Newsletter

An order of protection is a court-issued document that protects an individual from harassment, abuse, or other action by another individual. Someone can also issue protection orders on behalf of multiple people, organizations, objects, or entities.

Orders of protection are usually filed due to harassment, violent behavior, domestic or other abuse, or stalking, though these are not the only claims that can lead to an order. Duration and specific requirements vary according to each order, but the intent is to protect the one who filed against a specific individual.

Typically, this means you are not allowed to speak to or otherwise contact or come within a certain distance of the person who filed the protection order. The order of protection may also extend to close friends or family members, meaning you will not be able to contact them either.

How Will An Order of Protection Affect Me?

If someone files an order of protection against you, you must understand the terms of the order. Contact a criminal defense lawyer or other legal representation if you are unsure about specific requirements. You will be penalized for any violations of the order, intentional or not.

Usually, an order of protection means you have to cease contact with and avoid a specific person. You will have to potentially move if you live with or near the person who filed for the order. And if you work with the person who filed the order, you will likely have to find new employment.

There may be other impacts. You may not be able to own a weapon. You will not be able to gain a license for hunting and fishing. Non-citizens may also have their green cards revoked or visa status reviewed.

How Long Does An Order of Protection Last?

An order of protection is valid until it expires, expunged, or otherwise declared invalid. But until that point, you must follow all the rules laid out in the order of protection for the entire duration of the order. Failure to do so will result in severe consequences, such as court charges.

What Recourse Is Available Against An Order of Protection?

There is no middle ground for orders of protection: either you have to follow the guidelines therein or fight to have the order expunged or invalidated. The best way to learn about available legal options is contact a lawyer experienced with orders of protection. They will be able to advise you on what options, if any, are available.

To fight an order of protection, you must prove that the evidence upon which the order was granted is weak or faulty. For example, a way to refute evidence of physical abuse is to provide an alibi and witnesses for the time of the alleged attack. Similarly, you could argue that all of your communications were professional interactions for protection orders based on workplace harassment.

You will need to discuss the details that led to the protection order with your lawyer. Be as thorough as possible and do not leave information out, even if you think it is embarrassing or reflects poorly on you.

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One of the key tenants of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign was to reform immigration policies to be less restrictive and more welcolming to asylum-seekers and refugees. As President Biden enters the second year of his term, proponents and critics alike are analyzing what changes his administration made to immigration policy during his first year in office.

Changes To Immigration Policy To Date

Halting work on the U.S.-Mexico border wall construction was one of the first and most significant changes the Biden administration made to immigration policy. But it was by no means the only change; exemptions to current policies and operational changes to immigration organizations have also progressed the democratic agenda.

Changes to immigration policy and organizations to date include:

  • Title 42 Exemptions — Though Title 42 is still in effect for the most part, the new administration modified the policy to include humanitarian exemptions, such as for unaccompanied minors or families with young children
  • Refugee Administration Ceiling — President Biden raised the annual ceiling for U.S. refugee admissions from 15,000 to 62,500 in May 2021, and then to 125,000 for 2022; prior to the Trump presidency, the cap was 85,000
  • ICE Enforcement Priorities — Worksite enforcement operations, courthouses arrests, and detention of pregnant women are no longer priorities; instead, ICE focuses on immigrants who pose a national security threat
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services Documentation — This agency replaced the word ‘alien’ with ‘noncitizen’ and ‘undocumented noncitizen’ and vowed to make its immigration forms more accessible

President Biden said that his intention for immigration policy is to “stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world” by “rebuild[ing]” and “renew[ing]” American’s commitment to “the most vulnerable.”

Immigration Policies From The Last Administration

Despite the changes the Biden administration has made, current immigration policies are still heavily influenced from the previous Trump administration.

“So far, we’ve seen some progress with improving immigration avenues as well as some holdover policies from the previous administration” says immigration attorney Brandon Ritchie of Ritchie-Reiersen Injury & Immigration Attorneys. “Any immigrants going through the legal process should contact an attorney to best handle the ever-changing immigration landscape.”

