Breaking it down
In Virginia, traffic offenses can be serious felonies carrying jail time and big fines, but even minor infractions can mean black marks on your driving record, or a criminal record that can affect your ability to get a job, a place to live, or a security clearance.
- Paying the ticket and not fighting it is an admission of guilt
- Traffic cases often hinge on subjective evidence and a police officer’s perception of your behavior that an experienced lawyer can help you challenge
- A traffic defense attorney may be able to help fight the charge by showing that paperwork wasn’t properly filed or that a piece of equipment such as a radar gun wasn’t properly calibrated
- A good driving history may help convince a judge to reduce the charge so that you incur less severe penalties — and less of an impact on your wallet or driving privileges
Violating the rules of the road in Virginia can result in something as minor as a ticket with a small fine, or as serious as a felony conviction with jail time and thousands of dollars in fines and costs.
Other possible consequences of conviction on traffic violations are the loss of driving privileges or increased car insurance premiums. When the conviction is criminal, that can affect prospects for employment, housing, or obtaining security clearances. Many people don’t realize that just paying the ticket and hoping the offense goes away actually results in a guilty plea and a permanent criminal record.
An experienced traffic defense lawyer may be able to help get a charge dismissed, or they may very able to have a more serious traffic charge reduced to a minor infraction. It is also possible to challenge the basis of the charge — which often can rely upon circumstantial evidence or a police officer’s subjective perception.
Traffic Offenses in Virginia
Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License — VA Code §46.2-301
Virginia makes it a serious misdemeanor to drive with a suspended or revoked license. Penalties can include up to one year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine, plus reinstatement fees to get driving privileges back. Defenses may be available if there were technical problems with the suspension, proper notice of the suspension wasn’t given, or the police officer didn’t have a legal reason to make the traffic stop that resulted in charge.
Driving without a License — VA Code §46.2-300
Driving without a valid license in Virginia is a misdemeanor crime that can result in six months of jail time and a maximum $1,000 fine on a first offense, and up to a year of jail time and maximum $2,500 fine on subsequent offenses. Defenses to the charge may be available if you have a valid license from a foreign country or another state. An element of the case against you may require proof you moved to Virginia over 60 days ago and have not obtained a Virginia license.
Hit and Run / Leaving the Scene — VA Code §46.2-894 to §46.2-898
Virginia requires any driver involved in an accident involving people or other people’s property to make a timely report. It doesn’t matter if the accident happened on a public street or highway or on private property, or the dollar amount of damage. Any driver or passenger age 16 or older must make a report or ensure a report is made. Under some circumstances, failing to make a report can result in a felony criminal record, years in prison, and thousands of dollars in fines. A driver involved in a wreck in which only his or her own vehicle is damaged does not have to make a report.
Reckless Driving — VA Code §46.2-852 to §46.2-868, §46.2-829
Reckless driving in Virginia encompasses both a general concept of driving behavior that endangers people or property, and a number of more specific behaviors deemed reckless, such as passing a stopped school bus or driving 20 mph over the speed limit. Reckless driving is a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a maximum $2,500 fine, and a possible driver’s license suspension. A good driving history may convince a judge to reduce the charge to a lesser traffic infraction, or to reduce the penalties for a conviction.
Speeding Ticket — VA Code §46.2-870 to §46.2-883
Speeding generally is a traffic violation that involves driving faster than the posted speed limit in a particular area. Speed limits on streets and roads in towns, counties, residential areas, near schools, or on public highways, and other areas vary and are governed by numerous different statutes. The penalty can be a fine up to $250, plus court costs, and demerit points on your driver’s license. Paying the ticket is an admission of guilt. A speeding ticket in Virginia may appear on the home state driving record of an out-of-state driver, and result in additional penalties imposed by the home state.
Other Moving Violations
Virginia has statutes that make a number of other driving behaviors infractions that typically result in either three or four demerit points on a driver’s license that stay on the driving record for three or more years, depending on the infraction.
Moving violations in Virginia include:
- Failing to Obey Highway Sign
- Failing to Yield, Following Too Closely
- Failing to Obey Traffic Signal
- Failing to Obey Highway Marking
- Improper Lane Change
- Improper Backing Stopping or Turning
- Improper Turn
- Improper Passing
- Evading Traffic Control Device
- Driving Wrong Way
- Failing to Drive on Right Side
- Failing to Maintain Lane
- Failing to Keep Right
Facing traffic violations charges 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.