Articles Posted in VA Traffic Offenses

virginia-reckless-driving-lawyerAlthough most Virginia drivers aren’t aware of it, their chance to avoid a Virginia misdemeanor conviction for Reckless Driving took a major blow last month. A proposal to raise the reckless driving threshold to 85 miles-per-hour was defeated in the Virginia legislature in February 2015. Currently, drivers in Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, and the rest of Virginia may be charged with Reckless Driving for exceeding 80 miles-per-hour on Virginia roads. That means keeping up with traffic on I-95, I-66, and the Capital Beltway in Virginia can result in a criminal record for otherwise law-abiding citizens.

As you may know from the Jason Werth reckless driving case in Fairfax County, speeding in Virginia can land you in jail for up to 12 months and cost you up to a $2500 fine.  Jason Werth will only serve 5 days in jail, but for Virginia citizens with no experience with the criminal justice system, that is 5 days too many. The general rule, at least in Northern Virginia, is that any driver who hits 90 miles-per-hour or above on the speedometer will spend a day in jail for every mile-per-hour over 90.  But depending on the facts of the case, and the individual’s driving record, any driver exceeding 80 may be exposed to jail time.

Unlike other traffic offenses, a Reckless Driving charge is considered a Class one misdemeanor in Virginia. Other Virginia Class one misdemeanors: Driving Under the Influence, Assault and Battery, Destruction of Property, Petit Larceny, and Animal Abuse. The proposal in the Virginia General Assembly would have gone a long way towards reducing the number of Virginia drivers subject to a Virginia Reckless Driving prosecution. One of the most vocal opponents of the proposed Reckless Driving bill was, not surprisingly, Virginia law enforcement. Predictably, they claimed that raising the Reckless Driving threshold would result in an increase in accident-related fatalities. Nevermind that there is no statistical evidence backing that up.

Virginia-trafficAs a traffic lawyer in Northern Virginia, I find that the most common question I get from clients charged with reckless driving, dui, and other traffic offenses is: will I get points for that? Of course, they should probably be more concerned with whether they will get jail time, (especially in Arlington County), but everyone seems to worry equally about getting points on their license. And this is a legitimate concern. Excessive points on a Virginia driver’s license can lead to dramatically increased insurance costs and even license suspension. No one wants to give their car insurance company more of their hard-earned cash, and most people don’t want to start taking the bus to work. (Although it’s great for the environment!) So for good reason, Virginia traffic defendants want to know whether they’re going to get points, how many, and what can I do to avoid them.

The bad news is, if you are convicted of a traffic offense, you will automatically be assessed the traffic points assigned to that offense by your friendly neighborhood DMV office. For Virginia DUI, Reckless Driving, or Driving on Suspended License defendants (the Big Three, as I call them), that means six points on your license. It is worth noting that the six demerit points is the same point total assessed for Vehicular Manslaughter, which shows how seriously the Commonwealth takes these commonly charged traffic offenses. In addition, these traffic offenses stay on your Virginia driving record for 11 years, although the points themselves remain for only two years. So that’s the bad news. The worse news is that these points are absolutely non-negotiable. You can’t bargain with the prosecutor, the judge, and certainly not with the always helpful employees of the DMV. If you are convicted of a Virginia traffic offense, you will get points on your license. Period.

But there is some good news. Since, although your Virginia traffic lawyer cannot negotiate your license points, he can help you avoid being convicted of the charged offense. This is done by taking your case to trial, and getting a not guilty verdict, or by successfully negotiating with the prosecutor. Depending on many factors, including the evidence against you, your driving record, and your interaction with the police officer during your traffic stop, the prosecutor may be willing to reduce your serious traffic charge to something that carries fewer or no license demerit points. For instance, a Reckless Driving charge may be reduced to Improper Driving (3 points) or simply a defective equipment infraction (0 points). A Driving on Suspended charge (6 points), may be reduced to Driving Without a License (3 points). Your experienced Virginia traffic lawyer will help you decide whether having a trial or pleading to a negotiated plea is the best course of action.

Continue reading