Virginia Senate Passes Drunk Driving Bill

Virginia Senate Passes Drunk Driving Bill

The Senate passed a bill allowing Virginians to drive while intoxicated if they are on their own property or adjoining property. In 2018, a bill introduced by Senator Richard Stuart, R-King George, allowing similar liberties was struck down by the House. The failed 2018 legislation was meant to reinforce that the drunk driving laws in the state are only applied to those who drive on public roadways. When an individual is drinking and in a vehicle on that individual’s own property, then he or she cannot be charged.

In 2018, Senator Mark Obenshain voted for the original bill but against the more popular 2020 legislation that ultimately passed. Conversely, Senators Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, and Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, voted against the 2018 bill but for the 2020 legislation.

Currently, the law in Virginia states that you cannot operate a motor vehicle if you are intoxicated. However, it does not define a difference between public and private property. The bill was put forward to better clarify the difference. Senator Obenshain voiced concerns that the legislation would compromise drunk driving laws. Additionally, he cited that there was not a need to distinguish a difference in public and private property because there was no evidence that people were being arrested when they are intoxicated on their own property. 

Obenshain indicated he saw a potential problem with the legislation undermining law enforcement’s ability to protect the public from drunk drivers. If someone is drunk in their car in a store’s parking lot, for instance, and the police cannot arrest them, the implication is that the individual had to get to where they were by driving there. They will also have to leave their location by driving when they clearly have alcohol in their system. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and law enforcement also oppose the bill and were in agreement with Obenshain’s opinions.

Kurt Erickson, president, and CEO of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program had his own concerns. The proposed bill will make the drunk driving laws in the state confusing. It aims to tell you where it is ok to drive intoxicated and where it is not. He echoed the explanation that the issue of people being arrested on their property was not occurring. 

Additionally, It may risk undermining the appropriate process and penalties associated with killing someone when drunk driving. If a person is inebriated and driving on their own property and ends up killing someone, what is the outcome? These cases may be treated much more differently than if they took place on a public road.

The bill has to pass the House to become law. Obenshain reported that he was hopeful that the House will kill the bill. The bill will be seen by the same House Courts of Justice subcommittee that struck down the 2018 attempt at the same legislation.

What are the Drunk Driving Statistics in Virginia?

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national average percentage of people who admit to driving when they drink too much is 1.9%. In Virginia, that number is 1.4%. In 2012, those aged 21-34 suffered more deaths in drunk driving accidents than any other age group. The number of fatalities that occurred in Virginia where a drunk driver was involved from 2003-2012 was 2,613 people.

There have been significant efforts on the part of elected officials and other organizations to help reduce the number of drunk drivers and thus, catastrophic drunk driving accidents. Across the country anyone driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher is illegal. However, if a driver is under the age of 21 and they have any amount of alcohol in their system, it is illegal. The age of 21 is the minimum age that any individual can consume alcohol legally in every state in the nation. 

What are the Penalties for Drunk Driving in Virginia?

Drunk driving is called “driving while intoxicated (DWI)” in the state of Virginia. Both driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol are covered under the DWI classification. Anyone driving under the following circumstances will be charged with a DWI:

  • BAC of .08% or higher
  • Blood concentration of .1 mg per liter and up of methamphetamine
  • Blood concentration of .02 mg per liter and up of cocaine
  • Blood concentration of .02 mg per liter and up of phencyclidine (PCP)

Even if you have not started up your vehicle and put it into motion, if you have drugs and alcohol in your system you can still get a DWI. The Virginia Supreme Court describes the operation of a vehicle is appropriate when a person is in “actual physical control” of it. The courts have not clarified parameters describing what “actual physical control” means, but if you are caught doing the following you are subject to arrest for DWI:

  • Seated in the driver seat 
  • Have the keys in the ignition

Those who have had past DWI arrests or other convictions will likely face the harsher ranger of the penalty threshold than those that are first-time offenders or have little or no history of convictions. Also, the extent of damage that was caused by the DWI will also factor into determining how severely you are penalized. If you are arrested and charged with a DWI, it will tarnish your record for 10 years before it is removed. 

