How to Avoid Being Arrested on Black Friday

Every year our law firm sees an increase of people being accused of shoplifting during the holiday shopping season.  Some people have never been involved in the judicial systems before they had a serious and momentary lapse of judgment.  However, many other people I have helped during my career did not commit any crime, but only took actions that appeared to store security to be unlawful.

As a criminal defense lawyer with 20 years of experience, I would like share some tips to avoid misunderstandings that can lead to embarrassment and criminal charges during what should have been a pleasant day shopping.

1.    Watch where you put your coat.

Shopping at the mall all day can be workout.  Soon you may realize that you need to take off your coat.  Make sure your coat is the absolute bottom layer of any pile of merchandise.  Just covering the pair of slacks you found on sale or inadvertently placing the coat over the nice scarf you want to buy for Aunt Margaret can get you a personal escort to a back room by a store security officer.

In Virginia, a person can be charged with Grand Larceny (taking items of more than $200 of value) or Petit Larceny (value less than $200) if a person merely conceals merchandise with the intent to steal.  If store security sees an item being concealed, they do not have to wait until a shopper passes a cash register or an exit door to make a stop.  Often, the shopper will be arrested just on the concealment alone despite the shoppers protestations that they were going to pay for the hidden item.   The Commonwealth Attorney will try to prove the intent to steal by circumstantial evidence.  After all, the Commonwealth will probably have a witness or video at trial showing that the store’s merchandise is hidden from view by your misplaced coat.

2.   Consolidate your shopping bags outside the store

Bags full of fun presents get heavy and cumbersome as the day goes on.  However, consolidating bags inside of a store is not a good idea because it instantly arouses the suspicion of store security personnel.  Instead, go to the food court or find a bench in the mall area to consolidate your purchases.

3.   Carefully review, save, and organize your receipts

Your hands are full and you want to move on to the next store.  Before you rush off, make sure the receipt has ALL of the merchandise you purchased listed on it.  Place that receipt in a location where you will not lose it.  Maybe even take a quick picture of it with your cell phone. Do not lose the receipt because a lost receipt can create a world of trouble.  If a shopper paid in cash it will be difficult, if not impossible, to prove that she paid for the items.

Even if you paid with a credit card, without the receipt, your explanation may not be enough for the security guard.  You may be stuck contacting the credit card company the following day for proof of your innocence for your upcoming trial.

4.    Don’t let your friends, relatives, or children carry your merchandise for you  —  unless they are also carrying the receipt for the merchandise

Many of the stories I hear from people include the explanation from a relative that the person accused of shoplifting was only holding the bag for the actual purchaser.  When families split up in the store to get more accomplished, the person holding the bags may be stopped by security.  If they do not have the receipts trouble can ensue.  Store security isn’t likely going to page your friend or sister to the back room to show them the receipt.  They are simply going to charge you with larceny and make you prove your innocence in court.

5.   Remember that cameras are everywhere

If you pick up an item from a shelf and you decide you do not want it, put it back on that shelf.  If you select the item and carry it around the store, security believes that the item is 1) going to be purchased or 2) going to be stolen.   If you decide that you do not want an item after you have been shopping for other things in a different part of the store, make a special trip to return the unwanted item to the place you found it.  For good measure, it is even okay to lift it up so it can be seen clearly by the cameras when you place the item on the shelf or rack where you found it originally.

6.    Don’t mess with broken security tags

If a security tag is broken or has fallen off of a high dollar item, pick another of the items with a security tag that is in good condition.  If the item is the last of its kind available, have an employee bring it to the cash register.  You do not want to be accused of removing or damaging the tag yourself.  Damaging security devices or altering price tags are also considered by courts to be evidence of larceny.  Don’t take the item and carry it around the store.  Store security, who are often looking for easy answers, will think that you are about ready to walk out of the store with it.

7.    Be kind to others – and avoid verbal and physical fights

Holiday shopping can be stressful and tiring and may cause your attitude to become edgy.  When someone else is not acting appropriately or is downright rude, take a deep breath and take the high road.  This is the holiday season.  It should be filled with joy and happiness.  Don’t let an obnoxious boor cause you to be arrested because you decided to shove back.

8.    Be courteous on the road and in the parking lot.

Reckless Driving and Aggressive Driving are misdemeanors in Virginia.  Each charge can be punished with jail time, loss of your privilege to drive for up to 6 months, and a fine of up to $2500.00.  You do not want to be caught speeding to the store to save a hundred dollars on a new TV and end up having to hire an attorney and pay hundreds in fees, fines, and court costs.

The same courtesy and kindness should apply in the parking lot.  Cases about fighting over parking spaces are hated by judges in Northern Virginia.  Also, if you see a person with a handicapped sticker park in a handicapped parking space, assume they deserve the handicapped sticker.  Not all injuries and illnesses are visible to the public.  You do not want to be the embarrassed busybody who questions a disabled veteran or a cancer patient simply because you couldn’t diagnose their illness by watching them walk into the mall.

