The Answers You Need to Your Frequently Asked Virginia Traffic Law Questions

Many of our clients have little experience with the law, and it can be confusing and overwhelming when facing traffic charges. At Greenspun Shapiro PC, we strive to help every client become as informed and empowered as possible. To that end, we offer our answers to many common traffic questions. Our lawyers discuss the issues you need to know about now, including charges of speeding, reckless driving, driving under the influence, license issues, and other traffic infractions.

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  • What are the possible defenses to a reckless driving ticket in Virginia?

    Reckless Driving ChargesReckless driving charges can have long-term consequences on your life. A conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor and will result in you having a permanent criminal record. However, there are a number of defenses that you may be able to raise—with the help of an experienced reckless driving attorney—that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense with much less severe penalties.

    What Is Reckless Driving in Virginia?

    The Commonwealth of Virginia takes reckless driving very seriously, and there are at least 15 offenses that may constitute reckless driving. Reckless driving generally involves speeding. Here are the most common offenses:

    • Under Virginia Code § 46.2-862, you may be charged with reckless driving for driving over the speed limit by 20 miles per hour or more or in excess of 80 miles per hour.
       
    • Under Virginia Code § 46.2-852, it is illegal to drive recklessly or in a way that endangers the life or property of any person. This is a broad catch-all offense that gives the police broad leeway to charge you with reckless driving.

    If convicted of reckless driving, you face a sentence of up to 12 months in jail, a fine of $2,500, and six demerit points on your driving record.

    Defenses That May Help You Beat Reckless Driving Charges

    You will need the help of an experienced attorney to determine what defenses apply to your situation. However, the following are common defenses raised in these cases:

    • Location. The Commonwealth must prove that the reckless driving offense took place in the correct county or city where you were charged. If you were near the border between jurisdictions when you were charged, the officer who charged you may not have had authority to do so, in which case the charges may be dismissed.
       
    • Highway. This is another situation-specific defense. A highway is defined broadly in Virginia to include highways and many public roads. However, if your offense occurred in a gated community or another private roadway, you may not be able to be charged with this offense.
       
    • Radar or Lidar Calibration. If you are charged with reckless driving, the Commonwealth must establish that the radar or LIDAR used to check your speed was properly calibrated and working properly on the date you were charged. The device must have been calibrated within the prior six months, and the officer must have a valid certification that meets specific statutory requirements. The lack of a calibration certificate or a defective one are common defenses raised by experienced reckless driving attorneys that may result in the charges being lessened, or in some circumstances, dismissed.
       
    • Equipment use. Another defense related to the radar or LIDAR speed findings is that the police did not use the equipment properly. Use of these devices requires special training and experience. An experienced lawyer may be able to challenge how the officer used the device in order to get the reckless driving charge dismissed.
       
    • Your speedometer. In some cases, getting your speedometer calibrated can prove that the speedometer was not working properly and that you were unaware of the speed at which you were traveling. If you plan to claim that you were not speeding, you may have to have your speedometer calibrated. However, in many cases, the calibration shows no inaccuracies, so you want to discuss whether you should spend the money for this with your attorney before having it done.
       
    • GPS defense. A common defense can be that a person’s GPS showed that he was going at a lower speed than the officer claims. This can be a powerful defense. However, for it to be successful, you will need to show proof of the GPS reading at the time you were charged with this offense and proof that the GPS was accurate.

    Let Our Experienced Reckless Driving Attorneys Help

    These are just a few of the defenses that you may be able to raise to beat reckless driving charges. An experienced reckless driving attorney will be able to spot all of the helpful defenses in your case, as well as suggest other actions that you can take to minimize the penalties you face. Call our office today to schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our reckless driving legal team to learn more about your defenses and our extensive experience in these cases.

     

  • I received a ticket for reckless driving in Virginia. What do I do?

    Reckless Driving in VirginiaIf you are charged with reckless driving in Virginia, you may not realize the serious consequences of a conviction, or that you may have options to lessen them. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in Virginia with penalties that include possible jail time and hefty fines. In addition, a guilty plea or plea of no contest would result in a permanent criminal record. Here, we share your options if you receive a reckless driving ticket so that you can minimize the harsh consequences you face.

    What Is Reckless Driving in Virginia?

    Reckless driving is treated seriously in Virginia, and you may be charged with this for more than just speeding. There are at least 15 separate reckless driving offenses, and they include the following:

    Penalties for Reckless Driving

    Reckless driving is a Class I misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. The court may also suspend your driver's license for up to six months. A conviction for reckless driving also results in a permanent criminal record and may hinder your ability to obtain certain employment or successfully undergo a thorough background check. In addition, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will impose six demerit points for a reckless driving conviction, why may in turn lead to higher insurance premiums.

    Options for Handling Your Reckless Driving Ticket

    You have a number of options for handling your reckless driving ticket, but not all are in your best interests. If your goal is to minimize the penalties, some of your choices will not lead to this result. However, it is still useful to know all your options before making the important decision of how to proceed in your case. These include the following:

    • Ignore the ticket. It is never a good idea to ignore a reckless driving ticket. If you do nothing after being ticketed for reckless driving, you may be found guilty by the judge at your hearing in your absence. A warrant may also be issued for your arrest.
       
    • Plead guilty or no contest. Another option would be to appear in court unrepresented and plead guilty or no contest. However, if you do this, you will be found guilty and end up with a permanent conviction. You will have a permanent criminal record that may affect your ability to obtain a job, a professional license, and more.
       
