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Traffic Violations in Va

One the more mundane cases for an attorney but the most encountered offense for the general public is the traffic ticket. 

As anyone with a driver’s license can attest, just receiving a traffic ticket is embarrassing enough without having to appear in court at a later date.  Which is probably the most compelling reason many offenses are pre-payable; they are counting on you to simply pay the ticket to avoid the embarrassment of a trial.  But how does a traffic violation compare with a criminal offense and when is it advisable to hire an attorney to fight a traffic ticket? Most traffic tickets are moving violations that show up on your driving record with points attached but some are simple infractions that don’t carry points.  Expired inspection stickers, expired registrations and equipment violations are examples of infractions that don’t carry points on Virginia driving records.  These types of offenses do not require actual movement of your vehicle and are therefore considered “non-moving violations.” Because the operator’s driving skills are not involved, Virginia DMV does not apply points against the driver even though they do get listed on driving records. Insurance companies however may consider non-moving violations as an excuse to increase your rates so they should be avoided if possible.  In most instances a court considers later compliance as a reason to dismiss a nonmoving violation.  By providing proof to the court of a valid new inspection or otherwise fixing the problem cited on the ticket you may be able to keep many nonmoving violations off your driving record.  In most instances an attorney is overkill for a non-moving violation unless there is a material fact at issue, such as the officer issuing the wrong ticket, or in situations where you are unable to appear at trial and an attorney can be used to present evidence of compliance to the court in your absence. Otherwise most nonmoving violations can be handled without attorney assistance.  Be aware there are some nonmoving violations that are also criminal offenses such as using a fraudulent inspection sticker. In those instances an attorney’s assistance is advisable.    Moving violations carry points on Virginia DMV records; they include speeding, improper lane changes, failure to obey highways signs and so forth.  Because the violation involves the operator’s driving skills Virginia DMV assigns negative points to such violations and deducts those points from the operator’s driving record. (You can visit Virginia’s DMV website to find the points assigned for any particular moving violation.)   In Virginia a new license holder begins with zero points.  The DMV then adds points every year or so that a driver goes without receiving a moving violation, the maximum good points being +5.  The DMV also deducts points for every moving violation a driver receives, which if enough are accumulated could result in a DMV imposed suspension of driving privileges. Moving violations are usually more difficult to prove at trial and therefore an attorney’s assistance can prove useful.  Even in situations where the evidence seems overwhelming an attorney may be able to help you get a charge reduced if not dismissed.  It is therefore smart to talk to an attorney who practices in the jurisdiction you have been charged before simply throwing in the towel and pre-paying a moving violation.  By the way, if you pre-pay a ticket for a moving violation you are admitting guilt and the violation along with the negative points will show up on your driving record.  While most moving violations are only punishable by a fine there are some that carry the possibility of a jail sentence. It is very important to fully understand the nature of the offense you are charged with before deciding to how to handle your traffic ticket so, once again, an attorney’s assistance can be very helpful. Some moving violations are also criminal offenses; these include reckless driving, driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license.  Because these violations carry the possibility of a jail sentence upon conviction it is highly advisable to seek a consultation with an attorney. Many jurisdictions in Virginia require a defendant to appear at trial if they have been charged with a criminal violation but there are some jurisdictions that will waive your appearance and allow an attorney to appear on your behalf for charges such as reckless driving by speed.  I’ve discussed criminal moving violations in past blogs and for further information on such offenses I would recommend a quick review of past posts.    Despite the myriad traffic offenses on the books there is one factor that unites them all; a failure to pay fines.  If you are convicted of a traffic offense and fail to pay your fines within thirty days of conviction, the DMV may suspend your driving privileges in Virginia. Once suspended if you are caught driving you could be charged with a criminal offense.  This includes nonpayment of nonmoving violations as well so however you decide to handle your ticket be sure to timely pay your fines if you are convicted.


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