a General District Court for up $25,000.  At present, only civil personal injury claims for $15,000 or less are filed in General District Court; personal injury claims seeking more than $15,000 must be filed in a Circuit Court.[2]

General District Courts do not conduct jury trials; instead, all cases are decided by a judge.  In the Circuit Court, a case may be decided by a judge, but if either side requests it, then the judge only decides what evidence…

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RESPONSIBLE PARENTING: Providing Alcohol to High School Students Has Stiff Legal Penalties

Author: Attorney Tammy S. Ruble

As the mother of a high school senior, I know this time of year is filled with exciting events and activities for students.  Graduation is just weeks away and many parents will throw parties to celebrate this milestone.  Knowing the allure that alcohol holds for some teens, it may be tempting for parents to try to ensure their children's safety by providing alcohol at these parties, eliminating the need for some teens to drink in secrecy away from home. After all, if they're going to get together and drink, isn't it better for them to drink at home where parents can ensure no one drives or engages in some other dangerous activity while under the influence?

This approach…

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Proposed Virginia Legislation Would Have Banned All Cell-Phone Use While Driving

 Author: Scott Fitzgerald, Law Clerk

Currently, the law in Virginia is that texting while driving is a secondary offense, punishable by a fine of $20.00 for first-time offenders and $50.00 for all subsequent offenses.[1] This year  legislation was proposed  in the Virginia General Assembly which would extend that ban to prohibit all cell-phone use while driving, except for a  "hands-free" device that is  configured for "hands-free" operation and is in that mode.  As proposed, the law would  not apply to emergency vehicle operators, drivers who are lawfully stopped or parked, or anyone who is using a cell phone to report an emergency.[2] The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 26-13, but in the House of…

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Tenants Need Renters Insurance - Protect Yourself and Your Belongings

Author: Attorney Melinda South

When renting their first apartment or house, tenants often don't  think of renters insurance unless their landlord requires it.  Although the landlord may have insurance, this usually only protects the property owned by the landlord - and not the tenant's property.

Renters insurance will provide coverage for your personal property as well as liability coverage.[1] You may assume that you don't own that much, so why bother?  If you take an inventory of what it would cost to replace your personal property, you may be surprised by the total value of what you own.  Television, laptop, and mobile phone replacement escalates the value of your property very quickly, even…

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Virginia Accident Law: What Damages Can You Recover?

Jason W. Konvicka, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

Author: Jason W. Konvicka, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

In Virginia, the person, company, or other organization at fault for causing an accident is financially responsible for certain damages that may result, including:

any bodily injuries that the injured person sustains, any physical pain and mental anguish that the injured person suffers in the past or future, any disfigurement (such as scarring) and any related humiliation and embarrassment, any inconvenience caused in the past or likely to occur in the future, any medical bills incurred in the past or likely to occur in the future, any lost wages in the past or likely to occur in the future, any loss of the capacity to earn a…

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Trial By Jury: How Are The Members of A Jury Chosen?

Ever wonder how the seven people sitting in the jury box at a civil trial in Virginia get there?  If you've been on a jury, you probably have some idea.  But you still may wonder how you were chosen. The process involves a few steps and a lot of work that you don't see. First, "jury commissioners" for each jurisdiction compile a "master jury list" of Virginia citizens who reside in the jurisdiction where the court is located and who are  legally qualified to serve jurors.  The qualifications include -- but are not limited to -- being over 18 years old, not having been convicted of a felony (or having been convicted but having had the right to vote restored and having resided in that jurisdiction for at least two years.[1]


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Family Values Hold True at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen - Named one of 2011's Best Places to Work

Founded on family values and a commitment to client service, the personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen has been named one of the 2011 Best Places to Work in Virginia. The annual list of "Best Places to Work" was created by Virginia Business and Best Companies Group. The ranking of the 1st annual Best Places to Work in Virginia will be unveiled and published in the February 2011 issue of Virginia Business.

This survey and award program was designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Virginia, benefiting the state's economy, its work force and businesses. The Best Places to Work in Virginia list is made up of a total of 50 companies, split…

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Understanding a Motor Vehicle Insurance Policy: Can You Tell What Benefits You Are Entitled to Just by Reading the Policy Yourself?

Author: Attorney W. Coleman Allen, Jr.

The short answer to this question is an emphatic "NO!"  The answer is emphatic, because the language of the policy might not only be incomplete, but actually misleading.  Consequently you may miss coverage to which you are entitled that is not even described in the policy, and may in addition fail to recognize what coverage is provided, because some of the terms used in the policy have very different meanings than they do in everyday conversation.

The "Rules of the Road" concerning insurance coverage are provided by state rather than federal law in the United States, under the U.S. Constitution.[2] So the rights of injured motorists in policies issued for…

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Ethics and Intimate Relations with a Client

Author: Attorney Chris Meyer

Lawyers are governed by rules of ethics which describe their conduct and try to insure, among other things, that a client will receive quality independent judgment from their lawyer free from any conflict.  In Virginia, these rules are called the "Rules of Professional Conduct" and they are administered and enforced by the Virginia State Bar.  All lawyers licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia are required to belong to the Virginia State Bar.  This organization disciplines lawyers who violate the Rules, and the penalties for violation can include revocation of the attorney's license to practice law.  Not only does the Virginia State Bar administer the Rules, but it also provides…

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