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Types of Criminal Defense Cases in Virginia

Interviewer: What are the most common types of crimes you represent people for?

Brian Geno: I represent a lot of people with DWI or drunk driving cases. Also, I represent a lot of clients with reckless driving cases, and driving on suspended license cases. Those are considered traffic cases. About criminal cases, I represent a lot of people with possession of marijuana cases, drug cases and theft charges ranging from shoplifting to felony theft cases. I find I’ve been able to be very helpful with those. Those all have consequences that are pretty extreme for some of my clients, so those are some of the big ones. Assault charges are also a big one. Those six would be the most typical. When I say drug charges, I do a lot of possession of marijuana, but I also do quite a few other drug charges as well. It just so happens that there are more marijuana cases than the other drug charges, so that’s where I spend a lot of my time.

Interviewer: What other kind of drugs are we talking about?

Brian Geno: Possession of controlled substances, like, not so much cocaine anymore, but I’ll sometimes see cocaine. A lot of times it’ll be PCP. We’ve got some new kinds of designer drugs that have come out and I’ll get some of those, too.

Interviewer: What about theft? Do you ever cover any theft charges?

Brian Geno: Oh, absolutely. I have represented people with petit larceny cases, you know, shoplifting, and grand larceny. I’ve seen huge embezzlement cases; I had one case where my client embezzled over four million dollars over several-years. Sometimes it’s a little bit less dramatic, like it would be less than a hundred thousand dollars, but big nevertheless. Anything with embezzlement is considered to be big, because the consequences are pretty severe. Also flat-out shoplifting in retail stores happens quite a bit, so I run into that. Honestly, I run into that a lot. When people are trying to steal stuff from regular retail stores around here, the retail stores have really strong enforcement, especially in the bigger stores. Obviously, we would encourage people not to steal from the bigger stores, but if they were going to steal from anywhere, that’s where they would go but would then get caught.

Embezzlement and Petty Larceny Are Larceny Cases.

Interviewer: What about robbery or larceny?

Brian Geno: Embezzlement and petty larceny are theft cases. Virginia has a statute for felony larceny or grand larceny as it is called. It occurs when someone steals property over $200 but not directly from a person. It has a dollar limit distinguishing it from misdemeanor larceny. The cut-off for the misdemeanor is $200. The felony, of course, is over $200, so it’s really easy to have felony theft, even though it’s just slightly more stuff than you would see in a regular shoplifting case. The reason its easy to hit that felony mark is because the amount of $200 was set in the statute in 1975. At that time, $200 seemed to the legislature to be big enough to be a “felony.” But, it was never adjusted for inflation in the Virginia code. Now, in my view, $200 looks pretty small in terms of the quantity of property it can buy.

You also asked about embezzlement cases. That happens when someone who is entrusted with property of another steals it. Although it is considered larceny in the code, it has special sentencing provisions in the model sentencing guidelines making the penalties much tougher.

Virginia has certain programs they offer for people with larceny cases that would result in dismissal or reduction in the charges. My advice whenever you have a theft charge, even when programs are available that would result in dismissal of the charges is to prepare for trial. Act like there are no programs. There may be a program to help you get the case dismissed at the end, but those programs don’t work as nicely as people would like. You still have consequences that you didn’t anticipate. For example, the government will say that if you will do a certain amount of community service, stay out of trouble, and do that for a year, that they will drop the case at the end. It’s a special disposition for theft charges for first-time offenders.

However, if you wanted to apply for service in the military or you wanted to apply for immigration benefits or you wanted to apply for certain federal benefits, even if your case was dismissed, they would still consider it a conviction, simply because anything other than an acquittal or a nolle prosequi (no prosecution), which is considered a conviction. I always say, “Let’s get ready to fight,” because this dismissal thing may not be what you thought it was, and it certainly doesn’t hurt your case to exercise your rights by preparing for a trial.

Sex Crimes are Often Tried as Assault Charges in Domestic Assault

Interviewer: What about sex crimes? Do you ever work any of those?

Brian Geno: I have. A lot of times the sex crimes will come up as assault charges in domestic assault, that sort of thing, and I have represented many Defendants with those charges. When a person gets charged with, for example, aggravated sexual battery or sexual battery or rape, those sorts of things, I’ve handled those cases, and those are obviously really messy cases that people need a good defense for. It’s involved, and it’s a very emotional case. You definitely need to take those cases very seriously, and I’ve done those before, and I’ve succeeded. We’ve gotten jury verdicts on those, and we’ve gotten bench verdicts, and we’ve worked out deals that have helped people to keep themselves off the sex offender list or free from conviction. Obviously, I cannot promise that result to someone but I can offer that I will work very hard to give someone the best possible legal result.

Interviewer: What about unlawful carrying of weapons?

Brian Geno: That is a great charge, and although I’ve only represented a few people related to that, it is something that I’m personally aware of, because I, myself, carry a concealed weapon and have a concealed carry permit. More and more, the police departments in certain cities are going after people who carry legal guns and they carry them concealed. When they get stopped for anything else, the police seem to go a little bit crazy with a person who’s carrying without regard for whether or not it’s justified. I fully support someone’s right to carry, and I would be very happy to defend on those, and I would say that I would be motivated to do an extremely good job, because it bothers me when people are discouraged from carrying concealed weapons simply because they’ve been stopped for something else. It’s almost as if certain police departments – and it really does go county by county – discourage the carrying of concealed weapons.

For Fairfax County – my county – it’s been rumored by my clients that come in here talking about it that the county has a much dimmer view of people that carry than, say, Loudoun County, which is supportive of someone’s right to carry. I, myself, have been stopped in Loudoun County on a traffic offense, and the officer mentioned my carry permit and said that he was in support of my right to carry and did not make an issue of the fact that I was carrying at the time, but certain counties are making a big deal of it. I would guess Fairfax is one of them, and Arlington is another one that would give people a harder time about carrying. I would love to go to court for those people.

Interviewer: You’ve mentioned domestic battery. I know sometimes those can be tricky, too, especially when, from my understanding, there has to be an arrest made, like on every domestic violence call.

Brian Geno: Yes they do. Sometimes if the police are not convinced that any real violence has happened, then what they’ll do is they’ll just send one of the people – usually the husband – away for the day and the next day. They just order them to stay away from the home, and they won’t arrest them or anything like that. If they see injuries or they see damage to property that they can attribute to one of the parties, then that person is much, much more likely to get arrested. I would say that it mostly happens to the men. They get arrested more often. What I have had to do before is I’ve had to defend men who have been charged with a crime because their spouses or their significant others have been playing the victim, trying to get them arrested, and using that as a way to really, really punish them. Don’t get me wrong, domestic violence really happens and it is very serious. I am not downplaying it. It is not always what it seems though.

I had an interview just the other day with a potential client whose girlfriend was mad at him for the way he talked to her mother, , so the girlfriend called the police and said she had been abused. The guy was ultimately arrested even though he didn’t do what she said. We’re going to have to bring witnesses in who saw everything and who know that it was just made up. It’s like the criminal suspect was really the victim.