The penalties a drunk driver in Virginia faces are:

  • The first offense will be jail time up to 12 months with fines from $250- $2,500 and a one-year license suspension. Also an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) of a minimum of six months.
  • A second offense will be a minimum of 10 days in jail and as much as 12 months with fines from $500-2,500 and a three-year license suspension. Also an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) of a minimum of six months.
  • A third offense will be a minimum of 90 days in jail and up to five years with fines from $1,000-2,500 and an indefinite suspension of license. Also an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) of a minimum of six months.

You are required to submit to a blood or breath test through Virginia’s implied consent laws. There are penalties if you refuse. 

  • Those who have a first offense and refuse to submit to the test will face a one-year license suspension.
  • Those who have a second and third offenses and refuse to submit to the test face a three-year license suspension. 

What Should You do When You Have Been Arrested for DWI in Virginia?

It is vital to the outcome of your case that you have a Virginia DWI defense attorney supporting you and protecting your legal rights. The penalties for drunk driving are severe and not only can they inconvenience your life, but they can negatively impact you for the duration of your life. Serving a long jail sentence and paying an expensive fine is hard for many.

You need a skilled attorney advising you on what to do and what not to do after your arrest. The Lynchburg DWI defense attorneys at the Straw Law Firm have considerable experience defending those who are facing DWI charges. The attorneys at the Straw Law Firm also have a proven track record of success helping these individuals avoid the harshest of penalties.

We look forward to speaking with you during a free consultation. Call our team Virginia criminal law attorneys today at (434) 595-3581.

The Impact of Catastrophic Injuries From Car Accidents in Virginia

The Impact of Catastrophic Injuries From Car Accidents in Virginia

WSLS News 10 is reporting that an injury accident took place on Thursday morning, January 9. At approximately 9:25 a.m., the incident was confirmed to have occurred at the busy intersection of Atlanta Avenue and Wards Road. The police indicated that the accident was significant, involving three cars. As a result of the crash, two people sustained injuries and required treatment at the hospital. 

Although the types of injuries sustained were not released by authorities, one man required extrication as he was trapped inside his car. This male victim suffered severe injuries, but is expected to survive. A female victim who was an occupant in a different car was also among those that required hospitalization. She sustained non-life-threatening injuries but the severity of her damages was not confirmed. The driver of the third car involved was a female and she did not sustain any injuries as a result of the crash.

The Lynchburg Police Department has not released the details of the crash. They have confirmed that the accident remains under investigation. The accident scene was blocked off and there were delays in traffic as a result. The public was told to avoid the area if possible.

How Many Injury Accidents Occur in Virginia?

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2018 there were 131,848 crashes in the state. Out of all of these crashes, 777 were fatal crashes resulting in 819 people dead. There were 42,922 injury crashes which lead to 66,523 individuals sustaining bodily harm. Campbell County saw 834 crashes in which eight people lost their lives and 316 sustained injuries.

What are the Most Common Causes of Vehicular Accidents?

Every time a driver is on the road, he or she is at risk of being involved in a car accident. Across the country, there are over six million crashes each year. Approximately 2.35 million people will have to endure serious, disabling injuries as a result. There are many causes of crashes. The most common include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Driving while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol
  • Speeding
  • Driving while drowsy
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Reckless driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study in which they found that an astounding 80% of all accidents are due to distractions while behind the wheel. Distractions can be from almost anything including other occupants in the car, eating or drinking in the car, putting on makeup, texting or looking at one’s phone, or even daydreaming. Participating in any behavior or action that takes your attention off of the road is considered distracted driving. Unfortunately, distracted driving is a growing and dangerous problem on American roadways.

Speeding is so common that more than 75% of drivers admit to knowingly speeding while they are on the road. When one is inebriated, operating a motor vehicle puts everyone on the road at risk, including the intoxicated driver. Sadly, a life is lost due to a drunk driver every 53 minutes. When you have been in an accident in which a negligent and reckless driver was the cause, you deserve to have your legal rights protected. The seasoned Lynchburg car accident attorneys at the Straw Law Firm will help you with your personal injury claim and look out for your best interests when it comes to taking on the insurance companies.

What Injuries do Victims Suffer After a Vehicular Accident?