Below is a breakdown of the regulations and aspects of immigration policy that still remain in effect:

  • Title 42 — This policy requires rapidly removing migrants from the U.S. as a public health precaution; first introduced as a pandemic-related policy, the bulk of it remains in effect even though the U.S. opened travel to Mexico
  • Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — This policy states that migrants must stay in Mexico while waiting for U.S. immigration court dates; a federal court order reinstated this policy despite the Biden administration’s efforts
  • Detention Centers — Children are still being separated from their families and kept in detention centers along the border while the courts decide what to do with their parents or legal guardians

Border Network for Human Rights Director Fernando Garcia expressed disappointment at the lack of progress. Despite the Biden’s administrations recent changes, he stated that immigration policy still shows the “legacy of Trump at the border.”

But others are staunchly against changing current immigration policy. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called President Biden “reckless” and suggested that residents in states along the border would be unprotected if policies from the Trump administration were changed or removed.

Status Update On The U.S. Citizenship Act Of 2021

On his first day in office, President Biden unveiled the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. This act outlined an eight-year path for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrations currently residing in America. However, it has stalled on Capitol Hill and has not yet been voted on by the House of Representatives or Senate.

And despite efforts from Democrats in the Senate to introduce immigration reform to spending and other bills, they have to date been unsuccessful. Republicans, who comprise 50 members of the 100-seat Senate, have vowed to remain united and oppose reform proposals. As such, the future of the U.S. Citizenship Act and other immigration policy reforms is uncertain.

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Morning Notes

Water Caffi Fields baseball diamond in Vienna (photo by Amy Woolsey)

New Laws Take Effect in Virginia — A host of new laws passed by the General Assembly take effect today, including the legalization of simple marijuana possession, the abolition of the death penalty, and a requirement that drivers change lanes when passing bicyclists. The fine for littering is now $500, up from $250, and it is now illegal to intentionally release a balloon outside. [Patch]

MPAartfest Returns In Person This Fall — The McLean Project of the Arts announced yesterday (Wednesday) that its annual, free art festival will officially be back in person at McLean Central Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. The event will feature a one-day juried fine art and craft show/sale, food vendors, and more. It will also stream online. [McLean Project for the Arts]

Jones Branch Connector Awarded — “The Jones Branch Connector, a joint effort by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County to build a new crossing over the Capital Beltway in Tysons, has been named the 2021 National Project of the Year by the American Society of Highway Engineers.” [VDOT]

1st Stage Finds Success with Return to Live Theater — Almost 1,000 people attended 1st Stage’s Celebration at The Boro on Sunday (June 27), according to an email sent to supporters yesterday. The event, which centered on a concert reading of the musical “A New Brain,” was the Tysons theater’s first in-person production since February 2020 and raised $87,000 for the venue. [1st Stage]

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Fairfax County Government Center seal (via Machvee/Flickr)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is working its way toward letting public workers collectively bargain in the wake of a statewide change in 2020 to lift a decades-old restriction.

A board’s personnel committee met yesterday (Tuesday) to discuss a draft ordinance that would let Fairfax County workers make union contracts with the county government, giving them the power to negotiate pay and other benefits.

“I think we’re moving in a good direction,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said after sharing concerns that the proposed ordinance might exempt too many employees from collective bargaining.

While managers, supervisors, volunteers, and other workers are slated to be excluded under the draft ordinance, the board is looking at where temporary workers such as summer lifeguards and seasonal park workers as well as non-merit employees should fall.

The proposed ordinance would serve as the framework for what can and can’t be done through collective bargaining. Once approved, it would allow workers to vote to form a bargaining unit, and employees who don’t want to be involved wouldn’t have to pay dues but could still receive the benefits of the change, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.

The draft discussed Tuesday calls for collective bargaining agreements that would last three years or longer, with separate units for general government employees, police, and fire and emergency services. It also bans strikes and spells out numerous other issues.

The county’s ordinance would be separate from Fairfax County Public Schools, which has over 24,000 employees.

Gross, who chairs the personnel and reorganization committee that’s overseeing the development of the draft, said she expects the board will pass an ordinance, which could happen this year.

SEIU Virginia 512, a union that already includes over 2,000 members in Fairfax County from dues-paying maintenance workers and nurses to librarians and social workers, welcomed the board’s overall support.

But union president David Broder says the ordinance still falls short in several areas. Namely, he says it “artificially narrows” the scope of bargaining, excludes working conditions among the topics that can be negotiated, and could potentially leave thousands of workers out of the collective bargaining process.

“We’ve learned during the pandemic…that being able to bargain over working conditions is critical,” Broder said, noting the importance of safe and clean work sites, personal protective equipment availability, and scheduling.

Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk shared concerns about working conditions for public works and sanitation workers, expressing support for change.

Collective bargaining agreements could involve some 10,000 workers, Gross told Tysons Reporter, and the board is gathering more information on non-merit employees to help with its determinations.

“We have one opportunity to get this right, which is why we’re taking a little extra time to work on the ordinance,” Gross said.

In 1977, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that public-sector collective bargaining agreements weren’t permitted and existing ones were invalid, noting the state legislature could change that.

The General Assembly and governor approved legislation last year that gave localities the authority to develop ordinances for recognizing labor unions and permitting collective bargaining. That measure took effect on May 1.

The personnel committee will meet again on July 20, and the board expects to have a public hearing in October.

Photo via Machvee/Flickr

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If you’re passing a cyclist or group of riders in a vehicle, you’ll soon have to change lanes a lot more.

A new law going into effect July 1 will require drivers to switch lanes if they can’t maintain three feet of distance when passing cyclists.

The Fairfax County Police Department says this means motorists may have to cross double yellow lines, imploring people to “share the road.” Police told Tysons Reporter that they hope people will abide by the new legislation and help keep everyone safe on roadways.

“I think it’s going to be huge in the long run,” Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling President Bruce Wright said Monday while stopping during a bicycle ride on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. He acknowledged that the change may require some education.

Wright says the new law means that vehicles will generally need to shift lanes, because lanes in the state are typically 11 or 12 feet wide.

“In effect, almost every lane in Virginia will require a motorist to safely pass,” he said.

The state law was adopted in February after General Assembly legislators removed a provision that would have allowed cyclists to treat stop signs like a yield sign.

Some states, including Delaware, allow the so-called “Idaho stop” for bicycle riders. Like Virginia, Washington, D.C., considered the stop-as-yield measure but also declined to adopt it.

The new law also ends a requirement for cyclists to file into a single lane when being passed.

Tensions between cyclists and drivers played out on the county police department’s Facebook post about the issue. Several people noted cyclists should obey traffic laws, too.

Wright says those online arguments between cyclists and drivers are similar to honking as well as dangerous behaviors on the road.

“There’s so much animosity, and it’s aggressive,” Wright said.

Some people on social media questioned whether double yellow lines should ever be crossed.

Current law already allows drivers to cross double yellow lines when passing others, including cyclists, skateboarders, and scooters. Another provision involves giving enough distance to mopeds, animal-drawn vehicles, and more when drivers pass them.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety is a persistent concern in Fairfax County, where seven pedestrians and two cyclists have died in car crashes so far this year. Whether these new laws help alleviate those issues remains to be seen.

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Starting July 1, adults 21 and older in Virginia can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.

Ahead of that date, local police departments say they are preparing their officers, while advocates say the bill needs serious retooling to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system and help reverse the harm done to Black and brown communities after decades of unequal enforcement.

“We still have time to fix many of these things,” Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of the racial justice and cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Justice, said. “Between now and then, we have elections. We have to talk to people about how they’re going to take this legalization forward while centering equity. This is not over.”

The Virginia General Assembly passed a law earlier this month accelerating the legalization of weed from July 2024 to this coming summer. The law will be reenacted in 2024, when recreational, commercial sales are legalized.

Through June 30, the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis will remain “decriminalized” — that is, it is penalized with a fine, but the incident does not show up on a person’s criminal record.

The new law legalizing cannibis essentially permits those 21 and older to use marijuana inside their homes, and possibly in their backyards; grow up to four plants; and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The plant must be in a manufacturer’s container for someone to drive with it in the car legally.

Giving cannabis to someone underage is considered a felony, while students younger than 21 who are found in possession of the plant on school grounds would be charged with a misdemeanor. A clause requires court-ordered drug treatment services for individuals 20 and under found with the plant.

People in jail for marijuana-related crimes will remain there, Virginia Mercury reports.

Here are the top areas of interest and concern for police officers, people in the criminal justice system and advocates.

Marijuana-related arrests 

Although marijuana-related arrests have been trending down recently, Falls Church City Police Chief Mary Gavin says that one potential consequence of marijuana legalization is more people driving while stoned.

“There are going to be obviously growing pains,” Gavin said. “My biggest concern, in terms of public safety, is the possible increase of driving under the influence.”

