Virginia Court Records
How to Fight a Traffic Ticket in Virginia
Also known as a citation, a traffic ticket in Virginia is a document that informs the recipient of a violation of state traffic laws. The issuing law enforcement officer details the violation, driver information, vehicle information, date and time of the offense, applicable fine, and the court of jurisdiction on the ticket. Upon receipt, the individual is confronted with prepayment options or contesting within a statutory time window. If the individual chooses to contest the ticket, the Virginia court of jurisdiction will conduct a trial according to state court rules and procedure.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Is it Worth it To Fight a Traffic Ticket in Virginia?
It depends. Virginia laws allow every offender the right to a speedy trial, and traffic violators are no exceptions. Often, contesting a traffic ticket may be worth it. For example, if the admission of guilt may result in a later civil suit due to the destruction of private property, the party may wish to contest the ticket. If the ticket was issued after an accident, admitting guilt results in higher insurance rates. In either of these cases, fighting the ticket is worth it. Apart from the legal fees—if the individual chooses to hire an attorney—losing a contest does not result in extra charges or fines.
Ways to Fight a Traffic Ticket in Virginia
Upon receiving a traffic ticket, the individual must respond by paying within thirty (30) days or appearing for arraignment on the date stated on the ticket. A violator who intends to fight a ticket must contact the clerk of courts in the time window. The violator should have answers to the following questions:
- Whether the date on the ticket is the court date or the contest window;
- Any additional steps or requirements needed to fight the ticket;
- Availability of an extension to arrive at a decision (bear in mind that the violator may inadvertently waive the right to a speedy trial here);
- Eligibility for traffic school;
- Availability of court resources for violators who choose to self-represent.
Traffic ordinances differ from county to county. In the meantime, the violator may choose to self-represent or hire an attorney. The different ways to fight a traffic ticket are outlined as follows:
- Self-representation: the violator has to examine the traffic case’s merits and prepare for the court hearing. They may also consult an attorney for a professional examination of the arguments that may strengthen or weaken the defense. However, attorney consultation is subject to fees even if the violator chooses to forgo professional help on the trial date. Knowledge of the state traffic laws and adequate preparation of arguments will go a long way in helping the violator’s case.
- Professional help: The service of an experienced attorney is worth it—considering the alternative. However, the individual must be careful in choosing the attorney as these professionals have specializations. Thus, it may be folly to hire a divorce attorney for a DUI traffic case. From the discovery phase to negotiating a plea deal and appealing the verdict, hiring an attorney is another way to fight a Virginia traffic ticket.
- Prepaid services: Some services offer to help clients fight traffic tickets for an annual fee of up to hundreds of dollars. The annual fee is a retainer for when the subscriber needs legal aid. However, the subscriber has no control as to whom the service provider will outsource the case. More importantly, an individual who intends to opt for prepaid service must know that success is not a guarantee, and they may eventually have to pay the fines on the ticket.
How to Fight a Traffic Ticket Without Going to Trial
One option to fight a ticket without going to trial is to opt for trial by declaration. A declaration is a typewritten statement bearing the violator’s signature and stating that the account of events in the document is valid under the penalty of perjury. Unfortunately, as of November 2020, Virginia does not allow trial by a declaration under any circumstances. Out-of-state violators may skirt this restriction if the representing attorney submits an affidavit of hardship. The affidavit states the extenuating circumstances that prevent the violator from being physically present and gives the attorney legal autonomy in the case.
The option mentioned above is not available to state residents, and the judge may interpret absence from the trial as nonchalance. The prosecutor may move to convict the violator based on failure to appear (Section §19.2–128).. The individual may also incur fines up to $2500 and jail time.
A viable option to fight a ticket without going to court is to strike a plea bargain with the prosecutor before the trial date. However, a plea bargain does not acquit the violator. Instead, the violator gets a lighter punishment by pleading to a lesser crime, or the prosecutor reduces the points in exchange for probation or completion of a safety program.
How Do You Get a Traffic Ticket Reduced in Virginia?
A traffic ticket’s fines are assessed according to a point system by the Department of Motor Vehicles. It is possible to convince the prosecutor for a point reduction if the violator has a strong defense. Direct negotiation is not prudent, as the individual may not have the expertise or knowledge to argue for a reduction.
Besides negotiating a reduction, it is also possible to apply for a payment agreement under Section § 19.2–354 of the Code of Virginia. The deal allows the violator to pay the fines without accruing interests on court fines or revocation of the driver’s license. As installment agreement varies from county to county, parties should contact the clerk of courts for guidelines. For example, Hanover County has installment agreement guidelines per the Supreme Court Rule 1–24.
Can You Get a Speeding Ticket Dismissed In Virginia?
It depends. Virginia has a statutory speed limit depending on the vehicle and highway conditions (Section § 46.2–870).. However, there are technicalities involved in this statutory speed limit. The speed limit is generally absolute—i.e., an upper limit of 70 mph—but an officer has the discretion to issue a ticket if the individual drives under unsafe conditions—even below the speed limit. Law enforcement officers measure speed with equipment that uses radar and laser technology (Section § 46.2–882).. However, this equipment is not immutable to fault or reading errors due to weather or factory defects. Likewise, an officer may issue a ticket based on visual estimation. If the defendant can make a convincing argument on these bases, he or she may get the speeding ticket dismissed. Another way is to move to dismiss if the officer fails to appear on the trial date. In all, having an attorney, corroborating evidence, and witnesses often works in the defendant’s favor.
What Happens if You Plead Guilty to a Traffic Ticket in Virginia?
Suffice to say that a person who pleads guilty to a traffic ticket will have to pay the traffic fines stated on the ticket and court fees. Also, the DMV will award the appropriate penalty points against the individual’s driving record. Likewise, if the offense is a misdemeanor, the violator runs the risk of license revocation and jail time. The misdemeanor and imprisonment will also be on the individual’s criminal record, accessible by members of the public and prospective employers under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
How To Find a Traffic Ticket Attorney in Virginia
The traffic attorney has three significant roles to play when a person receives and decides to fight a ticket. An attorney provides consultation and professional advice, negotiates with the prosecutor, and represents the client in court. Even if a violator has a strong, the choice of attorney can make or mar the case. Thus, in finding a lawyer, the individual should seek referrals from past clients and trusted sources.