What Are Traffic Violations and Infractions in Virginia?
In Virginia, traffic violations are trespasses against traffic laws, and the punishment depends on the severity of the offense. Legally, sentences can range from the payment of a hefty fine, license suspension to incarceration in the state correctional facility. Virginia classifies traffic violations into misdemeanors and felonies, with felonies being the more serious of the two and carrying the strictest penalty.
A traffic infraction in Virginia is a traffic offense under Title 46.2 of the Virginia Code and is considered relatively minor and not punishable as a criminal act. Offenders can incur a fine in the form of traffic tickets, which must be paid on time, or the court will assign demerit points to the violator. However, a court appearance may be mandatory if there is an appeal or if any traffic fine is left unpaid.
What Are Felony Traffic Violations in Virginia?
Felony traffic violations are grievous traffic offenses, possibly leading to a criminal conviction, payment of fines, and license suspension. Examples of violations considered as felonies in Virginia are third DUI offense and hit-and-run accidents, resulting in severe injury or death of another motorist, pedestrian, or other public members. The degree of a felony committed determines the corresponding judgment, with the highest penalty being a life sentence or the death penalty. The lowest is a jail term of up to five years and or a hefty fine.
A repeated traffic offender is regarded as a habitual offender by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles if the trespasser has received three significant convictions or 12 minor convictions within ten years. Driving after being declared a habitual offender is a punishable offense, and further convictions will be treated as felonies, which will attract one-year incarceration. The degree of felonies in Virginia is represented in a six-class system:
- Class 1 felony is the most serious and carries the stiffest punishment of a life sentence or the death penalty if the offender is 18 at the time of the offense.
- Class 2 felony could lead to incarceration from 20 years to life imprisonment.
- Class 3 felony carries possible sentencing of 10 to 20 years with the additional payment of a maximum fine of $100,000.
- Class 4 felony results in the violator’s detention for 5 to 10 years and offenders may pay a maximum fine of $100,000.
- Class 5 felony comes with 1 to 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500.
- A Class 6 felony is the least grievous, and sentencing is up to 1 to 5 years with a maximum fine of $2,500.
Examples of Felony Traffic Violations in Virginia?
Some examples of traffic violations deemed as felonies in Virginia include:
- Third DUI offense
- Involuntary manslaughter caused by reckless driving
- Two or more convictions by a habitual offender
- Driving under the influence after being confirmed a habitual offender
- Causing damage to humans or property while driving after being declared a habitual offender.
What Are Traffic Misdemeanors in Virginia?
A traffic offense can be a misdemeanor if the state’s criminal statutes are violated, but are not severe enough to be felony traffic violations. A traffic misdemeanor is more grave than a traffic infraction. Instances of traffic misdemeanors in Virginia are first and second time DUI offenses, driving 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or over 80 miles per hour on any road, and driving on a suspended license. Misdemeanors in Virginia, like felonies, are also separated into classes:
- Class 1 misdemeanor offenders are liable to be sentenced to not more than twelve months in jail or must pay a maximum fine of $2,500.
- Class 2 misdemeanors carry potential sentencing of not more than six months of jail confinement and a maximum fine of $1,000.
- Class 3 misdemeanors attract a fine of not more than $500
- Class 4 misdemeanors can incur a penalty of $250 or less.
A traffic misdemeanor is punishable with jail time, license suspension, and payment. Most traffic misdemeanors in Virginia are considered Class 1 Misdemeanours, and violators can be sentenced to jail confinement up to 12 months or asked to pay a fine of $2,500 or less.
Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors in Virginia
The following are examples of traffic misdemeanors in Virginia classed according to the severity of the offense;
Class 1 Misdemeanors
- Hit and run (involving bodily injury, property damage, or death)
- Driving under the influence either of drugs or alcohol ( DUI)
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving without headlights or taillights
Class 2 Misdemeanors
- Failing to stop after an accident
- Driving without a license
- Displaying a fictitious vehicle permit
- Drinking while driving
Class 3 Misdemeanors
- Driving without car insurance
- Improper turn
- Failing to halt completely after reaching a red light
Class 4 Misdemeanors
- Improper passing
- Failing to obey traffic signs or lane marking
- Possessing alcohol in a vehicle
- Fleeing from an officer and causing injury while fleeing
- Driving on the wrong way
What Constitutes a Traffic Infraction in Virginia
Traffic infractions in Virginia are offenses against the state’s traffic law that are not a misdemeanor or felony. Most infractions are ordinance violations and are non-criminal. However, ordinances are statutes passed by a municipality, such as a city, town, village, or county, as codes of conduct. A traffic infraction is far less severe and is likely to attract fines not more than $500. A misdemeanor or felony may result in a jail sentence and a severe impact on the driver’s criminal record.
