Breaking it down
Pleading guilty to a traffic infraction in Virginia can have implications you don’t foresee when you pay the ticket. A traffic defense attorney may be able to help you consider other options to avoid impacts on your life.
- You may get demerit points on your driver’s license or even a license suspension
- Your vehicle insurance rates may go up
- Your job or security clearance might be affected
- A guilty plea may be used against you if you got the infraction because of an accident and the other driver or injured passengers sue you
When you pay a Virginia traffic ticket, you’re also pleading guilty to the offense with which you were charged. That guilty plea can have a number of ripple effects. It may be worth discussing your options with an experienced traffic defense lawyer before paying the ticket if you want to avoid impacts to your driving record, insurance rates, or other parts of your life.
Most Virginia traffic offenses will add demerit points to your driver’s license when you plead guilty or are convicted. Offenses may be assigned three, four, or six points, and stay on your record from three to 11 years, depending on the seriousness. Some offenses stay on your driving record permanently.
When you accumulate 12 points within a year, or 18 points within two years, the Department of Motor Vehicles will make you take a driver improvement clinic. Failing to complete the course within 90 days results in your license being suspended.
Getting 18 points within a year, or 24 points within two years, results in a 90-day suspension and requirement to complete the driver improvement course.
If you have a job that requires a clean driving record, pleading guilty or being convicted of a traffic infraction could affect your employment. Some traffic infractions also can affect your ability to get or keep a security clearance, which can affect your employment.
When you plead guilty to a traffic infraction in Virginia, it’s possible your insurance rates may increase. Whether that happens — and how much they go up — will depend on your vehicle insurance carrier, your previous driving record, and other possible factors.
Different insurance carriers weigh offenses differently than each other, and differently than the points applied to your license by the Department of Motor Vehicles. It might be worth asking your insurance company how a given offense may affect your premiums before paying the ticket and pleading guilty. It’s possible the additional insurance costs over a few years might be more than the cost of fighting the ticket.
If you got the ticket because of an accident — a ticket for following too closely because you rear-ended someone, for example — then pleading guilty also may be used against you if the other driver or injured passengers decide to sue you for compensation for their injuries or property damage.
Likewise pleading “no contest” — which means you’re not admitting guilt, but conceding enough evidence exists to convict you — will not protect you from being sued in a civil lawsuit.
Need help with traffic defense in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with a traffic offense in Virginia, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our Roanoke office, call us at (540) 343-9349.