Accidents can cause a range of injuries from minor to catastrophic depending on the circumstance surrounding the accident. Some of the most common injuries that victims sustain after a bad accident include:

  • Head and traumatic brain damage such as concussions, internal bleeding, fractures to the skull, lacerations, vision loss, and disfigurement
  • Neck and back injuries from whiplash, herniated discs, bulging discs, spinal cord damage leading to paralysis, sprains, and strains
  • Burn injuries which can cause disfigurement, extreme pain, and require extensive skin grafting with scarring.
  • Soft tissue injuries occur when the tendons, muscles, and ligaments are damaged.
  • Broken bones
  • Emotional trauma requiring intensive therapy and support

After an accident when catastrophic injuries are sustained, the victim will have a difficult time returning the quality of life he or she had prior. The process of seeing multiple doctors and needing intensive treatment such as surgery is not only time-consuming, but it is stressful and expensive. 

Catastrophic injuries often mean that the victim will need exhaustive treatment and care, rendering them unable to work. These victims have to focus full time on recovering and healing. The impact that has on a person’s life is immense. Relationships with loved ones can become strained, and as the victim is trying to heal, they may begin to develop mental fatigue with the process. This mental fatigue can lead to other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The accident experience itself may also leave the victim with considerable mental trauma making way for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to ensue.

Catastrophic injuries are highly associated with life-long damages. Inability to communicate, cognitive problems, chronic pain, loss of motor functioning, loss of feeling in the skin, loss of bodily movement, digestive problems, and breathing ailments can be so considerable that they may never fully heal. These outcomes are devastating to victims who have to face an uncertain future.

How can You Obtain Compensation for Your Catastrophic Injuries in Virginia?

There is no denying the absolute need to obtain compensation when you have been the victim of catastrophic injuries at the hands of a negligent party. The expenses accumulate rapidly and the burden should not be on a victim’s shoulders. Catastrophic injuries will make you unable to work and earn a paycheck. 

Lack of income not only affects your life but also your family’s. The missed compensation will hit your home hard, and the extra responsibility your family and loved ones will need to take on will be impactful, as well. Some of these tasks include driving you to your appointments, being caretakers, and helping pick up the extra duties you once covered. The stress is spread to all others in your life. 

Obtaining the compensation you need can be a long process, it is important not to wait when you are considering filing a personal injury suit. The Virginia catastrophic injury lawyers at the Straw Law Firm will take on the complex legal challenges on your behalf so that you can focus on healing and improving your well-being.
Call us at (434) 595-3581 and speak to one of our highly knowledgeable Virginia personal injury attorneys today during a free consultation.

Ex-NFL Star Avoids Serious Jail Time Due To Straw Law Firm's Strong Criminal Defense

Ex-NFL Star Avoids Serious Jail Time Due To Straw Law Firm’s Strong Criminal Defense

“We are pleased with the outcome of this case” – Gary Straw

Smoot was found guilty of failing to appear, driving without a license and driving with expired registration … but his punishment was ultimately nothing more than fines.

Smoot WAS sentenced to 6 days in jail for the failure to appear … but he got credit for time served from when he was initially arrested, and he will NOT have to spend any additional days behind bars.

Click here to read the original article published on TMZ.

19-Year Old Killed in Head-On Collision in Bedford County, Virginia

19-Year Old Killed in Head-On Collision in Bedford County, Virginia

According to the reporting of the News & Advance, a 19-year-old Hardy woman was killed on Wednesday, November 27. The incident took place in Bedford County, according to police. The accident was said to be a head-on collision.

The authorities described the accident as involving two cars that smashed into each other around 3:14 p.m. on Virginia 619 in western Bedford County. The Virginia State Police said that the incident took place a third of a mile west of Pedigo Road. The deceased was driving east in a 2005 Nissan Altima when she crossed the center line of the road and slammed into a 2001 Daewoo Leganza that was coming in the other direction toward her.

The police confirmed that the deceased woman, Kendra C. Shepherd of Hardy, was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. After the EMS and the police were on the scene, she was transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital for treatment of her injuries. Shepherd died at the hospital.

Amoni M. Logan, 18, of Goodview, was identified by authorities as the driver of the Daewoo. Logan sustained serious injuries as a result of the crash and was transported to the hospital, as well. Logan was also not wearing a seatbelt.

