Drivers often underestimate the seriousness of traffic violations in Virginia. Although minor traffic tickets are less serious offenses than misdemeanors and felonies, they can still negatively impact your driving record and cause your insurance premiums to increase. Certain traffic infractions can result in the revocation or suspension of your driver’s license, while traffic misdemeanors and felonies carry much stiffer penalties. Fauquier County traffic law defense attorney John C. Clark, Esq., of Walker Jones, PC, represents drivers throughout Virginia, as well as out-of-state drivers, who have been charged with all kinds of traffic offenses. If you have been ticketed or arrested for any traffic offense in Virginia, here is what you need to know.
Virginia Traffic Infractions
Common moving violations that lead to traffic tickets in Virginia include:
- Running a red light
- Running a stop sign
- Failing to come to a complete stop before making a right turn
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Broken taillights or headlights
- Following too closely to a vehicle ahead
- Improper passing or turning
- Illegal U-turns
- Failing to obey a lane marking
- Failing to obey a highway sign
Drivers ticketed for these types of relatively minor traffic infractions are frequently required to appear in court. The penalties for these traffic infractions typically involve monetary fines and points that will stay on your driving record for years. Many drivers who choose to pre-pay a traffic ticket fine, in the hopes of avoiding a court appearance, do not realize that this constitutes a conviction for the traffic offense that could remain on their driving record for several years. Drivers who pay fines late or receive a certain number of points within a short period of time can have their licenses suspended.
Virginia Traffic Misdemeanors
Certain traffic violations fall into the category of misdemeanors. Some of the more serious misdemeanor traffic violations are driving with a suspended or revoked license, which are Class 1 misdemeanors. The penalties for these offenses include up to one year in jail, fines of up to $2,500, and a 90-day license suspension. A revoked license is more problematic than a suspended license because there are additional requirements that a driver will need to satisfy in order to reinstate the license. A third offense for driving on a revoked license becomes a Class 6 felony.
A reckless driving charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries similar penalties, including significant fines, lengthy license suspensions or revocation, and jail time. Reckless driving involves driving a vehicle on any highway in a manner as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. In Virginia, a person is guilty of reckless driving by driving at speeds of 20 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, or 85 miles per hour regardless of the posted speed limit. A driver may also be arrested for reckless driving by:
- Spinning wheels or “burning rubber”
- Driving a vehicle with faulty brakes
- Driving an overloaded vehicle that obstructs views or controls
- Failing to properly signal
- Driving unsafely on parking lots or driveways open to the public.
Examples of illegal passing which may lead to a reckless driving charge include passing:
- A stopped school bus
- Two vehicles at once
- When pedestrians are present
- At a highway intersection
- At a railroad crossing
- On a crest of a hill or slope, or
- When approaching a curve.
A first-offense driving under the influence (DUI) charge is also a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for a DUI conviction can include but are not limited to a fine of between $250 and $2,500, a jail sentence of up to one year, and a revoked license for one year.
Virginia Traffic Felonies
Traffic felonies are the most serious traffic offenses in Virginia. A common traffic offense that is considered a felony in Virginia is a hit-and-run accident where the victim is seriously injured or killed. A hit-and-run felony conviction can lead to a prison sentence of up to 10 years, a $2,500 fine, and a suspended license for up to one year. Another common traffic felony is a third DUI offense, which can carry a mandatory prison sentence of three to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, and a three-year license suspension.
Choose Walker Jones, PC
Traffic tickets and charges can be dismissed or reduced to less serious offenses. Although drivers can represent themselves just like they can in any other criminal matter, it is never advisable to do so, even for traffic cases. Hiring an experienced traffic law attorney is critical to defending any traffic charge, and saves you time and money. In some cases, an attorney can appear in court on behalf of the driver, without the need for the driver to be present. If you or a loved one has been charged with a traffic infraction, misdemeanor, or felony, do not delay. Contact Virginia criminal defense lawyer John C. Clark, Esq. today to discuss your case.