As 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.