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Frequently Asked Questions

The Leiser Law Firm is committed to providing high-quality legal service to clients in McLean and all of Northern Virginia. We recognize that if a legal issue has interfered with your life, you need answers. To help you in your search for reliable legal information, we have created the following list of frequently asked questions and answers:

Landlord/tenant law

Personal injury

Employment and labor law

Family law

DUI and traffic law

Criminal record expungement

Contact an experienced legal team that fights for you in Virginia

Everyone at The Leiser Law Firm is focused on delivering exemplary legal service to clients at an affordable rate. If you need competent legal help with any family law, criminal defense, personal injury or employment law matter, contact us online or call 703-734-5000 to find out if you qualify for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.


Landlord/tenant law

How do I evict a tenant?

The procedures for evicting a tenant are spelled out in the Virginia Code and must be followed precisely. They involve providing written notice of the reason for the eviction and allowing the tenant a certain amount of time to correct the problem or vacate the premises. How much time the tenant is given depends on what type of violation is alleged. For nonpayment of the rent, the landlord must give a five-day notice to pay or quit. For other lease violations, such as having a pet or failing to properly maintain the premises, the landlord must allow the tenant 21 days to remedy the situation or the lease can be terminated after 30 days. If the violation is not something that can be remedied, then a 30-day notice may be appropriate. If the tenant fails to remedy the problem or vacate within the specified time period, then the landlord must file a Summons for Unlawful Detainer with the general district court in the county in which the rental property is located. Because the eviction process is very specific and any error, however minor, can result in the dismissal of your case, you should hire a lawyer who is familiar with the procedure to assist you.

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Personal injury

What do I have to prove to win my personal injury case?

If your case goes to trial, you must prove that your injuries were caused by the negligence of someone else and that, as a result of your injuries, you suffered some monetary losses, such as lost wages and medical bills, or nonmonetary damage, such as pain and suffering. Your attorney ensures that all of the elements of your case are presented. Then it is up the judge or jury to decide how much you are to be awarded.

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Do I have to pay a fee for legal services?

Personal injury cases are ordinarily taken on a contingency basis, meaning that your lawyer does not get paid unless you recover money for your injuries. The lawyer’s fees are typically about 40 percent of the total amount you are awarded. In addition, you are responsible for covering any costs of the case, such as court filing fees, expert witness fees, court reporters and incidentals such as courier and copying charges. In some cases, our firm advances those costs and is reimbursed from the proceeds of any settlement or judgment obtained in your case. Attorneys in Virginia are forbidden to finance a client’s litigation without the expectation of being reimbursed for those costs.

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Employment and labor law

My employer asked me to sign a non-compete agreement. Is that enforceable?

Non-compete agreements are often not enforceable. They are considered to be against public policy and are strictly construed against an employer. To the extent that such an agreement is upheld, it cannot be broader than necessary to protect the legitimate business interests of an employer.

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I was fired for no good reason. I think my employer just did not like me. Can I sue for wrongful discharge?

Virginia is an at-will employment state. People can be fired for any reason or for no reason, but they cannot be fired for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. If you were fired for no reason or because of downsizing, you may be entitled to unemployment compensation. However, if you were fired after complaining about actual or perceived discrimination or after disclosing unlawful practices of your employer (whistleblowing), you may be the victim of unlawful retaliation. If you believe you were fired because your employer just did not like you, you are only protected if you were fired based on your inclusion in a protected class, such as your race, gender, age, national origin or religion.

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What should I do if I think I have been the victim of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment?

Employers are required to have a sexual harassment policy in place, and employers must follow their own set procedures. A claim of a hostile work environment must demonstrate that the harassment was severe and pervasive. If you think you may have been the victim of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, you should speak with a lawyer to determine the best course of action.

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I am an employer and have been wrongly accused of discrimination. Can you help?
Our employment law attorneys can help you whether you are an employee or an employer and ensure that your rights are protected. Claims of discrimination or other allegations can affect your bottom line, even if they are false. Skilled counsel can help you keep your liability to a minimum.

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Family law

My divorce is uncontested. Do I really need a lawyer?

The law does not require you to hire an attorney, and while you may feel that you do not need a lawyer in an uncontested divorce, your best interests are served by hiring one. A skilled family law attorney can help you fill out the necessary paperwork and ensure that your divorce goes smoothly. In the event that you and your spouse disagree about issues such as property division, alimony or child custody, your attorney can fight for your rights.

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How is child custody determined in Virginia?

The court examines many factors before awarding child custody in Virginia. Ultimately, the court is concerned with the best interests of the child.

