If you have been charged with a traffic violation, such as reckless driving or speeding, in the Richmond or central Virginia area, it is important that you immediatley contact an experienced local attorney that specializes in traffic law. Many traffic violations are criminal offenses. It is often possible ,however, under many circumstances, with the assistance of a good attorney, to have many criminal traffic offenses reduced to non-criminal infractions or even dismissed.
The Virginia Point System
In Virginia, a reckless driving violation is a six (6) point offense and will be on your driving record for 11 years. The same applies to a DUI/DWI (drunk driving) conviction in Virginia as well as a conviction for driving while suspended. Virginia speeding tickets fall into three categories. A reckless driving by speed ticket is a six point violation and stays on your Virginia driving record for eleven (11) years. A 10-19 mph Virginia speeding ticket is a four point offense and will be on your Virginia driving record for five years. A 1-9 mph Virginia speeding ticket is a three point offense and stays on your Virginia driving record for three years. In Virginia if you accumulate more than 18 points in one year or 24 points in two years the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license. For more information on demerit points contact the VA DMV.
The Effect of a Virginia Ticket on an Out-of-State Driving Record
Generally speaking, a ticket in Virginia will be treated (in terms of assessing points) in the home state of an out-of-state driver as if the offense occurred in the home state. For example, if you are convicted of driving 9 mph over the speed limit in Virginia that is a three (3) point offense in Virginia. However, if in your home state the same offense would carry two (2) points, you would normally be assessed only two points by the division of motor vehicles of your home state. Please note that this is a general rule and the specific effect of a Virginia traffic conviction should be verified with the division of motor vehicles in your home state and/or a lawyer licensed to practice in that jurisdiction. If you have received a ticket in Virginia and are an out-of-state driver, you should contact me for a thorough analysis of your situation.
There a number of ways that reckless driving can be charged and/or prosecuted in Virginia. The following are the reckless driving statutes in Virginia:
VA Code 46.2-852 Reckless Driving - General rule
VA Code 46.2-853 Reckless Driving - Failure to maintain control - faulty brakes
VA Code 46.2-854 Reckless Driving - Passing on or at the crest of a grade or curve
VA Code 46.2-855 Reckless Driving - Driver's view obstructed or control impaired
VA Code 46.2-856 Reckless Driving - Passing two vehicles abreast
VA Code 46.2-857 Reckless Driving - Driving two abreast in a single lane
VA Code 46.2-858 Reckless Driving - Passing at a railroad crossing
VA Code 46.2-859 Reckless Driving - Passing a stopped school bus
VA Code 46.2-860 Reckless Driving - Failure to give proper signals
VA Code 46.2-861 Reckless Driving - Driving too fast on highway for conditions
VA Code 46.2-862 Reckless Driving - Exceeding speed limit by 20 mph or driving in excess of 80 mph
VA Code 46.2-863 Reckless Driving - Failure to yield right of way upon entering highway
VA Code 46.2-864 Reckless Driving - Parking lots
VA Code 46.2-865 Reckless Driving - Racing
VA Code 46.2-865.1 Reckless Driving - Causing death or injury to another while racing
VA Code 46.2-866 Reckless Driving - Racing aiders or abettors
VA Code 46.2-868.1 Reckless Driving - Aggressive Driving
Reckless Driving - General rule - VA Code 46.2-852
Reckless driving can be charged under the general rule if an individual drives a vehicle in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person.
Law enforcement officers sometimes charge the individual that appears to be at fault in a serious traffic accident with reckless driving under this code section. However, one can be charged with reckless driving under this code section even if there is not an accident. With the help of a skillful advocate, this charge can often be reduced to the lesser included offense of improper driving or dismissed altogether. Improper driving (VA Code 46.2 - 869) is merely a three point traffic infraction and it is not a criminal offense. It will be on a Virginia driving record for three years.
Reckless Driving By Speed
Reckless driving can also be charged as a result of excessive speed i.e., 81 m.p.h. or faster in a 65 or 70 m.p.h speed zone or 20 m.p.h faster than the speed limit in all other speed zones. In Virginia, reckless driving is considered a criminal offense. It is a class one misdemeanor which means it the maximum punishment is 12 months incarceration and/or a $2,500 fine and/or 6 months license suspension.
As a practical matter most people convicted of reckless driving do not go to jail, however, some Judges begin to impose jail time at speeds of 90 m.p.h. or greater. At speeds of 100 m.p.h. or faster jail time is a strong possibility.
Context Is Important With Reckless Driving By Speed
The time of day the offense occurred, traffic conditions, weather, number and age of passengers, or the lack thereof, and, the presence of aggressive driving behavior, all are important factors that can influence the outcome of a reckless driving by speed case. The demeanor of the defendant towards the law enforcement officer also strongly influences the outcome of a reckless driving case. If you were polite and cooperative with the officer, that will help your case. If the police testify that you were uncooperative, it will be more difficult to have the charge reduced or dismissed.
If there is any chance that your speedometer is not reading accurately, get it calibrated by a licensed mechanic. If it is reading slower than the vehicle is actually traveling that can be an important factor in your case. A speedometer calibration certificate must be notarized to be admissible evidence in court in Virginia. If the tires on the vehicle are not factory issue tires it is a good idea to get a calibration.
What about Driving School?