The authorities have indicated that the investigation into the cause of the crash and the details that led to it remain ongoing. It is unclear at this time if intoxication was a factor in the crash. 

Seatbelts Save Lives

The “Seatbelts Save Lives Campaign” along with the “Click It or Ticket” campaigns were launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in response to the overwhelming proof of how important wearing a seatbelt is for both drivers and passengers alike. These campaigns have been around for many years, working to motivate drivers and passengers to buckle up. 

In the United States, traffic accidents are the leading cause of personal injuries. Wearing a seatbelt is the most proactive safety measure a driver or passenger can do to reduce their risk for injuries, severe injuries, or death in a car accident. In 2017, the NHTSA reports that wearing a seatbelt saved almost 15,000 lives. That same year there were 37,133 Americans killed in motor vehicle accidents, an astounding 47% did not wear a seatbelt. If everyone wore a seatbelt in 2017, over 2,500 lives would have been saved.

So why does wearing a seatbelt make such a significant impact on safety while in a car? Seatbelts secure bodies inside of vehicles and help to prevent them from increased impact or ejection from vehicles. Those individuals who do not wear a seatbelt in an automobile are 30 times more likely to be ejected. When a body is ejected from a vehicle, the end result is almost always deadly. 

While airbags are an important part of the safety equation, they alone will not protect you fully in the event of a crash. Airbags are a critical component towards saving your life in a serious crash, but alone, the speed at which they deploy is so much that they have the ability to substantially injure you. There have been many instances of defective airbags going off without accidents even triggering them and the results to the front seat driver and passengers have been devastating.

Wearing a seatbelt every time you hit the road provides you with invaluable protection against harm. The evidence is clear, front-seat passengers reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45% if they wear a seatbelt, and they can avoid moderate injury by 50%. Truck drivers can reduce the risk of fatality in an accident by 60% if a seatbelt is worn, and critical injuries will be reduced by 65%. Males are the most at-risk group for accidents and in 2017, 51% of passenger vehicle occupants who were male that died from car crashes were not wearing a seatbelt.

Seatbelt Laws in Virginia

Wearing a seatbelt is the law in the state of Virginia. Any driver and passenger who is 16 years of age and older and sits in the front seat of a car must wear a seatbelt. Those young children who are under the age of 16, no matter where they sit, must also wear a seatbelt in a car or must be restrained in an appropriate child safety seat while in a vehicle.

If you are over the age of 18, the laws are secondarily enforced. What exactly does that mean? Older adults cannot be pulled over simply because they are not wearing a seatbelt, there must be another reason for pulling their vehicles over. Therefore, if you are speeding, for instance, and you get pulled over and you are also not wearing a seatbelt, you will face violations for both speeding and not wearing your seatbelt.

While enforcement is secondary in Virginia, it is primary in many other states. Therefore it is prudent for drivers to always wear their seatbelt, not only for safety reasons but also to avoid being pulled over and ticketed. 

Lynchburg Virginia Automobile Accident Attorneys Who Care

If you were involved in a crash that was not your fault but resulted in severe injuries, you need to obtain compensation for your losses. The Virginia catastrophic accident injury attorneys at the Straw Law Firm will help you pursue a successful personal injury claim against the negligent party who caused your damages. We are the Lynchburg, Virginia personal injury lawyers you want supporting you when you are seeking the highest amount of compensation after your accident. 

Accidents have stressful and challenging outcomes such as injuries from which to recover, inability to work and make a living, property damage, emotional trauma, and stress at home. This is why, when you have been victimized by a negligent party, you pursue a personal injury claim that will yield a fair settlement for your damages.

Do not hesitate to call us at (434) 595-3581 and speak to one of our highly knowledgeable Virginia personal injury attorneys today. We care deeply about victims in Virginia and we will guide you through the personal injury claim process and answer all of your questions.

Virginia Has Highest Motorcycle Death Rate in a Decade

Virginia Has Highest Motorcycle Death Rate in a Decade

In Virginia, 2019 has seeing a significant increase in motorcyclist deaths over previous years, with seven reported so far. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that in all seven of these accidents, the driver was not wearing a helmet. These deaths mark a decade high for the State of Virginia. While 2019 only has about a month left in it, these numbers are troubling. The holiday season, like the summer, is statistically the highest-risk time for vehicle crashes.

