Breaking it down
In some cases, it may be worth challenging a traffic ticket to try to avoid jail time, fines, and loss of driving privileges. You may be able to get the charge dismissed or reduced to something less serious under certain circumstances. Possible defenses include:
- Your speeding or other traffic violation was due to a legitimate emergency
- There was an issue with the equipment used to gauge your speed
- The speedometer in your car wasn’t working properly
- The officer didn’t have a legitimate reason to stop you
Sometimes in Virginia a traffic offense is more than a mere ticket, and requires a more considered response than just mailing a check to the court. Paying a ticket — no matter how small the infraction — is an admission of guilt and may result in:
- Points on your driving record for three or more years
- Your driver’s licenses getting suspended
- A criminal record that could affect your ability to get a job, a place to live, or a security clearance
- If the arresting officer thinks your driving was reckless, you could face jail time and hefty fines
Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be defenses available to you to help get the charge dismissed, or to reduce the charge and lessen fines and penalties. A skilled traffic defense attorney can help you determine if one of these defenses might work for you.
- Speedometer Accuracy
If you get a speeding ticket but your speedometer didn’t show that you were speeding, getting your speedometer checked for accuracy (calibrated) may help you avoid or reduce fines or penalties. If you’re facing a reckless driving charge, a difference of even a few miles per hour could make a difference if your speed was close to the threshold considered reckless.A good traffic defense attorney usually can recommend a local mechanic who can calibrate your speedometer and provide the documentation you’ll need for court. You’ll want a certificate that documents the testing and the results your speedometer showed when tested at various speeds — including the speed at which the officer claimed to have clocked you. Oversized tires can result in inaccurate speedometer readings.
- Radar calibration
Virginia Code §46.2-882 allows police to use a laser speed determination device (usually referred to as LIDAR) or a radar device to measure the speed of any motor vehicle. The results of speed determinations using these devices must be accepted as evidence of the motor vehicle’s speed in a court proceeding, and the result is presumed true unless proved otherwise.You’re allowed to question the accuracy of the LIDAR or radar device and whether it was properly calibrated. If you do that, a certificate must be produced in court that shows the device was accurate or properly calibrated. A certificate is only good for six months, so devices must be calibrated that often. A calibration certificate has to show when the device was calibrated, by whom, and has to be a “true copy.” If the certificate isn’t in proper order, that can be a defense to a traffic charge that relies upon radar evidence.
Other possible challenges to evidence from a radar device include whether the officer was properly trained to use the device, or whether the device captured information on the right vehicle when there were multiple vehicles within the area the device was reading at the same time.
- Emergency or Other Circumstance
If you can show that your alleged speeding or reckless driving happened because of a legitimate emergency, such as a medical emergency, you may be able to get your charge dismissed.The idea behind allowing a legitimate emergency as a defense is that you may have had a good reason for driving too fast or in another way deemed reckless, for example, if you’re driving someone to the emergency room for treatment of a life-threatening condition such as a possible heart attack or stroke.
- Good Driving Record
If you have a good driving record, a good traffic defense lawyer may be able to convince a judge to reduce your charge to a less serious offense or reduce the penalties so you may pay less in fines and end up with fewer points on your license.
Facing a traffic violation defense in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with a traffic violation 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.