Judges sometimes refer defendants to driving school and will either dismiss the charge or reduce it upon completion. Generally speaking, the person charged must have a perfect or near perfect driving record, never been to driving school before or within the last five years, and the alleged offense cannot be too aggravated or egregious. If you have more than one or two traffic violations on your record and/or are alleged to traveling faster than 90 m.p.h., in most jurisdictions you are probably not going to be referred to driving school. It is best to contact an attorney before enrolling in driving school prior to your court date because policies in reference to driving school vary from court to court.
Does Driving School Have to be taken in VA?
No. Most Judges will accept any driving school accredited by AAA or The National Safety Council or your state's DMV. For Virginia drivers the voluntary completion of driver improvement course results in five positive points being added to their driving record. In addition, many judges will accept online courses.
Community Service & Character Reference Letters
For serious offenses, sometimes it is advisable for the defendant to perform community service prior to the trial date to help mitigate the sentence. Character reference letters from current and former employers, and/or professors and teachers, and/or civic organizations are also helpful in this regard.
Highway Safety Corridor Violations
Virginia Highway Safety Corridors are portions of Virginia's interstates designated by the Virginia Department of Transportation or VDOT for enhanced enforcement of traffic infractions. Customary fines for traffic offenses in these zones are doubled. In addition, the maximum fines for noncriminal traffic offenses such as speeding are increased from $250 to $500, and minimum fines of $200 are imposed for criminal traffic offenses such as reckless driving.
For commercial drivers a speeding or reckless driving ticket is more than just an annoyance, it threatens their livelihood. Many of my clients are commercial truck drivers and I understand the importance of maintaining a clear record and keeping a commercial driver's license active. Commercial Driver's that are charged with speeding or reckless driving while driving either a commercial motor vehicle or their own personal vehicle cannot be referred to driving school. A victory in these types of cases would be a dismissal or a reduction to a non-moving violation such as defective equipment or a non-criminal offense such as non-criminal simple speeding.
Under VA Code 46.2-341.18, a conviction for a DUI or Refusal will result in an automatic one year disqualification of a CDL. Under VA Code section 46.2-341.20, two convictions of any combination of Reckless Driving, Following Too Closely, Improper Lane Change or Speeding 15 over within a three year period will result in a 60 day CDL disqualification even if the CDL holder was not driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense. Three convictions for the aforementioned violations within a three year period will result in a 120 day disqualification. If you are a CDL holder it is very important that you hire a Richmond traffic attorney experienced with representing CDL drivers. A large part of my practice is focused on representing CDL holders charged with traffic offenses in the Richmond, VA and central Virginia areas.
Driving with a Suspended License
If you have been charged with driving on a suspended or revoked operator's license it is very important to have an attorney represent you. Most Judges will impose jail time for a second offense and a third offense has a mandatory minimum ten day jail sentence. Sometimes this charge can be amended as the result of plea agreement or by the Judge to VA Code 46.2-300 - No Valid Operators License (a 3 point class 2 misdemeanor) or VA Code 46.2-104 - No License in Possession (a 0 point non-moving violation). These amendments can help prevent additional license suspension or active jail time.
I represent individuals charged with driving after being determined to be a habitual offender. If you are a habitual offender and have not been convicted of any traffic infractions for three to five or more years I can petition the court to have your operator's license reinstated or a restricted permit issued.
The Advantages of Local Representation?
Working as a public defender and in private practice representing thousands of individuals charged with traffic violations has given me insight into how the courts adjudicate traffic offenses. Many of my out-of-state clients just passing through Virginia are not aware that some common traffic violations are criminal offenses. It is essential that any traffic violation be addressed in a timely and professional manner. If your license is in danger of being revoked, contacting an attorney immediately presents you with the best opportunity to safeguard your license.
I represent people charged with offenses in Richmond Virginia and the surrounding areas including the cities of Southside and Central Virginia including the City of Petersburg, the City of Hopewell, the City of Colonial Heights, and Chesterfield County, Henrico County, Dinwiddie County, Hanover County, Goochland County, New Kent County, Caroline County, and Prince George County. I often provide legal advice to those living outside the state who have received a violation on a Virginia roadway. I appear in court on their behalf and defend them against the alleged offense(s) they are charged with.
I have extensive experience representing individuals charged with traffic violations. I am familiar with local courts and know what clients can expect in different jurisdictions. I can help you avoid the serious consequences that can potentially accompany a conviction for a traffic infraction in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Right of Appeal
In Virginia, you have the right to appeal your case, if it is a misdemeanor, to the Circuit Court after it has been adjudicated in the General District Court. This is an automatic right and your request for an appeal will always be granted if you have notified in writing the General District Court of your desire to appeal the case within ten (10) days after it has concluded. The appeal will result in a trial de novo i.e., a brand new trial in the Circuit Court. There is the right to a trial by jury on appeal and the possibility of getting a result that is better or worse than the result of the original hearing. In many jurisdictions, the prosecutor does not get involved with traffic violations , but if there is an appeal, they usually do get involved. This is strategically useful for a defendant because it opens up the possibility of negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Plea agreements are beneficial to the accused because there is always risk involved with a trial and an agreement usually eliminates most of that risk.
A Petition for a Rehearing
If a petition for a rehearing is filed with a General District Court within 60 days of the trial date, the Judge may grant a rehearing to retry the case. Please note that ,unlike an appeal, this is not an automatic right but merely a discretionary measure that is used under extraordinary circumstances.
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