In Virginia, there are traffic infractions and criminal traffic violations. It is essential that drivers understand the difference between the two because the consequences vary significantly.
Criminal Traffic Offenses v. Traffic Infractions
Certain traffic violations are misdemeanors and in some serious situations a felony offenses. Since these are considered criminal offenses, they will appear on a background check. If the traffic violations is charged as a misdemeanor, one can face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500. Additionally, depending on the violation, your license may be suspended for up to one year. The potential penalties for felony traffic offenses are even more severe. Examples of criminal traffic violations include:
- Aggressive driving
- Driving with a revoked license
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving under the influence
- Driving with an open container
- Driving without a license
- Failure to get or update a license
- Hit and run (if the victim is seriously injured or killed, this could be charged as a felony)
- No auto insurance
- Reckless driving
- Third DUI (felony)
- Vehicular manslaughter
Criminal traffic violations are not to be confused with traffic infractions. Traffic infractions are violations of Virginia law that result in traffic tickets but are not considered convictions that would result in a criminal record and do not carry with them the possibility of jail time. Some examples of traffic infractions include:
- Driving too close to another vehicle
- Driving with a non-working headlight or taillight
- Failing to come to a complete stop
- Failure to obey a traffic sign
- Failure to yield
- Illegal U-turn
- Improper passing
- Improper turn
- Running a red light
One can resolve a traffic ticket without going to court by simply paying the fine. The offense goes on your driving record and the points for the offense stay on your record for two years. When you obtain a certain number of points within a certain period of time, your license may be suspended.
Understanding What a Lawyer Can Do For You
Whether you are charged with a criminal traffic offense or a traffic infraction, you have a right to be represented by an attorney. Depending on the nature of the case, an attorney may be able to challenge the basis of the stop of the car. If the government fails to establish a legal basis, the case may be dismissed. If there are other constitutional violations, like improper search and seizure or failure to read you the Miranda rights, then your attorney can move to have any evidence flowing from the violations suppressed.
In most instances, when charges are not dismissed, your attorney can negotiate a plea deal that is in your favor. Of course, each case is different with unique facts and circumstances, but an attorney -- who is skilled and knowledgeable -- can help put forward a defense that can optimize your chances at a favorable outcome.
At the Law Office of Charles F. Koehler, P.C., we can help. Our focus on client-centered representation allows us to make certain our clients understand the risks and benefits of any potential trial or plea agreement. We discuss both direct and collateral consequences with our clients, so they understand exactly what they are facing. Contact us today at (703) 669-5644 to discuss your case.