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DUI and traffic law

Do I really need a lawyer for a reckless driving charge?

Unlike a speeding ticket, reckless driving is a criminal offense. Most reckless driving charges are based on speeding more than 20 miles per hour over the limit. While some people view this as no more serious than a routine speeding ticket, reckless driving is taken very seriously in Virginia and judges can sentence people to jail time for it and routinely do so for driving more than 90 miles per hour. However, there are ways for your attorney to persuade the commonwealth to reduce the speed with which you are charged to mitigate the penalties. Our attorneys are experienced in handling traffic cases and know how to best defend you.

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Is DUI (driving under the influence) the same as DWI (driving while intoxicated)?

These terms are essentially used interchangeably in Virginia. Police typically charge a person with driving while intoxicated if a person has been drinking alcohol, while they call it driving under the influence if the person has been using drugs.

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What should I know about DUI or DWI?

If you plead guilty or are otherwise convicted of DUI or DWI, you automatically have your license suspended for one year. If you have prior DUI convictions, or if you refused to take the breath test or blood alcohol test, your suspension period may be longer. This is a mandatory penalty, and the judges have no discretion to reduce it. However, you may be able to obtain a restricted license so you can get to school or work. An attorney can help you present your case in such a way as to maximize the likelihood of obtaining a restricted license.

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I was caught driving on a suspended license. Is there anything you can do to help me?

There are strict requirements in the Virginia Code regarding the notice that is required to be given before you can be convicted of driving on a suspended license. If you did not have actual notice that your license was suspended, our attorneys may be able to help clear you of these charges. In addition, if the police did not have a valid reason to pull you over in the first place, you may be able to have any evidence of your driving on a suspended license suppressed. Call for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys who can determine what defenses you might have.

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How does the whole point system work?

For being a good driver, you are awarded one positive point on your driving record for each year, up to a maximum of five points. If you voluntarily attend a DMV-approved driving school, you receive five positive points. On the other hand, if you have a traffic violation, you are penalized with negative points, depending on the severity of the charge. If you accumulate 12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months, the DMV requires you to take a driver improvement course to avoid having your license suspended. If you accumulate 18 points in 12 months or 24 points in 24 months, the DMV automatically suspends your license for 90 days without the opportunity for a restricted license. You are then placed on driving probation for six months and must take a driving improvement course before getting your license restored.

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Do I need a lawyer for a traffic infraction?

Speeding tickets, running red lights and other minor traffic infractions are generally punishable only by monetary fines, so the cost of hiring a lawyer may be more than the fine you are facing. On the other hand, while you may only face a small fine in the short run by not contesting a traffic infraction, you may be saddled with increased auto insurance premiums, monitoring by the DMV or civil fees imposed by the DMV for excessive accumulation of infractions. Especially if you have a high number of points on your record, it may be important to dispute the charge, in which case, it can be well worth the price you pay to hire a lawyer. More serious traffic offenses, such as reckless driving, hit and run accidents, and DUIs, are traffic misdemeanors for which you could face jail time. Therefore, it is imperative that you obtain a highly qualified attorney to protect your rights.

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Criminal record expungement

What is an expungement?

An expungement is the clearing of all court and police records relating to an arrest and charges of crimes for which you were ultimately exonerated. The records are wiped from the computer databases, as if they never existed.

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What does an expungement do for me?

An expungement allows you to legally state that you were never arrested or charged with the particular crime, the records of which have been expunged. When completing questions on job or school applications about whether you have ever been arrested or charged with a crime, you can honestly answer “no” regarding any charges that have been expunged. Furthermore, it prevents anyone else who knows about the expungement from revealing the existence of the charges. To do so itself is a crime.

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What types of cases are eligible for an expungement?

Only those cases in which the charges were dropped by the prosecutor, you were found not guilty after a trial, or the charges were “otherwise dismissed” are eligible for expungement. If you pled guilty, you are not eligible to have that record expunged. Most dismissals, unfortunately, do not qualify under the “otherwise dismissed” category, because they usually involve a guilty plea as part of an agreement for the charges to later be dismissed. For instance, if you performed community service, were ordered to attend anger management or paid restitution, you are probably not eligible for an expungement. A lawyer can tell you whether your case qualifies for expungement.

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What is the process for obtaining an expungement?

The expungement process involves filing a petition in the circuit court of the county in which the charge was brought. Then you must get fingerprinted at a police station. The fingerprints are processed by the state police and forwarded to the court. Once the fingerprints are received, a hearing can be scheduled during which the attorney for the commonwealth may object to the expungement. Our attorneys can help you present your case to the judge as to why the expungement should be granted.

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