Tag: virginia traffic law

Virginia Ranks 7 on List of Most Driving Citations Issued in USA

Virginia Ranks 7 on List of Most Driving Citations Issued in USA

We are usually proud when our institutions, sport teams, cities or states rank nationally in polls.  However, in this instance, being listed in the Top 10 for Most Traffic Citations Issued to Drivers in the US is definitely not something to get excited about.

In a recent national review of data and statistics from StaticBrain.com, Virginia was listed among the top 10 states that issue the most driving citations or tickets. Data was sourced as of September 2016. 

Will Virginia rank in the top 10 for this ominous statistic in 2017 as well?

n 2017?


(Image from StaticBrain.com)

The overall all top 10 for 2016 Most states to issue Traffic Citations list was

#1 Ohio
#2 Pennsylvania
#3 New York
#4 California
#5 Texas
#6 Georgia
#7 Virginia
#8 North Carolina
#9 Massachusetts
#10 Connecticut

That is a lot of states on the east coast. Traveling for work through multiple states or road tripping on the major interstates of the east coast could net you several of these states (and traffic tickets, if you aren’t careful). Problems that can occur when traveling in unfamiliar areas include:

  • Not knowing the local speed limit
  • Not realizing when the speed limit has changed and continuing at a too-fast speed
  • Unfamiliarity with roads which results in making sharp turns, running red lights or driving too quickly through residential areas and school zones

Driving citations can include Reckless Driving, DUI, Speeding or other minor driving infractions.  Each citation, ticket or summons comes with its own set of circumstances to deal with. While speeding tickets or failure to obey a stop sign will add DMV points to your license, (as well as a fine for the court cost and penalty), other cases can result in the loss of your drivers license, significant fines or even jail time.  It is recommended if you have received a reckless driving, DUI, or speeding ticket that your contact an Attorney to discuss your case.

Each state has different procedures. If you are not local and get a traffic ticket in Virginia, the state will notify authorities in your state of these traffic violations. A lawyer can advise you on how to best fight the ticket, perhaps without having to return to Virginia. And if you are a Virginia resident and you get a traffic ticket, would you be willing to travel back to that VA area to contest it? Let’s say you live in Winchester but get a reckless driving ticket in Williamsburg; that is an 8-hour drive roundtrip. Or you live in Roanoke and you get a DUI in Richmond; you need a team that will support you on your day in court. Be prepared and know how the charges against you could impact your driving status and your wallet.

If you are faced with a summons, it is in your best interest to consult a knowledgeable and experienced Traffic Attorney. Call one of our experienced traffic lawyers at 804-355-8037.

Other useful information:

Will my license be suspended if I get convicted of a DUI/DWI?
Is Reckless Driving a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Virginia
How Long with DMV Points remain on my record
How Much will Car Insurance Rate Increase from Emporia Va Traffic Violations
Reasons Why a Lawyer Should Fight Your Emporia VA Traffic Ticket

 

New Virginia Traffic Laws Take Effect in July 2015

In July 2015, the Virginia General Assembly made several changes in the traffic code laws.  These changes in the Virginia Traffic law will affect how drivers should interact with Management Vehicles, Trash Collection Trucks, Postal Delivery Trucks and, Bicyclist.

Please be aware of the new laws, the changes and how you as a Virginia motorist might be impacted.

Vehicles that help with the management of roadside and traffic incidents or perform traffic management services along highways now qualify for Virginia’s “Move Over Law” if the vehicles have flashing, blinking, or alternative amber warning lights.  This means drivers must proceed with caution and, if possible, change lanes before passing one of those vehicles on the highway.

Drivers passing a stopped mail vehicle with flashing, blinking, or alternating amber lights must proceed with caution and drive at a safe speed for road conditions.

Drivers can be cited for following bicycles, mopeds and other non-motorized vehicles too closely.

If a driver wants to pass a trash-collection vehicle that’s stopped on a road with less than four lanes the driver must slow down 10 mph below the posted speed limit and pass at least two feet to the left of the vehicle.

If a driver wants to pass a trash-collection vehicle that’s stopped on a road with at least four lanes – and at least two lanes intended for traffic going in the same direction – the driver must pass in a lane not adjacent to the vehicle and yield the right of way.

Drivers may cross double yellow lines to pass a pedestrian or a device moved by human power, including a bicycle, skateboard or foot scooter, if the movement can be made safely.

John Weiland of The Weiland Firm, PLC believes the impact of these new laws may be significant to some.  “In particular,” he notes, “the change in the move over law is very important because driver’s should now beware that it’s simply a safer move to move over a lane, if possible, and slow their speed when they see anyone using the emergency lane on a Virginia highway.

The Weiland Firm, PLC on Texting and Driving in Virginia

Matt Nelson, a former partner of the firm, was interviewed recently on NBC-12 Local Richmond Virginia about the impact of the new Virginia Texting while driving law.