According to data provided to Tysons Reporter by the police departments, cannabis arrests appear to be trending down slightly in both Fairfax County and Falls Church City. A chart supplied by Fairfax County Police Department shows arrest rates peaking in 2018 before dropping off dramatically in 2020.

The Falls Church City Police Department reported a similar pattern. It made 61 and 63 arrests in 2018 and 2019, respectively, followed by 17 arrests in 2020 and none so far this year.

Herndon Police Department spokesperson Lisa Herndon said the town had about 125 marijuana-related arrests from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 13, 2020.

Gavin attributed the recent drop-off in arrests to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a policy change introduced by Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, who ceased prosecuting simple marijuana possession cases against adults when he took office on Jan. 2, 2020.

Descano told Tysons Reporter that he stopped prosecuting marijuana cases because it would be the right approach for community safety and racial equity. His office estimates that more than 1,000 cases have since been dismissed.

“While the opposition to this decision was intense at the time — so much so that we planned to create a bail fund in case our attorneys were held in contempt of court and jailed — I am pleased that other jurisdictions followed suit and marijuana has now been legalized across the Commonwealth,” Descano said. Read More

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Morning Notes

Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Abolish the Death Penalty — Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation yesterday (Wednesday) that made Virginia the 23rd state to eliminate the death penalty. The move reflected a “dramatic shift” for a state that has recorded the second-most executions in the U.S. Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna) celebrated the new law as “one of the most consequential votes” he’s cast in his 12 General Assembly sessions. [Associated Press]

Inova Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Site to Open Next Week — The mass vaccination facility that Inova Health Systems is setting up in Alexandria will open next Monday (March 29), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says. The site has the capacity to vaccinate about 12,000 people per day and “will be particularly helpful to those in South County.” [Chairman Jeff McKay]

Judge Sets Hearing for Park Police Shooting of McLean Resident — U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton has scheduled a status hearing for April 23 to determine whether the two Park Police officers charged in the 2017 fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar “can be criminally prosecuted by the state of Virginia…or whether they fall under amnesty for federal officers from state criminal laws.” [The Washington Post]

Virginia Senator Discusses Experience with COVID-19 — “During a Senate health committee hearing earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine made a surprising admission: Long after contracting COVID-19, the Virginia Democrat is still experiencing strange symptoms. Kaine revealed last May that he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies following an onset of symptoms in March.” [U.S. News]

Falls Church Native Develops Website to Help Navigate Vaccine Registration — 20-year-old Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology graduate Eric Lin worked with a classmate at Harvard University to design a website called COVID Vaccines Info Guide that “would act as a one-stop-shop that provides comprehensive information for all 50 states.” [Falls Church News-Press]

McLean Resident Opposes Proposed Comprehensive Plan Changes — A Dominion Woods resident argues that Fairfax County’s proposals for revitalizing downtown McLean would overburden schools and create longer commutes by inviting an influx of new residents with “little upside” for existing residents. He says residential construction should be capped at 960 units over the next 10 years, high rises should be prohibited on properties next to Franklin Sherman Elementary School, and additional traffic studies should be conducted. [Connection Newspapers]

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Public Library Introduces Text Service — “Beginning today [Mar. 1], you can text your #Fairfax library questions to 571-556-5025 and receive answers in real time 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday thru Friday. If it’s not during those real-time hours, send a text & a ticket will be automatically generated. We’ll respond when available.” [Fairfax County Public Library/Twitter]

New Police Reform Laws Take Effect — Several police reform laws passed during the Virginia General Assembly’s special session last year took effect yesterday, including a ban on no-knock search warrants, new statewide training standards related to racial bias and deescalation, and a “Marcus Alert” system that limits the role of law enforcement in responding to behavioral health issues. [@GovernorVA/Twitter]

Fairfax County Seeks Input on Active Transportation Plan — “The ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, and trails in Fairfax County. “Community input is critical to the success of this planning effort,” said Chris Wells, the Active Transportation Program Manager at FCDOT.” [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]

McLean High School Kicks Off Football Season With a Win — “The McLean Highlanders opened their high-school football season with a 28-14 victory over the visiting Mount Vernon Majors on Feb. 27. McLean fell behind 7-0 on a long touchdown pass, then rallied.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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Using a mobile phone while driving will officially be illegal in Virginia starting on Jan. 1.

