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Some people believe traffic violations are not criminal in nature; however, charges such as Virginia Reckless Driving and Virginia DUI | DWI are class one misdemeanor criminal offenses - they are serious and carry possible jail sentences. 

A conviction may affect one's DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) point rating and may adversely affect one's automobile insurance coverage - either by the insurance carrier increasing the cost of coverage or denying coverage in the future.  Charges such as reckless driving at speeds above 85 mph, DWI, driving under the influence of drugs, and driving on a a suspended / revoked license have the potential to prevent certain professionals from advancement.  

Law Enforcement Personnel | Professional Drivers | Commercial Driver's License Holders - Convictions for Virginia Reckless Driving, DUI and other serious traffic offenses may prevent job opportunities

Persons are advised to review the facts of their case, gather evidence, and prepare for Court with precision. The mission statement in each case is either:

  • winning the case, or if this is not possible,
  • plea bargaining down to a lesser included offense of the original charge
In most jurisdictions in Virginia, particularly Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, and Arlington, the Court does not administer points to one's driving record upon  conviction.  Such points are established by the DMV and administered by them.  The Court cannot increase or decrease the points for a specific offense.  Within 30 days upon final conviction for a traffic violation, either the Clerk of the Court or the Judge will report the convicted person's name, offense and address together with the license plate number of the vehicle to the Department of Motor Vehicles for assessment of points. 

TIPS FOR YOUR COURT APPEARANCE IF YOU CHOSE TO REPRESENT YOURSELF:

  • Obtain a certified copy of your DMV driving record (or your state's driving record if your are not a Virginia license holder).  Have it with you to show the Judge on your hearing date.  If you have a good point rating, your sentence will likely be dramatically reduced from the maximums possible for your charge.  In Virginia, the maximum point balance one may accumulate on the driving record is +5. 
     

    A +5 rating correlates with an excellent driving record in the eyes of most Judges and such point rating may be used to leverage a minimal fine or suspension period.  However, even a person with +5 on their record should proceed with caution for DWI, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving. 

    Additionally, most attorneys recommend their clients attend a safe driving class prior to their court date.  Such safe driving classes, if taken without a Court order, add +5 points to one's Virginia DMV record (VA license holders only). There are certain circumstances when one would not want to attend a safe driving program prior to the Court date.  One such case would be if the Court normally allows safe driving class in lieu of a more serious sentence. 

    Judges in Fairfax and Arlington currently do not impose or consider safe driving class as a sentencing option.  However, some Judges in Loudoun county do offer such option to persons with clean driving records for the previous three years.  However, this option is usually available only to persons speeding less than 85 mph.
     

  • Go to Court at least a week prior to your case and watch a few traffic cases.  If you have no idea where traffic cases are litigated, call the Clerk of the Court and ask.  If you know the process (and the process is different for each court), you will be more confident on your hearing date.
  • Call the Clerk of the Court ahead of time to make certain your case is on the docket.
  • Arrive in the courthouse at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appearance time to familiarize yourself with the courtroom and environment.  You don't need the stress of crowds at the security checks or difficulty in parking to stress you during this time.  Once in the courtroom, pay attention to the cases prior to yours and try to assess the Judges temperament.   Most Judges have sentencing patterns that you can apply to your own case.
  • Wear professional attire - although your presentation may not be a legal issue, it will certainly impress upon the Judge your level of responsibility and respect towards the Court.
  • If you have a lawyer and your lawyer has not met with you prior to the Court date, get a new lawyer quickly.
  • If you are convicted and fined, ask the Judge for 60-90 days to pay the fine and costs if you are unable to financially bear the burden of satisfying the sentence.  In some courts, the Judge determines the length of time you have to pay your fines and court costs.  In other courts, payment deferments are determined and documented by the clerk in the cashiers office.  Keep all receipts related to payments for a period of three (3) years.
  • When you are asked to plead, you have the choice of pleading (1) guilty, (2) not guilty, or (3) no contest.  For all practical purposes, the end result of a no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea (ask your lawyer for the subtle distinction between a no contest plea and that of guilty).  In cases with accidents, most lawyers will recommend a no contest plea for civil issues which may arise after the traffic court hearing.
  • If you plead guilty, have an explanation for why you did what you did.  If you are uncomfortable at public speaking, have the explanation written and read it to the Judge.  Remember to speak clearly and concisely.  Take responsibility for your actions and be contrite.  End your statement with a positive note such as "I apologize for what I did your Honor, it will not happen again - my sterling driving record speaks to my usual driving behavior and this was certainly a one time error."
  • If you plead not guilty and you don't have a lawyer, you will likely be sworn in on the spot and have your case heard by the Judge.  Not all Judges conduct their courtroom with this system.  If you plead not guilty, some Judges move your case to the end of the docket for trials.  Whichever process your Judge implements, when your case commences, be prepared to ask the police officer questions.  The Judge will ask the police officer for his/her version of the facts and then allow you an opportunity to ask the officer questions directly.  This is termed cross examination.  If your charge based on the speed of your vehicle, it is prudent to ask to see the calibrations on the radar.  If the speed was assessed by a pace, it is prudent to question the officer on the methods used for the pace and the length of the pace.  If your charge is driving on a suspended license, notice of your suspension is a paramount issue.  Remember, the burden of proof and production is on the government - the government has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every factor of your charge.
  • Reading the specific code section with which you have been charged is imperative to preparing a defense.  You must understand the elements to government must prove to convict you of the offense.  If you are able to place doubt into the mind of the Judge of any of the elements, the Judge must find you not guilty.
  • Being charged does not mean you will be convicted!