From the Interview:

When you compare the 725 convictions so far this year with the with the 54,126 reckless driving convictions in a year’s time in 2012, 725 doesn’t seem like much.

“For a new law, I would say no. I don’t think that’s a lot of convictions,” said Matt Nelson. He’s an experienced Richmond attorney who primarily handles traffic cases. He says his firm has not seen an up tick in calls from people asking about the texting and driving law. “It may be that the law as written on the police officers’ prospective is hard to prove,” said Nelson.

Under Virginia’s law, you are not allowed to text, but you are allowed to dial on your phone and to use the GPS navigation system. “On those occasions, it might be hard for police officers when using your phone to determine if you’re actually using your phone to text or to receive an email or to read an email,” said Nelson.

Read more about Virginia Texting and Driving Law here

Virginia Traffic Court: Should I plead No Contest or Guilty?

Virginia Traffic Court: Should I plead No Contest or Guilty?

As Virginia traffic lawyers, we are often asked by clients and prospective clients whether it is best to plead guilty or no contest to a traffic offense such as reckless driving, driving under the influence (DUI/DWI) or speeding.

Not surprisingly, the answer is, “it depends.” First of all, it is always very important to consult with an experienced traffic attorney who has a great deal of experience handling traffic matters in the jurisdiction in which your case is pending before you decide how you should plead to the charge. This is important because some judges have policies that concern what, if any, mercy they will grant an otherwise guilty traffic defendant based on how they plead. Some judges, for example, will not dismiss or reduce a reckless driving charge to a lesser offense against a defendant who pleads not guilty and then asks the court for leniency after the judge finds that the facts established at trial support a conviction.

VA DUI

It doesn’t take too much of an imagination to see yourself involved in a relatively minor accident at a traffic light on your way home from work. It happens to the best of us. But then to add insult to injury that police officer who has been very nice throughout the “crash investigation” informs you that the driver of the other vehicle needs to be taken to the hospital for a possible neck injury, and that he has to charge you with Reckless Driving. “Neck injury?” “Reckless Driving?” You are beside yourself! How is this possible? As the nice officer hands you the summons for Reckless Driving with a court date for you to appear and plead your case to the judge he waves politely and tells you to have a nice day.

You make your appearance in court on the designated court date. Your case gets called and the judge asks you how you plead. “How do I plead?” you think to yourself. It’s a no-brainer. “I plead not guilty, your honor,” you stammer. The judge then listens to the evidence. He hears from the driver of the other vehicle. The other driver indicates to the court that while he is waiting patiently at the red light on a nice slow and easy day, he saw you careening toward his vehicle from his rearview mirror and it appeared that you were distracted by your radio. The next thing he remembers, he informs the court, is that his vehicle was rammed from behind and he had to be transported to the hospital because his neck was in pain. Then the court hears from the officer. The officer testifies that he did not see any tire marks to indicate braking, which led him to believe that you were distracted and did not brake before impacting the other vehicle. “This is unbelievable,” you think to yourself. “This was a minor accident.” And finally it’s your turn to testify. You explain to the court that you were not distracted when you hit the other vehicle. You go on to testify that the light had just turned green and you thought that the vehicle in front of you was beginning to accelerate and so you didn’t brake. By the time you realized they had not gone forward upon the light turning green it was too late and you made minor impact with the other vehicle.

Now it’s the court’s turn. It’s judgment time. The judge explains that he listened to you and all other witnesses intently. And while he understands your position, he finds from the evidence that your conduct meets that prohibited under the Virginia Reckless Driving statute. He’s sorry, he tells you, but he has no choice but to find you guilty.

Notwithstanding your utter disagreement with the judge’s ruling, you explain to his or her honor that you have a perfect driving record and this is the first accident you’ve ever been involved in and you’d like the court to consider reducing this to something less serious than reckless driving. The Court listens patiently as you make your best pitch, but then informs you that it is the court’s policy to not dismiss or reduce Reckless Driving charges (or Following Too Close charges) where an accident is involved and the defendant pleads not guilty. The court enters judgment and you leave the courthouse having been convicted of Reckless Driving.

You’re left stunned. After all, you’re a model citizen who works hard, raises a family and has never been in trouble before. How could you get convicted of Reckless Driving, a class 1 misdemeanor offense, for this fender bender? Well, in part it’s because you didn’t consult with an attorney who has a very clear understanding of Virginia traffic law, the court’s policies and the facts at hand.

Indeed, pleading not guilty or no contest before such a judge could prove to be a very costly mistake, especially to a person concerned about the affect the reckless driving conviction could have on their driving record, auto insurance rates, employment, or driving privileges. To be very clear, however, it can be equally disastrous to simply attend court on such a charge and plead guilty. Under Virginia law, if the driver of that other vehicle decides to sue you for money as a result of the accident and you entered a guilty or no contest plea to the Reckless Driving charge, the other driver’s civil attorney may try to use that plea against you as an admission of guilt.