    • Represent yourself. While you may be tempted to represent yourself at your court hearing, the stakes of a conviction are high enough that this option is almost certainly not in your best interests. You may not know the technical requirements for the police officer to prove the charge, and you may be unaware of certain defenses that may apply. Moreover, you may lose out on the opportunity to have an experienced attorney negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution in order to potentially obtain a more favorable outcome.
       
    • Retain an attorney. Your best option is to retain an experienced traffic law attorney who has a record of success in handling reckless driving cases. The attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding your ticket, raise any defenses you may have, and fight to get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.

    Pick the Right Option. Contact Our Office Today

    Were you charged with reckless driving? Make the right choice and contact our experienced Fairfax traffic law attorneys today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation. We will explain your legal options and how we may be able to fight to get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a lesser traffic violation.

     

  • How long do traffic convictions stay on my criminal record?

    Traffic Violations May Result in a Criminal RecordMany people do not realize that traffic violations—even minor infractions—can have long-term consequences beyond just paying a ticket. In Virginia, traffic violations can affect your driving record and your criminal record if the violation is a misdemeanor. Because of this, you do not want to make the mistake of not taking a traffic violation seriously. With the help of an experienced traffic law attorney, you may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to an offense with lesser penalties.

    Common Traffic Violations That Result in Demerit Points on a Driving Record

    There are many minor infractions in Virginia that may not result in a permanent criminal record but will result in you being assessed a fine and demerit points on your driving record. This can also result in dramatic increases in your automobile insurance costs. The demerit points will generally come off your record in two years—but the infraction can remain on your driving record for 3 to 11 years depending on the severity of the infraction. Here are some common traffic violations that you may be charged with:

    • Driving too slowly. Virginia Code §46.2-877 makes it illegal to impede traffic by driving too slowly and comes with a fine and three demerit points.
       
    • Improper turn. Virginia Code §46.2-846 provides that it is a violation to make a right turn from other than the right-hand or turn lane or to make a left turn from other than the lane nearest the center lane. The penalty is a fine and three demerit points.
       
    • Failing to yieldVirginia Code §46.2-820 through 829 makes it a violation to fail to yield the right of way in a variety of driving situations, such as failing to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic when making a left turn. The penalty is a fine and four demerit points.
       
    • Failing to obey a traffic signal. Virginia Code §46.2-833 requires drivers to obey traffic signals. Failure to do so may result in a fine and four demerit points.
    • Failing to obey a highway sign. Virginia Code §46.2-830 requires drivers to obey high signs. Failure to do so may result in a fine and three demerit points.

     

    • Speeding. Virginia Code §46.2-870 through Virginia Code §46.2-875 sets the speed limits on highways and other Virginia roads. Depending on how fast a person is speeding, he may be assessed up to six demerit points and have the conviction remain on his driving record for 11 years.

    More Serious Traffic Violations That May Result in a Permanent Criminal Record

    Some common traffic violations are misdemeanor offenses in Virginia that carry more severe penalties and the risk of a permanent criminal record. A criminal record may affect many aspects of your life, such as your ability to obtain a job, to keep a professional license, to obtain or maintain a security clearance, and to obtain a loan. These violations are serious enough that you must attend court and cannot simply prepay a ticket to avoid appearing in court. Here are some common traffic violations that are misdemeanors:

    • Driving without a license or with a suspended license. Virginia Code §46.2-300 prohibits driving without a license, and Virginia Code §46.2-301 makes it illegal to drive on a suspended or revoked license. This may result in a Class 1 misdemeanor—the most serious misdemeanor—with a penalty of up to one year in jail, $2,500 in fines, and suspension of a driver’s license. Subsequent violations may result in felony charges.
       
    • Reckless driving. Virginia Code §46.2-852 provides that regardless of the posted speed limit that it is a violation of the law to drive recklessly or in a manner that endangers a person. Virginia code §46.2-862 provides that a person may be charged with reckless driving for driving 20 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit or over 80 miles per hour. This is also a Class 1 misdemeanor that may result in jail time, significant fines, and/or suspension of your driving privileges.
    • Hit and run. It is a violation of Virginia Code §46.2-894 for a driver to leave the scene of an accident without stopping to provide contact information and to give help to any injured victims of the wreck. Passengers can also face criminal charges for not reporting the accident when the driver fails to do so, and both the driver and passenger may be charged with other offenses for leaving the scene of an unattended vehicle accident. This can result in a Class 5 or 6 felony or a misdemeanor charge depending on the severity of the accident. Penalties can include a prison or jail sentence, fines, or both.
       
    • Driving under the influence. Virginia Code §46.2-266 prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, or driving under the influence of marijuana or a drug or other intoxicant. A first offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, but under Virginia Code §46.2-270, a third or subsequent conviction can result in a Class 6 felony conviction with a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $2,500 fine. Virginia law also imposes mandatory minimum sentences for certain subsequent convictions, as well as in cases with an elevated blood alcohol level.

    Let Us Help You Fight Your Traffic Charges

    If you just pay your ticket, you need to realize that this is an admission of guilt and has long-term consequences on your driving and criminal record. Even if you believe you are guilty, you may have defenses that may result in the dismissal of the charges or the reduction to a less serious offense. Lack of probable cause to stop you, improper administering of DUI-related tests, and violations of your constitutional rights are a few of the defenses you may have. To learn how we can help you achieve the best possible outcome, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.