Traffic Offenses in Virginia – Zealous Traffic Offense Attorney Joseph Yoon of Yoon Law Firm, PLLC, Handles Them All
In Virginia, an officer or trooper must have “Reasonable Articulable Suspicion” (more commonly known as “RAS”) that you committed an offense or violated a traffic law to initiate a stop. If they do not have RAS, then your 4th Amendment Right may have been infringed upon which allows you to be free from Unreasonable Search and Seizure. Basically, an officer or trooper cannot just pull you over because they think you’re up to no good. There are exceptions where an officer makes a mistake, but case law has stated that even when an officer or trooper makes a mistake your 4th Amendment Right are not violated. But that is another area to be discussed altogether.
So, if you’re pulled over for a valid reason, then an officer or trooper can issue you “Summons” which is generally a yellow carbon copy form that states jurisdiction (the county court), your information, the charging officer/trooper, and of course the code section you were charged under.
All traffic charges are generally written under Title 46.2 of the Virginia Code. Although there are exceptions such as DUI/DWI charges which fall under Title 18.2-266 which is under the criminal code, and certain counties, towns and cities can promulgate their own traffic laws. By clicking here: http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title46.2/ you can look up the exact charge you received and see what elements of that offense is required to be proven for you to be found guilty. But, just by clicking on the particular code section will not reveal everything sometimes. In addition to what you find under the code section, certain elements such as the location and evidence that the offense took place in that county and your identity are always required.
Virginia District Courts
The Virginia Commonwealth court system begins with its district courts. Most traffic offenses are heard in these courts since the majority of them are traffic infractions and misdemeanors. Traffic infractions are the ones you, or family and friends probably have had experiences with at some point. These include speeding, and illegal/improper turns; they are essentially the common traffic ticket. The penalties for these offenses are fines (with the amount depending on the charge), and are not deemed to be a criminal offense, thus no possibility of jail time (Va. Code § 46.2-100).
Traffic misdemeanors can be a bit more serious, with harsher penalties, and can include the various charges associated with reckless driving. The charges can go up to Class 2 and Class 1 misdemeanors, which can mean license suspensions, up to 6 months or 12 months of jail time, and fines up to $1,000 or $2,500, respectively. The common factor here for these charges not pertaining to the lesser infractions are jail time. These offenses are considered serious enough to warrant some time behind bars, and a conviction can end up on your criminal record, so the importance of seeking legal counsel is stressed even more here.
Cases heard in district courts can be appealed upwards to Virginia trial/circuit courts, as described below.
Virginia Trial/Circuit Courts
Felony traffic offenses are heard in these courts here in Virginia. It is possible to receive a felony charge for a traffic violation, marked by prison time, even higher fines, and a permanent criminal record if found guilty. You could receive felony traffic charges if you have already been charged with the same offense multiple times before.
Cases heard here can be appealed upwards to Virginia appellate courts, but note that it is typically only allowed for a particular type of purposes, (i.e the judge making a mistake), not just because you wanted to, and are not common.
Guilty Plea vs Fighting the Charge
You can choose to pay the fine; if so, this must be done within the date listed on the ticket or the fees can be increased, and possibly even temporary license suspensions imposed until the fees are paid off. However, by paying your citation, this communicates that you acknowledge you did in fact commit the offense and are taking a guilty plea for it.
This can result in:
- Points on your driving record, which could lead to license-related repercussions. You can visit the DMV website to see the demerit point system here: https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/drivers/#points_assess.asp
- License suspension, if the charge is considered serious enough
- Your auto insurance rates possibly increasing
- Required participation in driving improvement clinics
- Permanent criminal record if it is a criminal charge/matter (for misdemeanors and felonies)
If you do not wish to plead guilty with these consequences, then your next step would be to fight the ticket and plead not guilty. At Yoon Law Firm, PLLC, we stress that all cases are different. Your personal history and circumstances of your charge are different than the ones that we handled before you, and the ones that will follow. You can find out what the next best step is for you and what the subsequent process will resemble by calling for a free, confidential consultation.
Yoon Law Firm, PLLC, conveniently located right by the Fairfax County Courthouse of Virginia, helps clients with traffic offenses in:
Town of Herndon
Town of Vienna
Prince William County
City of Falls Church
United States District Court for the Eastern District Alexandria Division