Virginia takes traffic violations very seriously, from driving under the influence to reckless driving by speed it’s not very difficult to end up in jail for dangerous driving. And while it makes sense to impose a jail sentence for risky driving that puts others in jeopardy, sometimes simply getting behind the wheel can result in a jail sentence. A case in point is driving on a suspended license.
Driving on a suspended license is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. That means it’s an actual criminal offense not just a traffic infraction. As a Class 1 misdemeanor, the maximum punishment the court may impose is twelve months in jail with a $2500.00 fine. In addition to a possible fine and jail sentence, if convicted the court will also suspend your license for an additional amount of time; either imposing another suspension for the same amount of time as your previous suspension period, essentially doubling your suspension time, or adding another 90 days. As you could guess, multiple convictions within ten years for driving on a suspended license will only make matters worse. A third or subsequent conviction within ten years for driving on a suspended license will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of ten days in jail. While the court has discretion to impose no jail time for the first two convictions and may simply impose a fine, with a third conviction within ten years the court is required to impose a minimum of ten days. And because those ten days are a mandatory minimum, you will have to serve those ten days in jail without reduction for good behavior. As a criminal offense with a mandatory sentence for a third offense, it is also disturbingly easy to get your license suspended in Virginia. In addition to several traffic offenses in Virginia that can result in your license being suspended by a court, a failure to pay a court fine within thirty days after conviction may also result in a suspended license. Even pre-payable offenses such as an expired inspection or registration can result in a suspended license if the fine is not paid within thirty days after conviction. Unpaid judgments and child support arrears could also result in your license being suspended in Virginia. Considering the multitude of ways your license can end up suspended, it is not uncommon for your first notification to come from the police officer writing you the ticket. Before flaunting a suspension and driving despite, you may want to consider whether driving to your destination is worth the risk. Heading to work is not a legitimate defense. If you’re stopped by law enforcement and cited for driving on a suspended license the officer may not allow you to continue on your way. If your vehicle cannot safely remain parked where stopped, he may have it towed. If you were heading to work before you were pulled, you can imagine how late you’ll be after you’re stranded without your car. If your license was suspended for unpaid fines, the additional fine for driving on a suspended license will only compound your problems. It is all too common for the scenario to continue to snowball and result in a lengthy and very expensive battle to reclaim your privilege to drive. Sometimes people simply give up. If you find yourself facing a suspended license charge, by all means take the time to consult with an attorney. There are hurdles the prosecution must overcome and valid defenses your attorney can discuss with you. Even better, before you find yourself charged, an attorney may be able to help you reinstate your suspended license or assist you getting a restricted license and thus avoid a criminal charge in the first place. In Virginia driving may be a privilege, but driving on a suspended license is a crime.