Traffic Offenses

 

Traffic offenses cases can be very complicated.  Each case is unique.

Whether you have been charged with Reckless Driving, Hit and Run, Driving on a Suspended License, Speeding or any other traffic offense, a conviction can have serious ramifications on your privilege to drive and, in certain circumstances, lead to incarceration. Many people charged with traffic offenses focus on the "traffic" and not the "offense." They fail to give these charges the attention they deserve. The fact is that many traffic offenses can be very serious.

Reckless Driving

Unlike many states, Reckless Driving in Virginia is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and can carry up to 12 months in jail and or a fine of not more than $2,500.00. There are actually 14 different statutes in Virginia that define different types of Reckless Driving. There is a "general rule" Reckless Driving statute which states, "Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving." Virginia Code Section 46.2-852. There is another statute that states, "A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit." Virginia Code Section 46.2-861. Then there are more specific acts that constitute Reckless Driving. Here are a few:

Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve - Virginia Code Section 46.2-854

Passing a stopped school bus - Virginia Code Section 46.2-859

“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control or which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes on any highway in the Commonwealth." Virginia Code Section 46.2-853.

And then there is the situation where the driver believes they are getting just a speeding ticket. However, driving certain speeds in Virginia constitute reckless driving. Specifically, "A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit." Virginia Code Section 46.2-862.

A conviction for Reckless Driving can bring with it some unappealing consequences. A judge can suspend your license as part of your sentence. If your license is suspended by the judge, they do have the ability to issue you a restricted license for certain things including (but not limited to) driving to and from work, religious services and daycare. But it is not automatic you will get a restricted license. In some circumstances, you could be looking at jail. It will also hit you in the pocketbook. You will have to pay court costs, more often than not a fine and it’s a good bet your insurance will go up.

Reckless Driving Convictions and Effects on a CDL

If you have a Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”), a reckless driving conviction can be devastating. You may end up losing your CDL if you are convicted of reckless driving while driving a commercial vehicle or you are convicted of reckless driving while driving any vehicle and you are convicted of another serious traffic offense within 3 years.

You can also lose the ability to drive a commercial vehicle if your regular license is suspended for a conviction you obtain for driving a non-commercial vehicle. For example, if you are convicted of Reckless Driving while driving your personal vehicle, the judge has the power to suspend your license for a period of time. As mentioned above, the court can grant a driver a restricted license for certain purposes if the person is otherwise eligible. However, even if the court grants you a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work or even during work hours for work purposes, you will not be able to drive a commercial vehicle. Bottom line, you can’t get a restricted license for a CDL.

A Reckless Driving charge is serious. A conviction can have far reaching effects on your freedom, livelihood and pocketbook.

Driving on a Suspended License

Driving on a Suspended License or Driving After Being Declared an Habitual Offender are Class 1 misdemeanors. Depending on your driving history, if you are convicted of one of these charges, you can be looking at a significant period of mandatory incarceration and a further period of suspension of your driving privilege. Other seemingly less serious offenses can add up over time and lead to license suspension and costly fines. Your license can also be suspended for other reasons such as failing to pay child support.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles keeps track of your driving record. Every time you are convicted of a moving violation, you'll receive a certain number of points on your record which will count against your license. Too many points within a certain period of time can result in some or all of the following: your license being suspended, fines, attendance and completion of driver improvement clinics and/or higher insurance rates.

Suspended or Revoked or Neither

Is your license suspended or revoked? Some may use the terms interchangeably but there are differences. Driving is a privilege, not a right. That privilege can be taken away by the state either temporarily or permanently. A suspension is a temporary withdrawal of your privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Once you comply with the terms of your suspension, including all reinstatement requirements, DMV will reinstate your driver's license. A suspension may result for many different reasons, including, but not limited to:

Failing to pay court fines and costs for convictions for motor vehicle related or non-motor vehicle related violations
Failing to either:
Properly insure and maintain insurance coverage, as required by law, on a motor vehicle that was issued valid license plates

OR

Pay the required uninsured motor vehicle fee
Failing to complete a driver improvement clinic
Failing to pay child support
Failure to pay jail fees
A court order based on a reckless driving conviction
Providing alcohol to a minor or intoxicated person
Excessive accumulation of demerit points related to convictions for traffic violations (Driver Improvement (DI) Program)
The presence of a physical and/or mental condition that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle
Failing to satisfy an outstanding judgment related to a motor vehicle crash.

A revocation is the complete termination of your privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Once you comply with the terms of your revocation, as part of your reinstatement requirements, you will be required to take all applicable knowledge and skills tests and pay for a new license. A revocation may result for various reasons, but is typically related to convictions for very serious traffic violations or criminal offenses. Revocation reasons include, but are not limited to:

Driving while intoxicated
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Driving while suspended or revoked for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from driving a motor vehicle
Taking a driver's license test for another person, or appearing as another person to renew his or her license
Providing false information in order to obtain a driver's license
Non-motor vehicle related drug violations
Making a bomb threat
Felony violations in which a motor vehicle was used
Failure to stop and disclose your identity at the scene of a crash
Three demerit-point convictions for violations (including safety belt and child restraint violations) committed while under age 18

There have been recent cases where persons who were convicted of Driving on a Revoked or Suspended License had their convictions overturned. Those cases addressed the differences of revoked and suspended licenses and the length of time they run. Although the court viewed a court-imposed suspension as different from a license revocation imposed by the DMV, both sanctions extend for a designated period of time. The defendants in those cases may have seemed as if they had suspended and / or revoked licenses, but they actually were only driving without licenses.

For further reading of these cases, click on the links below for the Court of Appeals' decisions:

http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opncavwp/1027144.pdf

https://law.justia.com/cases/virginia/court-of-appeals-unpublished/2015/1957-14-3.html

But most importantly, in all cases dealing with license suspension, it has to be shown that the defendant had knowledge they were suspended at the time. A case can center on whether the Commonwealth can or cannot prove this fact.