Let’s face it, most drivers who have been driving for any length of time don’t have a perfect driving record with no tickets whatsoever. Some people do, and that’s great for them. But those people aren’t visiting traffic attorney website. If you are here, you want information about your traffic ticket and what it means for you. Garrett Law Group, PLC is here to help you, to provide you information, and if you need it, help to fight your traffic ticket.
Serious Traffic Misdemeanors in Virginia
In Virginia all Class 1 and Class 2 misdemeanor offenses carry the possibility of a jail sentence. For Class 1 misdemeanor, the punishment may be a fine of up to $2500 and/or a jail sentence of up to 12 months; a Class 2 misdemeanor carries a fine of up to $1000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 6 months.
There are several driving offenses in Virginia which have been elevated from a traffic infraction to a misdemeanor criminal charge. On these serious traffic charges, you face not only the fines and possible jail time mentioned above, but the judge has the discretion, and sometimes they are required by law, to suspend your driver’s license. In fact, some offenses, like driving under the influence and eluding, may be charged as a felony in certain circumstances.
Reckless driving can be charged for a several of reasons in Virginia. The most common reason is speeding by twenty miles or more over the speed limit. Other reasons include passing a stopped school bus, and racing. All reckless driving charges in Virginia are a Class 1 misdemeanor. For more information on reckless driving click here.
Aggressive driving in Virginia is a Class 2 misdemeanor. Aggressive driving charges involve incidents that may be considered “road rage”, such as following too closely or tailgating or passing on the right side of the road.
Under some circumstances, you may think you are obeying regular traffic laws, when in fact, you are violating Virginia traffic laws. For example, if you are traveling in the left lane of two-lane traffic, and you are traveling abreast of another vehicle at the same speed in the right lane, you are required to move to the right to allow a car behind you to pass you. If not, YOU, not the car wanting to pass you, may be charged with a misdemeanor criminal traffic offense.
If you have a suspended driver’s license, you may not drive in Virginia. Period. There are no exceptions. Even under emergency circumstances, the law in Virginia does not allow you to drive without a valid license. The only exceptions under emergency circumstances involve the penalty for being charged but an emergency is not a defense to the charge itself.
It may sound odd, but one of the mandatory penalties for driving on a suspended license is an additional suspension of your license. This additional suspension time will not begin to run until the initial reason for suspension, or that initial suspension period, has ended. For example, if your license is suspended indefinitely because you failed to have car insurance, once you have notified the DMV with your insurance information, that additional suspension period may begin.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving Under the Influence is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and carries significant, mandatory penalties. The judge is required by law to impose certain punishments to anyone convicted of DUI in Virginia: 1) mandatory minimum fine, 2) mandatory license suspension, 3) mandatory ignition interlock period, and 4) mandatory completion of ASAP.
Under certain circumstances, the judge is required to impose mandatory jail time. If the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.15 or above, the law in Virginia requires to judge to impose a mandatory jail sentence of five days; if the BAC is above 0.20, the mandatory minimum jail sentence is ten days. For anyone convicted of DUI, regardless of the BAC level, and they were transporting a child, 17 years old or younger, there is a mandatory jail sentence of five days. If someone is charged with a second DUI offense within 10 years, there is a mandatory jail sentence of 10 to 20 days.
For a felony DUI conviction, a third or subsequent offense, you could lose your car! The law in Virginia allows the prosecutor’s office to file for forfeiture of your vehicle if you were driving it when charged with the DUI.
Anyone who fails to stop for a police officer upon receiving a visual or audible signal may be charged with eluding. Eluding is a Class 2 misdemeanor in Virginia. In additional to the penalties for a Class 2 misdemeanor, the judge is required to suspend the driver’s license for at least 30 days.
Why You Should Take a Virginia Traffic Infraction Seriously
Minor traffic tickets like speeding, running a red light or following too closely are traffic infractions in Virginia. You are not required to appear in court for a traffic infraction. You are only required to be present in court for more serious driving offenses. Because you don’t need to go to court, most people think a traffic ticket is no big deal. They prepay the fine by sending a check, or they pay the ticket online. If they fail to pay the ticket before the court date, they will typically be found guilty in their absence and assessed a fine, and sometimes the judge will assess additional court costs for not appearing and you had not prepaid the ticket.
Understand that prepaying a ticket is a guilty plea and you will be found guilty of the traffic offense. Being found guilty of a traffic infraction results in not only a fine, but negative points on your Virginia driving record. If you accumulate too many points over a short period of time, even for simple speeding tickets, the DMV may require you to attend a traffic school, or they may administratively suspend your license. The accumulation of negative points may also cause your car insurance rates to go up, and if you have to many points, your insurance carrier may drop you!
Additionally, if you were to receive a more serious traffic charge in the future, any traffic infraction conviction on your Virginia Driving Record may be considered by the judge to enhance or increase your punishment for that serious traffic charge. A judge is also less likely to cut you a break on the serious traffic offense by reducing that offense to a lesser infraction or maybe even dismissing it if you have one or two previous traffic infractions convictions.
How Garrett Law Group, PLC Can Help You
Attorney James Garrett has been practicing in front of the Norfolk judges for over 15 years. He knows what they like to see and what they want to hear. His experience and expert legal counsel will put you in the best position possible so that you get the best result possible in your Norfolk traffic case.
If you want to find out more about how we may be able to help you, contact us for a free consultation. We’ll tell you more about what you can expect from your case and give you a sense of the defense strategies we think will work best.