Last year, none of the motorcycle fatalities were a result of not wearing a helmet. In 2017, there was only one death from an unhelmeted rider. There were four deaths from riders who did not wear a helmet in 2016 and three in 2015 across the state. 

Why are Helmets Important for Motorcyclists?

The body of a motorcycle does not provide its rider with much protection. Riders who want to protect themselves have to rely on the specialty gear that is made for motorcycle riding. Helmets, eye protection, ear protection, armored jackets, specialty gloves, boots, and even pants can all be worn together for protection on the road. Even with all of this gear, motorcycle accidents can still have catastrophic results. Helmets are by far the most important type of safety equipment a motorcyclist can wear.

According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the most dangerous way to travel the roadways is on a motorcycle. Motorcyclists are almost 28 times more likely to be involved in a crash that will take their lives than their passenger car counterparts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that helmets were the reason that almost 2,000 lives were saved in motorcycle crashes in 2017. The rate at which riders and drivers alike are currently wearing helmets is decreasing societal harm by $17 billion. If all motorcyclists wear helmets when they were riding, there would be an additional $8 billion reduction.

The thing about motorcycle accidents is that when riders are injured, head injuries are common and are the leading factor in resulting deaths. Making sure you wear your helmet every time you get on your bike, no matter how long or short the drive is, is immensely important. Wearing a helmet when driving a motorcycle will reduce the chances that you will have a head injury by 69% and will reduce the likelihood of an accident leading to death by 42%.

Motorcycle Laws in Virginia

Not every state has laws requiring helmet use. Some states indicated that younger teens must wear a helmet, but adults can opt not to. In Virginia, all motorcycle passengers must wear helmets that meet set safety standards.

The Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute Inc., and The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) are all resources to figure out how to get a proper helmet. These organizations have guidelines that provide information regarding how to wear a helmet correctly as well as what type of certifications and specifications are required for an acceptable helmet.

According to the DMV, a helmet will reduce brain injuries in motorcycle riders by 67%. Conversely, when a helmet is not worn while driving, the driver is 40% more likely to sustain a serious head injury that will result in death. So, while all the other gear is recommended and helpful to promote rider safety and reduce injuries, helmets are by far the most crucial.

In addition to wearing the right gear and absolutely always having a helmet on, riders should observe responsible driving practices.

  • Do not drink and ride
  • Stay alert
  • Do not drive on the shoulder
  • Wear reflective gear, and brightly colored clothing to be more visible to other drivers
  • Do not weave in and out of traffic
  • Do not ride between lanes
  • Do not ride with more than two motorcycles per lane next to each other
  • Do not speed

While all of these actions can work together to be beneficial to motorcyclist safety, being prepared to ride with traffic is also necessary. Taking a driving class to learn how to operate your motorcycle will help you be more confident and knowledgeable on the road. You will find these classes offered at the DMV. 

An accident management course is also recommended. That way, if you find yourself in an accident and you have the ability to assess the damages and provide aid, you will know what to do. If you are in an accident, there is a high likelihood that you will suffer an injury. After you seek medical treatment, it is important to pursue a personal injury claim for the highest amount of compensation. You will need to recoup your losses so that you can recover effectively. The best way to accomplish this is to enlist the help of a Lynchburg personal injury attorney.

Obtaining Legal Help After a Devastating Motorcycle Accident in Lynchburg

The Straw Law Firm has the Virginia catastrophic accident injury attorneys you want on your side when you need to recoup costs associated with a devastating accident. Virginia motorcycle accidents take a tremendous toll on injured victims. These tragedies result in financial, emotional, and physical pain that the victims, as well as their families, have to endure. For this reason, it is important that you obtain a fair settlement after being injured due to someone else’s negligence. 

Your best chance of recouping compensation for your losses is to have an aggressive Lynchburg traffic accident attorney fight on your behalf and protect your legal rights. When victims team up with experienced legal help, their settlements are much higher than if they go the course alone. The Straw Law Firm is here for you and we will fight for your best interests. 

Do not hesitate to call us at (434) 595-3581 and speak to one of our highly knowledgeable Virginia personal injury attorneys today. We care deeply about victims in Virginia and we will guide you through the personal injury claim process.