As you can no doubt see, it this is not a decision to be made lightly. And this same decision process is just as important, if not more important, when dealing with other traffic offenses such as DUI/DWI or Hit and Run. It is very important to consult with an attorney that focuses his or her practice on traffic and DUI/DWI matters.

If you have any questions, please contact our firm at (804) 355-8037.

Virginia’s New Anti-Texting Law

Virginia’s New Anti-Texting Law

As of July 1, 2013, it is unlawful to use a handheld personal communications device, like an iPhone, to send or read text messages or emails while operating any moving motor vehicle. Motor vehicles include cars, trucks, motorcycles, and, under certain circumstances, mopeds. A person found guilty of texting while driving will be fined $125 for a first offense and $250 for a second or subsequent offense. A violation of the anti-texting law is a traffic infraction and not a crime. Once the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles receives notice a Virginia licensed driver is convicted of the anti-texting law, it will assess three negative demerit points to the driving record of the person convicted.

Va-Law-Texting-Driving-Illegal

It is important for persons driving in Virginia to understand what the anti-texting law prohibits and does not prohibit. The anti-texting law makes it unlawful to type or read a text or email while driving a car or other motor vehicle. The law applies to any handheld personal communications device capable of sending or receiving text messages or emails. However, for the law to apply, the motor vehicle must be moving at the time the text or email is being typed or read.

The scope of Virginia’s anti-texting law is limited. It prohibits typing and reading texts and emails using a smart phone or other handheld communications device while operating a moving motor vehicle. The law does not prohibit using a smart phone or other handheld communications device to enter numbers into the device or reading any name or number already stored in the device. The law does not apply to stopped or parked motor vehicles. As a result, a person who uses their iPhone as a telephone while driving may not be in violation of Virginia’s anti-texting law. Virginia’s anti-texting law does not apply to the use of factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning system (GPS) devices. The law does not apply to persons operating emergency vehicles while they are engaged in their official duties.

Interestingly, the law does not seem to apply to a person who operates a moped as long as the moped is operated at a speed of 35 miles per hour or less. In Virginia, a moped is generally not considered a motor vehicle. There are certain circumstances when a moped is considered a motor vehicle. For instance, a moped being operated in excess of 35 miles per hour is deemed to be a motorcycle and, therefore, is a motor vehicle under the law. A moped is also considered a motor vehicle while operated on a highway in the application of Chapter 8 of Virginia’s Motor Vehicle Code. Chapter 8 of Virginia’s Motor Vehicles Code includes laws regulating traffic. Virginia’s anti-texting law is not within Chapter 8 of Virginia’s Motor Vehicle Code. As a result, the law may not apply to persons operating mopeds at 35 miles per hour or less.

Even though the scope of Virgina’s anti-texting law is limited, it does not mean a person can use their iPhone as a phone while driving without legal risk. A person may be charged with reckless driving while making a phone call, if that person drives a motor vehicle in a manner as to endanger life, limb, or property. In Virginia, reckless driving is a crime with the potential for an active jail sentence and up to a six month driver’s license suspension. It is important to remember any person driving a motor vehicle in a manner as to endanger, life, limb, or property may be charged with reckless driving.

Virginia’s new anti-texting law prohibits persons from typing and reading texts or emails while driving. The anti-texting law does not prohibit a person from using their smart phone as a phone while driving. However, to avoid a potential criminal charge for reckless driving, that person must use their smart phone as a phone without endangering, life, limb, or property.

Virginia DUI License Suspension

A conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) in Virginia comes with numerous negative consequences to the person convicted.  One of those consequences is the revocation of the person’s privilege to drive in Virginia.  All persons convicted of DUI in Virginia will have their driving privileges revoked.  Virginia judges have no discretion as to the imposition of a license revocation after finding a person guilty of DUI.  As a result, once a Virginia judge finds a person guilty of DUI, the judge must revoke that person’s driving privileges.  There are no exceptions to this statutory mandate.

Drinking-Driving-DUI.jpg The time period for the revocation depends on the type of DUI charge under which the person is convicted.  All revocations commence on the day of conviction.  Depending on the type of DUI, the revocation will be for one year, three years, or for an indefinite time period.  A person convicted of a first offense DUI will have a one year revocation.  If that person is convicted of a second DUI within ten years of being convicted of the first DUI, then that person will have a three year revocation.  If this person has three or more DUI convictions within ten years of the first two convictions, then that person will have an indefinite revocation of their driving privileges.

Virginia judges have the ability to grant restricted driving privileges to persons whose driving privileges were revoked for a first or second DUI conviction.  Virginia judges cannot issue a restricted license for a person to drive a commercial motor vehicle. However, judges may issue restricted driving privileges in Virginia to persons who have a valid driver’s license from another state.

