TYPES OF TRAFFIC OFFENSES IN VIRGINIA

TRAFFIC INFRACTIONS

Traffic infractions are those violations under Title 46.2 of the Code of Virginia that aren’t punishable as a misdemeanor or felony and instead are what come to mind for most people when you mention a traffic ticket. It’s a charge for a non-criminal offense that is handled by paying a fine and sometimes results in demerit points on the person’s driver’s license.

In contrast with a misdemeanor or a felony, a traffic infraction is far less severe and will likely only carry fines, while a misdemeanor or felony would likely carry a jail sentence and impact your criminal record. Additionally, the penalties for an infraction go away eventually, while a misdemeanor or felony (if you are convicted) will stay on your record forever.

Some examples of infractions are:

  • Speeding
  • Driving with a taillight or headlight out
  • Failing to make a complete stop at a red light before turning right
  • Running a red light
  • Following too closely
  • Improper driving

APPEALING AN INFRACTION

Any matter heard in the General District Court can be appealed within ten calendar days. An appeal causes the case to be heard De Novo in the Circuit Court. This means that there will be a completely new trial, as though the first trial had never happened.

TRAFFIC MISDEMEANORS

In Virginia, there are several traffic offenses which are also considered misdemeanors. The most common are:

  •  Driving on a suspended license
  •  Driving without being licensed
  •  Reckless driving
  •  Driving while intoxicated

By the fact that they are misdemeanor offenses, the possible penalties can include:

  • Jail time
  • A fine
  • License suspension

The severity of the penalty is going to depend on the nature of the charge, the defendant’s history and background, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

DEMERIT POINTS

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has established a 3, 4 and 6 point demerit system for assigning demerit points for various moving violations. When you are convicted of a traffic violation, the court notifies the Virginia DM. DMV does the following:

  • Posts the conviction to your driving record
  • Assigns demerit points according to the severity of the offense
  • Issues an order of suspension, if applicable
  • Issues an order requiring the successful completion of a driver improvement clinic, if applicable
  • Notifies your insurance company

TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS AND DEMERIT POINTS

The number of years that the conviction stays on your DMV record is in parentheses beside each violation. Demerit points will also be assigned to your record for traffic convictions incurred other states.

LENGTH OF TIME ON YOUR RECORD

The length of time that a conviction stays on your record depends on the severity of the violation. If you are receiving an order or notice of revocation, suspension, disqualification or cancellation, your conviction could remain on your record for even longer than specified in the lists below.

THREE POINT VIOLATIONS

SPEEDING

  • Speed 1-9 MPH above the posted speed limit ( 5 years )
  • Impeding traffic, slow speed ( 5 years )

PASSING/DRIVING

  • Improper passing ( 3 years )
  • Improper passing on the right ( 3 years )
  • Improper driving ( 3 years )
  • Improper stopping on the highway ( 3 years )
  • Changing course after signaling ( 3 years )
  • Coasting with gears in neutral ( 3 years )
  • Failure to give way in favor of overtaking vehicle ( 3 years )
  • Failure to give way when abreast of another car ( 3 years )
  • Driving through safety zone ( 3 years )
  • Driving over fire hose ( 3 years )
  • Unauthorized use of crossover on controlling highway ( 3 years )
  • Driving/riding on sidewalk ( 3 years )

FOUR POINT VIOLATIONS

RECKLESS DRIVING/SPEEDING

  • Reckless driving – failure to stop before entering a highway ( 11 years )
  • Speeding ( 5 years )
  • Speeding 10-14 MPH above the posted speed limit ( 5 years )
  • Speeding 15-19 MPH above the posted speed limit ( 5 years )
  • Speeding 10-19 MPH above the posted speed limit ( 5 years )

PASSING

  • Passing when unsafe ( 3 years )
  • Passing to the left of approaching vehicle ( 3 years )

STOPPING/YIELDING

  • Failure to drive to the right and stop for police/fire/emergency vehicle ( 3 years )
  • Failure to stop for pedestrian ( 3 years )
  • Failure to stop and yield right-of-way ( 3 years )

SIX POINT VIOLATIONS

RECKLESS DRIVING (FELONY OR MISDEMEANOR)

  • Reckless driving – speeding in excess of 80 MPH ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – speeding 20 MPH or more above the posted speed limit ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – racing ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – passing a school bus ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – passing on the crest of a hill ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – passing at a railroad crossing ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – passing two vehicles abreast ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – driving two vehicles abreast ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – driving too fast for conditions ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – Failing to give a proper signal ( 11 years )
  •  Reckless driving – faulty breaks/improper control ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – on parking lots, etc. ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – with an obstructed view ( 11 years )
  • Reckless driving – generally ( 11 years )
  • Speeding 20 MPH or more above the posted speed limit ( 5 years )

DRIVER IMPROVEMENT

If you are convicted of a moving violation and receive demerit points on your record you may want to consider a Virginia DMV approved driver improvement course. The court may order the course or, depending on your violation you may take the course voluntarily to recover demerit points. Successful completion of the course will recover 5 positive points on your driving record and if taken before your court date may assist you or your lawyer in persuading a judge to reduce or dismiss a charge against you. Be sure that the course you choose is a Virginia DMV approved course to ensure credit and check with the local jurisdiction to ensure whether that court will accept online courses.

IMPORTANCE OF A VIRGINIA TRAFFIC LAWYER

Having a qualified and experienced traffic lawyer fighting on your side is important. Driving is a privilege that many people take for granted until it is taken away and is not something most people would readily give up. Traffic convictions can create a number of problems for most people including losing your license, increased insurance premiums, possible jail, fines, criminal records and even loss of hiring opportunities, jobs or security clearances. Be sure you have a qualified lawyer representing your interests and assuring the best possible outcome for your case. At the Law Office of Michael S. Davis, we would be happy to discuss your situation at no cost and help you determine your best course of action.