As Virginia traffic lawyers we are often asked by clients and prospective clients who hold a Virginia driver’s license whether a speeding ticket or other traffic violation received in another state can hurt their Virginia driving record. The answer is yes.
Since at least the late 1990s, many states’ motor vehicle authorities (DMVs) have participated in an information sharing network with one another. Although a new network called the Driver’s License Agreement is expected to become the predominate information sharing hub for most states’ DMVs, the two major networks that many states currently use are the Driver’s License Compact and the Non-resident Violator Compact. Essentially, the way all of these compacts work is that the states that participate in them have agreed to share information with one another concerning traffic convictions (speeding, reckless driving, failure to yield, failure to obey a traffic sign or DUI/DWI, etc…) that have occurred in their state. In particular, these convictions are sent from the convicting state to the state where that person is licensed (often referred to as the “home state”), ultimately ensuring that the person’s driving record is negatively impacted as a result of a traffic infraction regardless of where the infraction occurs.
Perhaps the essence of these compacts is easiest to understand with an example. Assume you live in and are licensed in Virginia, and you decide to take your family on a vacation to Florida. Due to a traffic jam in North Carolina you decide to make up some time by exceeding the speed limit in South Carolina. This plan to make up time is working out well until a police officer pulls you over and writes you a ticket for speeding. Thinking this ticket will not affect your Virginia driving record since it happened in South Carolina you decide to simply prepay the ticket. While that decision may save you some time by not traveling to South Carolina to defend the ticket and some money by not hiring an attorney to assist you with the ticket, the South Carolina DMV will very likely report the speeding conviction to the Virginia DMV. As a result, what you previously believed was a harmless speeding ticket will very likely appear on your Virginia driving record and cost you precious Virginia demerit points.
Although our example involves a speeding ticket, the same concept is true for all different kinds of traffic infractions. And to compound the problem, some people chose not to pay the fine and court costs for a ticket that is issued to them in a state different from where they are licensed. They falsely assume that state’s DMV cannot do anything to harm them or their license status in their home state. Unfortunately for them, their belief is wrong. When the person chooses not to pay the fine and/or court costs that state then suspends that person’s privilege to drive in their state, and then notifies the person’s home state of the suspension. Oftentimes the home state will then not renew that person’s license when the existing license expires due to the suspension pending in the other state.
As a result, it is critically important for people who are charged with speeding, reckless driving, or any other traffic infraction to consider hiring an attorney who can try to get the charge dismissed or reduced to a less serious traffic infraction that results in fewer demerit points, or none at all. Failure to do so will likely have a significant impact on their driving record, even if the ticket is issued in a state other than their home state.