Examples of Traffic Infractions in Virginia?
Traffic infractions are violations of one or more traffic rules under the state’s laws or a municipality of Virginia. Below are examples of offenses known as traffic infractions in Virginia:
- Driving with a faulty taillight and headlight
- Illegal parking
- Passing a red light
- Driving too close to a vehicle
- Failing to yield when flagged by a police officer
- Making an illegal U-turn
- Failing to obey a highway sign
- Improper parking
How Does a Traffic Ticket Work in Virginia?
A traffic ticket is an official notice received by a driver or any other road user from a law enforcement officer, indicating that the driver violated a traffic law. The three types of road misconduct in Virginia that can attract traffic tickets include infraction, misdemeanor, and felony. Persons issued traffic tickets are to respond promptly as failure to do so may lead to additional charges or even an arrest warrant, depending on the severity of the violation.
In Virginia, upon receiving a traffic ticket, the recipient must either pay a fine or appear in court. The ticket will indicate whether the party can pay a fine with or without a court appearance. Furthermore, a pre-court ticket allows a penalty to be delivered without a court appearance, whereas a post-court traffic ticket mandates a court appearance before the fine can be paid. The penalties stated on the traffic tickets can either be paid online, by mail, or in person.
Generally, for an infraction and most misdemeanor tickets, payment of fines closes the case. For other misdemeanor and felony tickets, the parties settle the court’s issue where the traffic violator can either plead guilty and pay the fine or plead not guilty and ask for a trial.
An important detail is that traffic violations are further classified as moving and non-moving violations. A moving violation occurs when a driver breaks a traffic rule while the vehicle is in motion, and the driver, who may not be the owner of the vehicle, bears the direct consequences. Non-moving violations directly impact the vehicle owner and not the driver at the time of the offense. Also, the penalties for moving violations are typically more severe. In Virginia, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) acts to deter repeated traffic violations by employing a point system that stays on a driver’s record for up to two years. An accumulation of points over a specific period will lead to the loss of driving privileges. Depending on the infraction nature, three, four, or six points will be added to the driver’s record.
Are Driving Records Public in Virginia?
Following the Virginia public records act, Virginia’s driving records are available for public access, except files made confidential. Individuals can only review private documents if the requestor has obtained a court order. Nevertheless, sealed records will be open for public view 75 years after the filing date.
Driving records in Virginia contain information about an individual’s traffic convictions, traffic accidents, driver’s license suspension, revocations, and cancellations. It also confirms the status of a person’s driver’s license and any points incurred on the license.
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.
How to Find Driving Records in Virginia?
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) maintains a repository of driving records in the state. Driving records in Virginia are of six different types concerning the requestor. Interested persons may obtain archived driving documents in Virginia online or in person. To access Virginia driving records electronically, create an account through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) by entering the required details. For in-person requests, the requester must send a written application or complete Information Request (form CRD–93) and pay the necessary fee. Details to be included in the request are full name, address, social security number, and reason for requesting the record. Send mail requests for Virginia driving record to:
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Vehicle (Driver) Records Work Center
P. O. Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269
Employers, schools, military establishments, or insurance firms can also view driving records upon a signed release authorizing the requester to obtain such a file.
Can Traffic Violation and Infractions be Expunged/Sealed in Virginia?
Whether or not a traffic violation stays on the driver’s driving record depends mostly on which of the three violation classes occurred. A traffic infraction is not a criminal offense. Hence it is not added in the driving record. Traffic misdemeanor that results in a jail term is considered criminal violations, and as such, will be incorporated in the driving record. A traffic felony is entirely regarded as a crime and will reflect in the driver’s criminal history. Moreso, if the offender is found guilty of the felony charges, the records cannot be expunged.
In most cases, the expungement of traffic charges is allowed when the defendant is not guilty of the traffic offense. When an individual has a record removed in Virginia, the court destroys traffic violation and arrest documents, and the individual involved can deny all with traffic crime charges. Traffic offenders who are less than 18 years of age will have to wait until after ten years before filing a petition seeking the driving record’s expunction. Adults guilty of traffic misconduct can request for expungement at the court where the case was initially heard. The petition should contain the file number, date of arrest, full name, Social Security Number, and the charges that the party requests to expunge. Requests for expungement can be filed by mail or in person, and parties may be asked to pay a filing fee. The court may decide to set a hearing date within 21 days of serving the petition, and if the court is convinced enough, the court will grant the expungement. In Virginia, there’s no total expungement. According to the Code of Virginia § 19.2–392.3, law enforcement agencies may have access to expunged records.