Current state law prohibits reading a phone and texting while driving and holding a phone while driving through a work zone, but the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation barring the use of handheld phones while driving a moving vehicle on state highways in March.

While the law was technically enacted on July 1, its effective date was delayed until the new year so that the public could be educated about its provisions and law enforcement agencies could get training on how to enforce it.

Violations of the new law will be punishable by a fine of $125 for the first offense and $250 fine for any subsequent offenses.

There are a few exceptions to the ban on using a phone while driving, including:

  • Emergency vehicle operators who are performing their official duties, including law enforcement and fire and medical responses
  • Drivers who are lawfully parked or stopped
  • Someone using their phone to report an emergency
  • The use of an amateur or citizens’ band radio
  • Department of Transportation vehicle operators who are performing traffic incident management services

Virginia’s public information campaign on the new law is being led by Drive Smart Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting traffic safety.

According to Drive Smart Virginia, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reported that 15% of all fatal crashes in 2018 were related to distracted driving. Fairfax County has the second-most distracted driving fatalities in the state, surpassed only by Prince William County, and the most injuries that result from distraction-related crashes.

The distracted driving ban is perhaps the most significant legal change coming to Virginia on New Year’s Day, but it is not the only new law that will take effect on Jan. 1.

Here are some other measures to be aware of when the new year arrives:

  • HB 264: requires in-person training for concealed handgun permits, removing online or electronic courses as an option for demonstrating competence
  • HB 1211: enables undocumented immigrants to apply for new driver privilege cards so they can legally drive
  • HB 66: prohibits health insurance companies from charging more than $50 per 30-day supply for prescription insulin
  • HB 789: sets a 36% annual rate cap on the interest and fees charged for a short-term loan, which can now go up to $2,500
  • SB 172: protects people who receive emergency services from an out-of-network healthcare provider from unexpected medical costs
  • HB 1407: prohibits employers from misclassifying employees as independent contractors
  • HB 742: gives localities the authority to regulate the takeoff and landing of unmanned aircraft on public property

Photo via Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

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Employment at will is a legal agreement that allows employers to fire employees without warning, reason, or explanation. Similarly, this working arrangement makes it possible for an employee to leave a job without cause or notice if they choose.

While at-will employment gives employees little or no protection if they get fired for discriminatory reasons, it has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Is At-Will Employment a Blank Check to be Fired?

At-will-employment may sound like a blank check for employers to fire employees without any reason. Since this type of employment arrangement does not include requirements like notice or severance pay, it is easy to assume employers have excess power over their employees, meaning they can dismiss them without cause. However, that is not always the case.

Some states have laws that make “at-will” agreements unenforceable to protect employees. For example, California’s Wrongful Termination Act prohibits employers with five or more workers from dismissing employees without good cause. That means employees whose employment has been terminated for unlawful reasons may qualify for compensation through a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Legal Protections of At-will Employees

Whether or not an employee is working under the at-will employment agreement, their rights are protected by state and federal workers’ compensation laws. “Wrongful termination includes termination based on: sex, race, age, religion, national origin and/or disability. Current US law also doesn’t allow employees to be fired for retaliation or outward disagreement with illegal business practices (whistleblowers),” says Georgia Business Lawyer, Jonathan Sparks.

In addition to this protection, employees also have certain rights granted by the government, such as a minimum wage requirement, equal pay, and overtime pay. The Equal Pay Act also protects both men and women who perform similar work but receive different compensation by requiring gender equality between wages paid to male and female employees.

An employer may also not retaliate against an employee for exercising these rights or participating in other protected activities. These include filing complaints about illegal employment practices with regulatory agencies like OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) or NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).

How to Prepare for Employment-At-Will Agreement Before Signing It

To protect yourself from discriminatory employment termination, you need to make it clear in your employment contract. For example, you can include a statement saying that the employer has no right to terminate your employment except for cause or outlined in the document. Additionally, have your contract include a clear notice about how long this period lasts — typically one year. If you meet these requirements, an employer may not terminate your employment without reason, even if you signed the at-will employment agreement.

Conclusion

Just because at-will employment allows you to quit without notice, it is generally best to provide one or two weeks’ notice when you decide to leave. This helps protect your reputation with future employers. At the same time, you need to always prepare for the worst as you may never know when your employer might fire you when working under this working arrangement.

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