My law partner Carlos Wall suggested a 9th tip —  Shop on   —  but in my opinion that is not as much fun. 

Good luck finding great deals and keep in your heart the holiday spirit.  Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!

The criminal defense lawyers of The Gordon Law Firm have helped more than 4,000 people charged with DUI, Shoplifting, Grand Larceny, Petit Larceny, and criminal charges in Loudoun County, Prince William County, and Fairfax County. Alex Gordon and Carlos Wall will be happy to answer any questions at 703.218.8416.



Save it for Festivus — Avoid Fights on Thanksgiving

Debates and arguments around the dinner table are big Thanksgiving traditions with many families.  Here are some tips to avoid having a good-natured discussion become a great deal more serious.

Driving angry after dinner can cause encounters with local law enforcement for speeding and Reckless Driving.  Leaving a dinner party early after drinking too much can lead to a DUI.  Thanksgiving dinner fights can also end tragically in violence.

To try to deal with, mitigate or avoid unwanted political arguments during your Thanksgiving feast, Associate Professor of Psychology Sean Duffy, from Rutgers-Camden has some tips to keep in mind if and when the discussion begins to turn mean and nasty.

1) Discuss any potentially large disagreements before dinner.

First, dinner time is the point where everyone is holding sharp objects which is obviously not a good time to stir up anger and resentment.

“Family members may agree to put their differences aside for the day and just enjoy one another’s company,” said Duffy in an interview with Jason Laday.  “If an argument starts at the table, ask that it be put aside for the day and deal with it on Friday. Thanksgiving should not be the time that grievances are aired.”  The proper holiday for airing grievances is Festivus.   To learn how to properly celebrate Festivus, click here.

Happy Thanksgiving

 Happy Thanksgiving


2) Keep a sense of humor.

“Another strategy is if someone says something you disagree with, count to twenty in your head before responding,” he added. “Usually your first response will be hasty and emotional — give yourself some time to come up with a measured response.”

“For certain situations, I think detached humor is a good strategy,” Duffy said. “Tolerate that uncle with extreme political views as a funny aside to an otherwise good day. Let him call Obama a Kenyan communist, and laugh about it later — at the end of the day they are just silly words.”

It is also fun to look at the dinner as a Saturday Night Live skit, Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer Alex Gordon suggests.  Imagine which comedians, past or present, from SNL would play your relatives.  Check out Thanksgiving dinner with Debbi Downer.

3) Remember that most disagreements — and especially those about politics or money — tend to be pretty small in the grand scheme of life

Life can be fragile and you never know what may happen in the coming months.  Money can be replaced and elections change the political landscape every two years it seems.  Focus on generating fun memories, not on winning or getting your point across.  Save that for emailing on a different day other than Thanksgiving.

4) There is a reason why “Don’t bring up politics or religion” is a saying that has been passed down through generations. The same goes for the credo of “Silence is golden.”

“Thanksgiving is about celebrating the harvest and enjoying the company of family,” said Duffy. “Political or religious debate should be punishable by banishment into the kitchen to wash dishes.”  If a controversial topic arises, if no one responds to the instigator — the discussion ends.  Treat that abrasive political comment like a tree falling in a forest with nobody around.  Let it crash in silence.


Jason Laday originally wrote parts of this article for the South Jersey Times


Judge Cannon remembered by Loudoun Attorneys Carlos Wall and Alex Gordon

On October 17, 2014, the Virginia legal community was surprised to learn of the death of  former Loudoun County General District Judge Julia Cannon.
Judge Cannon served on the bench in Loudoun from the early 1990s until her retirement in 2011.  Judge Cannon had graduated from the University of Virginia Law School.

The lawyers of The Gordon Law Firm, Alex Gordon and Carlos Wall, had appeared in her Loudoun courtroom more than 100 times during their career representing clients accused of misdemeanors such as Possession of Marijuana, Reckless Driving, and DUI.
Loudoun Times reporter Trevor Baratko spoke to Attorney General Mark Herring, who is from Loudoun County.  “Judge Cannon was a wonderful person and a great judge,”  Mark Herring said. “Loudoun was fortunate to have her. She was well-respected by those who entered her court room and well-liked by those who knew her outside of it.”

Leesburg-based attorney John Flannery  also said in an interview with Baratko that “Cannon was an exceptional lawyer and a fair no-nonsense judge who did her homework and came to court ready to discuss what needed to be done — and to get it done promptly,” Flannery said. “Julia was active in the community and popular on and off the bench. It’s a shocking and unpleasant surprise that we’ve lost her.”

Alex Gordon had appeared before her in court when she served as a substitute judge just weeks before she succumbed to her battle with cancer.  “As usually, she greeted me with a smile on her face and treated my client kindly and with respect.”  Gordon said.  “She will be missed for her fairness and good humor.”

