Virginia Traffic Attorney
From running a red light, to reckless driving, to DUI, the types of Virginia traffic crimes—and the severity of the punishment for breaking traffic laws—vary greatly. If you are pulled over by the Virginia State Police or local law enforcement, you could end up with an expensive ticket or a misdemeanor charge.
Whether you need to fight an unjust ticket or you need experienced defense representation in a criminal DUI or reckless driving case, we can help. We offer assertive defense strategies that can lead to the dismissal of a traffic ticket or criminal case or to reduced charges with minimal impact on your driving record. Call an experienced Virginia traffic lawyer for a free consultation.
Traffic Laws in Virginia
Understanding Virginia’s traffic laws and the penalties for traffic violations and misdemeanor crimes, such as reckless driving and DWI, can be difficult. A violation that results in a relatively minor fine in one state could lead to a criminal conviction in Virginia. Within the Commonwealth, penalties for traffic violations range from simple fines to jail time. For this reason, it is important to consult a criminal defense attorney to help fight your ticket or to provide defense advice and representation in a criminal traffic case.
In most states, including Virginia, DUI or DWI is defined as operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater, although the legal limit is lower for commercial drivers and drivers under the age of 21. Impaired or drunk driving is a significant danger to the intoxicated driver, his or her passengers, and any other people who cross paths with the impaired driver.
Driving while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs is a crime for which the penalties of conviction vary widely. As a first offense, DUI is typically a Class I misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and a year-long suspension of the driver’s license. Repeat offenses and other factors can enhance penalties and elevate a DUI from a Class I misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony.
Because DUI charges can result in such serious penalties, it’s prudent to consult with a local Virginia traffic lawyer who knows the court system in the Commonwealth. If you are an out-of-state driver who was charged while passing through or visiting, a DUI attorney from our firm can even represent you in your absence, minimizing the inconvenience of court appearances whenever possible.
While most people would not consider failure to “give adequate and timely signals” as egregious a traffic offense as DUI, under Virginia law, both offenses are Class I misdemeanors. Failure to properly signal is but one of 13 specific examples of reckless driving defined by the Code of Virginia.
In general, state law defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle at such a speed or in such a manner that it endangers the “life, limb, or property of any person.” Driving too fast for conditions, driving with faulty brakes, passing a stopped school bus, and excessive speed are a few other examples of reckless driving in Virginia.
A reckless driving charge is more than a simple traffic ticket. Anyone found guilty of reckless driving will face not only fines, but also the possibility of up to a year in jail, a 6 month suspension of his or her driver’s license, and 6 demerit points on his or her DMV record. Furthermore, there will be a misdemeanor conviction on a criminal record that can negatively impact security clearance and job opportunities.
Unlike in other neighboring states, reckless driving in Virginia is charged as a serious misdemeanor. The first thing you do upon being charged should be to contact a Virginia traffic lawyer to determine what your defense options may be.
Often, an act that is legally defined as reckless driving is not actually criminally reckless. In many cases, a skillful traffic lawyer can negotiate a reduced charge of improper driving, defined in Virginia Code Section 46.2-869. Rather than a misdemeanor criminal charge, improper driving is a traffic infraction punishable by a maximum fine of $500—significantly lower than the fine and jail time associated with conviction of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The Virginia motor vehicle code lists a number of driving actions that are considered to be “aggressive,” although not necessarily “reckless.” Aggressive driving, like reckless driving, is a criminal offense that potentially carries jail time; however, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor, the maximum penalties of which are somewhat lighter than those associated with reckless driving.
Aggressive driving is defined in Virginia Code Section 46.2-868.1, and it includes the following acts:
- Failure to drive on the right side of highways
- Failure to observe lane markings
- Following too closely
- Failure to yield right-of-way when entering highways
- Evading traffic control devices
- Passing violations
As a Class 2 misdemeanor, aggressive driving is punishable by a maximum of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, aggressive driving may be elevated to a Class 1 misdemeanor if the driver is found to be driving aggressively with the intent to injure another person.
A Virginia traffic lawyer may be able to employ various defense strategies to have your aggressive driving charge reduced to a much lesser offense, which can spare you jail time and the fines associated with a conviction. Call our firm to learn more.
Texting While Driving
While many states have general laws prohibiting distracted driving, Virginia has an explicit texting while driving law enumerated in Virginia Code Section 46.2-1078.1. Texting while driving is punishable by a $125 fine on the first offense and a $250 fine on the second offense. In addition, there is a separate statute that prohibits texting while driving a commercial vehicle, which can incur a penalty of a $2,750 fine and loss of a commercial license. However, both statutes are very specific and texting while driving cases are frequently dismissed because they cannot be proven under the statute.
Traffic Violations and DMV Demerits
In addition to fines and criminal penalties associated with certain traffic violations, almost every traffic infraction is accompanied by some degree of administrative penalty. Serious offenses may bring the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license as an administrative penalty, but even minor violations can trigger demerit points against a license.
The number of DMV demerit points a driver receives and the length of time those points remain on the driving record depend upon the severity of the offense. For example, both speeding 1-9 mph over the limit and impeding traffic through slow speed are 3-point violations that remain on the record for 5 years. Speeding 20 mph or more above the posted limit, however, is reckless driving, a 6-point violation that remains on the record for 11 years. Running a red light is a 4-point violation that remains on the record for 3 years. Here is more information on speeding tickets in Virginia and how a traffic attorney can help.
Interestingly, Virginia not only assesses demerit points for traffic violations, but it also grants “safe driving points” for each year in which a driver has no violations. A driver can earn a total of 5 safe driving points that may offset demerits assessed for traffic infractions. Call a Virginia traffic lawyer to learn about how you can use these safe driving points to your advantage.