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Old 12-21-2007
VINACCOP VINACCOP is offline
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Default ** VA ** LEGAL QUESTION

**** I LIVE AND WORK IN VIRGINIA****

Recently I answered a complaint of a woman who had 20 some dogs. 18 of them were pups (under 3 months) so no enforcement action was taken for those pups. As for the 2 adult dogs: she presented a Rabies certificate from a local Vet. that had obviously been altered. The expiration date was (sloppily) marked over from 2004 to 2009. the animal's name was marked out and another name was written on top of it. The animal color (orange) was marked out and another color (black) was written over it. Her reason for this was that the Vet's office did this to save paper. As soon as I told her I would be issuing her 4 summonses (tags and Rabies X 2 dogs) she faked passing out.

The next day I went before the Magistrate and he gave me a felony warrant for forgery. At court the Defense Attorney brought up the fact that a Rabies certificate was not a public document. I am not sure if that played a factor or if the Judge thought I was wasting his time but the case was dismissed. The magistrate had an issue about the term "public document" also but the Commonwealth Attorney said that a Rabies Certificate met the criteria. Has anyone came across this issue? What constitutes a "Public Document"
Please reply to kdalton@vintonva.gov
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Old 12-21-2007
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For my two cents, the Judge was probably correct to dismiss if you charged under -168. It certainly raises a huge issue and I would consider sending it to VACA for a possible legislative inclusion in forged documents. Basically, forging or altering any document required or issued by law should be a crime. Note the info below. - M.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming this is the section under which she was charged:

18.2-168. Forging public records, etc.
If any person forge a public record, or certificate, return, or attestation, of any public officer or public employee, in relation to any matter wherein such certificate, return, or attestation may be received as legal proof, or utter, or attempt to employ as true, such forged record, certificate, return, or attestation, knowing the same to be forged, he shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.

The better charge would have been

18.2-172. Forging, uttering, etc., other writings.
If any person forge any writing, other than such as is mentioned in 18.2-168 and 18.2-170, to the prejudice of another's right, or utter, or attempt to employ as true, such forged writing, knowing it to be forged, he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony. Any person who shall obtain, by any false pretense or token, the signature of another person, to any such writing, with intent to defraud any other person, shall be deemed guilty of the forgery thereof, and shall be subject to like punishment.

The document is an "official record" as noted once it has been sent to a Treasurer; however, if it hasn't been sent to the Treasurer it seems it would be an "other writing" as mentioned above.

3.1-796.87:1. Veterinarians to provide treasurer with rabies certificate information; civil penalty.
A. Each veterinarian who vaccinates a dog against rabies or directs a veterinary technician in his employ to vaccinate a dog against rabies shall provide the owner a copy of the rabies vaccination certificate. The veterinarian shall forward within 45 days a copy of the rabies vaccination certificate or the relevant information contained in such certificate to the treasurer of the locality in which the vaccination occurs.
The rabies vaccination certificate shall include at a minimum the signature of the veterinarian, the animal owner's name and address, the species of the animal, the sex, the age, the color, the primary breed, whether or not the animal is spayed or neutered, the vaccination number, and expiration date. The rabies vaccination certificate shall indicate the locality in which the animal resides.
B. It shall be the responsibility of the owner of each vaccinated animal that is not already licensed to apply for a license for the vaccinated dog. Beginning January 1, 2008, if the treasurer determines, from review of the rabies vaccination information provided by veterinarians, that the owner of an unlicensed dog has failed to apply for a license within 90 days of the date of vaccination, the treasurer shall transmit an application to the owner and request the owner to submit a completed application and pay the appropriate fee. Upon receipt of the completed application and payment of the license fee, the treasurer or other agent charged with the duty of issuing the dog licenses shall issue a license receipt and a permanent tag.
The treasurer shall remit any rabies vaccination certificate received for any animal owned by an individual residing in another locality to the local treasurer for the appropriate locality.
C. Any veterinarian that willfully fails to provide the treasurer of any locality with a copy of the rabies vaccination certificate or the information contained in such certificate may be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10 per certificate. Monies raised pursuant to this subsection shall be placed in the locality's general fund for the purpose of animal control activities including, but not limited to, spay or neuter programs.
This section shall become effective July 1, 2007.
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Old 01-03-2008
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I attended a conference last year, and one of the attorney's that represents the ASPCA (NY), and helps pass animal legislation in New York gave us some very good information. When charging someone for a crime, sit back and look at all possible charges. The obvious charge isn't always the best one, and may not give you a solid case. Look at your laws and sometimes you'll find one that isn't obvious, but is a slam dunk in court. Many times a crime may fall under different ordinance violations and/or misdemeanors/felonies and sometimes those other charges have stiffer penalties as well.

Like Mark said, the other charge may have been a better choice.
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Old 01-03-2008
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Good Info mark, this is why I like this site.
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