A person convicted of three or more DUI charges within ten years is not eligible for restricted driving privileges.  The judge may grant restricted driving privileges, after convicting a person of first offense DUI, for the entire one year revocation period.  The judge’s ability to grant restricted driving privileges is limited if the conviction is for a second offense DUI.  If the second offense is committed within five years of the first offense, then the judge is barred from granting restricted driving privileges for the first year of revocation.  If the second offense is committed within ten years from the first offense, then the judge is barred from granting restricted driving privileges for the first four months of revocation.

For a person to be eligible for restricted driving privileges, a judge must enter that person into the Virginia Alcohol Safety Awareness Program (VASAP).  The person entered into VASAP must enroll with the program within fifteen days from the date of conviction and must successfully complete the program.  Additionally, all persons granted restricted driving privileges may only operate a motor vehicle installed with an ignition interlock device.  For a first offense DUI, an ignition interlock device must be installed in the vehicle driven by the person granted restricted driving privileges.  A person revoked for a second DUI offense must have the ignition interlock device installed in all motor vehicles owned by or registered to that person.  A violation of the conditions of VASAP, including the use of alcohol as evidenced by the detection of alcohol by the ignition interlock device and driving a motor vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock device, will likely result in the loss of restricted driving privileges for the remainder of the revocation period.  Additionally, persons convicted of driving outside the scope of their restricted driving privileges will lose their restricted privileges and have their driving privileges revoked for a statutorily mandated period of time, which runs consecutively with the original revocation period.

The mandatory license revocation periods imposed on persons after a DUI conviction are complicated.  It is important to discuss the details and requirements of DUI mandatory license revocations with an attorney who handles DUI cases on a regular basis.  The attorneys at The Weiland Firm, PLC have represented numerous clients charged with DUI in Virginia.  If you have any questions, please contact our firm at (804) 355-8037.

Is Reckless Driving a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Virginia?

Reckless driving, whether the charge is based on excessive speed or results from an accident, is a crime in Virginia.  There are numerous out of state drivers and some Virginia drivers who are shocked to learn traveling on a highway at 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone may be charged as reckless driving.  Under this specific circumstance, a person may actually be charged with reckless driving for going eleven miles over the posted speed limit.

Va-Traffic-Law.jpg

In Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor.  There are four classifications of criminal misdemeanors in Virginia.  Class 4 and Class 3 misdemeanors are only finable criminal offenses.  Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by confinement in jail for not more than six months and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.  In Virginia, a Class 1 misdemeanor is the misdemeanor with the most severe potential punishment.  A person convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor may be sent to jail for not more than twelve months and/or fined not more than $2,500.  Reckless driving is only one of many crimes classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia.  Examples of other crimes classified as Class 1 misdemeanors are driving under the influence of alcohol, first offense, driving under the influence of alcohol, second offense, assault and battery, trespass, and sexual battery.

It is highly unlikely a person charged with reckless driving for speeding 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone would be sentenced to an active or suspended jail sentence.  Usually, the punishment for a conviction of reckless driving at that speed is a fine.  However, persons who speed well in excess of 80 miles per hour on the highways and interstates of Virginia put themselves at increased risk for the imposition of a license suspension or a suspended or active jail sentence.  For instance, persons charged with speeding more than 90 miles per hour in Chesterfield County are normally sentenced to an active jail sentence and have their license or privilege to drive in Virginia suspended.  The maximum license suspension allowed by Virginia statute for a conviction of reckless driving is six months.

Any person charged with reckless driving in Virginia should take the charge seriously because reckless driving is a crime.  In some cases, criminal convictions may detrimentally affect a person’s ability to obtain employment or obtain a promotion in their current job.  Reckless driving is a crime in Virginia whether the person charged was speeding 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone or speeding 110 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone.  The punishment for a conviction for speeding 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone will differ greatly from the punishment for a person convicted of speeding 110 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone.  However, regardless of punishments imposed, both persons will have a criminal conviction.  That’s why it’s important to consult an attorney with experience defending person’s charged with reckless driving in Virginia.

At The Weiland Firm, PLC, we understand the chaos that being charged with the crime of reckless driving can cause in your life.  That’s why we are committed to providing our clients the highest level of legal representation.  We are intimately familiar with each of the courts and judges in Richmond and dozens of surrounding counties.  Our regular practice in these courts allows us to achieve the best possible outcome for each case.  Depending on the driver’s record, we can often convince the Court to dismiss the charge or reduce it to a less-serious traffic charge, avoiding a criminal conviction.

If you have been charged with reckless driving and would like to discuss your charge with one of our experienced attorneys, please give us a call at 804-355-8037.  We will give you a free consultation and can discuss our strategy for achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

Find out more – Frequently Asked Questions About Reckless Driving