We always hope that judges like Judge Cannon get approved by the Virginia state legislature to the bench.  Her respect for professionalism, understanding or reasonable doubt, and her positive demeanor to all lawyers and litigants should be an example to others.  We were fortunate to have the privilege of practicing before her.


Parts of the article was published in the by Trevor Baratko at

New Devices may be used to stop Texting while Driving in Virginia


Police may try to use device to stop texting and driving

Police may try to use device to stop texting and driving

Virginia police officers already use LIDAR and radar guns to determine how fast a driver is traveling.  Now a Virginia company is now developing technology to monitor texting and driving from a distance.

Following the radar-gun model, a Virginia company is working on a similar device that can pick up the specific radio frequencies emitted by text messages, according to The Virginian Pilot.

ComSonics, the company developing the radar gun, told the Pilot that the radar gun is “close to production.” The company claims that the radar technology is sophisticated enough to differentiate the frequency transmissions that separate phone calls and texts.

Many questions raised by the potential use of the radar gun. If a driver is using voice-to-text technology to send hands-free messages the new device could presumably pick up those radio frequencies and lead to unjustified stops.

Another obvious issue would be how the radar device would differentiate drivers and passengers using their cell phones. Could you get a ticket because a friend in the passenger seat sent a text message?

There is no timetable as to how soon these new devices could be implemented into everyday use. The company, ComSonics, believes the devices would not compromise drivers’ personal information, as the radars are not currently designed to decrypt information transmitted by drivers.

If you or a friend have been charged with “Texting while Driving” in Virginia or Reckless Driving in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, or Prince William County, please call The Gordon Law Firm for a Free Consultation at 703.218.8416.

Why you can’t find the Best DUI Lawyer in Virginia on the internet

When you or a loved one are charged with the serious offense of DUI or DWI in Virginia, you want the best legal advice possible.  Much is at risk: A loss of license, high fines, a permanent criminal record, and possible sentence of jail time for a First Offense DUI in Virginia.

However, when you are searching for the best DUI lawyer in Virginia to handle your case, be aware that the Virginia State Bar prevents any attorney to claim that he or she is the best DUI lawyer.

It is unethical and wrong for a lawyer to claim that status because it is misleading and cannot be substantiated.  You do not want a lawyer who is willing to put such claims in their advertising material online, in direct mail, or in the yellow pages.  In 2005, the Virginia Supreme Court approved a legal ethics opinion on the topic.  The opinion directed attorneys to follow the following:

Rule 7.1(a)(3) prohibits communications that compare a lawyer’s services with other lawyers, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.  This provision is intended to prohibit misleading, unsubstantiated claims by lawyers that they are “the greatest” or “the best,” or that their firm is the “premier” firm in Virginia.  Any advertisement which makes statements or claims beyond the fact that the lawyer is listed in such a publication must comply with Rule 7.1. 

The Virginia State Bar directed “lawyers who choose to communicate information to the public concerning their services are not merely permitted, but indeed are encouraged, to base their communications upon accurate, factual information describing legitimate credentials.  This type of information is likely to assist consumers in making decisions with regard to available legal services.  Descriptive characterizations of objective credentials are permissible, so long as the characterizations are accurate and truthful.”

Rule 7.1(a)(3):

Rule 7.1 Communications And Advertising Concerning A Lawyer’s Services

               (a) A lawyer shall not, on behalf of the lawyer or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the firm, use or participate in the use of any form of public        communication if such communication contains a false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive statement or claim. For example, a communication violates this Rule if it:           (3) compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyers’ services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated;

The Virginia State Bar added that “Attorneys must take care that an otherwise permissible communication is not rendered unethical due to mis-characterization.  Finally, although qualitative statements are permissible within a context that demonstrates their factual basis, the same types of qualitative statements when made in the absence of such context, may be prohibited as unsubstantiated comparisons of one lawyer’s services with the services provided by other lawyers”

The Gordon Law Firm practices criminal defense, reckless driving and DUI law in Virginia.  Our lawyers Alex Gordon and Carlos Wall have been recognized by several organizations for our work and reputation as DUI lawyers in Virginia.  These organizations include, the National Trial Lawyers, and NorthernVirginia Magazine.  Many former clients have posted positive reviews on Google and

However, we will never claim that we are “SuperLawyers” or are the “Best Lawyers in Virginia”

A person looking for help is looking for the best DUI attorney for their own personal needs.  We recommend contacting experienced DUI attorneys near your local jurisdiction and have a lengthy conversation about the circumstances of your DUI arrest.  Ask as many questions as you want of the DUI lawyer and if you get the feeling that he or she is being honest and forthright, and that lawyer has the skills and knowledge that you feel comfortable with, then that person may be the “best DUI lawyer” for you.

The Gordon Law Firm have helped more than 400 people charged with DUI in Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William County who decided to place their trust in our skill and abilities.  If you are in need of help for a DUI charge in Virginia, we offer a free consultation.  Contact us at 703.218.8416 or send an email to





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