Traffic offenses are among the most widespread violations in Virginia. Virginia traffic offenses can range from minor infractions, which attract fines, to major driving crimes, which carry jail terms, steep fines, as well as/or losing driving privileges. The main difference between minor traffic violations and driving crimes is that a driving crime could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor that involves a potential jail sentence whereas a traffic violation is penalized by a fine.
Understanding the difference between driving crimes and traffic violations will help you in making more informed choices when driving as well as when addressing an alleged traffic violation. In this blog, we'll look more closely into the differences between driving crimes and traffic violations.
What You Need to Know About Traffic Violations
Traffic violations can be defined as acts that violate traffic statutes that govern vehicle operations on highways and streets. Traffic violations are pretty common, can vary in severity, and are often grouped into:
The majority of traffic citations are imposed on "infractions," which include mechanical infringements and many non-dangerous moving offenses. Under Virginia laws, infractions typically do not bear equal stigma or repercussions as major criminal offenses. Nonetheless, some traffic-related infractions are classified as "felony crimes" or "misdemeanors" and are punishable by harsher fines, suspension of the driver's license, or even incarceration.
Traffic infractions emerge from errors that have minimal risks attached to them while driving crimes demonstrate poor judgment that could endanger the public. In general, traffic infractions throughout most states turn into driving crimes when the act:
Results in property damage or personal injury, or
Creates a genuine risk of property damage or personal injury
Minor Virginia Traffic Violations: Traffic Infractions
Most driving-related offenses fall under the category of infractions, commonly known as civil infractions or violations. Traffic infractions are the least serious forms of traffic offenses and are often defined as acts or omissions that are unlawful under state traffic laws but do not qualify as crimes.
Although traffic infractions are not as serious as felonies or misdemeanors, they can nevertheless have a significant impact on your insurance costs as well as your driving record. Virginia imposes fines for traffic infractions.
According to Virginia Code 46.2-100, except otherwise specified or categorized as a driving crime, all traffic offenses are subject to fines that could amount to $250. Collateral repercussions of the conviction of an infraction include points amassed on your driving record as well as increased insurance rates.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has the authority to suspend your driver's license when you receive enough infractions. Additionally, if you work as a driver, your employer could need you to have no moving violations for you to be in good standing with the enterprise.
In addition to the fines levied by the court, the majority of convictions for traffic infractions result in DMV demerit points. The court doesn't have the authority to erase points from a motorist's driving record except if the charges are revised to non-point violations.
Demerit points from the DMV might stay on your driving record for several years (the exact time relies on the seriousness of the violation). It's crucial to keep in mind that receiving DMV points could have major repercussions.
For instance, the Virginia DMV will suspend your driver's license if you accumulate many points in a short time.
Most Common Examples of Virginia Traffic Infractions
Virginia's most common traffic infractions include:
Speeding Under Virginia Code 46.2-870 & 46.2-874
Virginia law specifies the highest acceptable speeds at which motorists can drive on particular roads. Traveling faster than the legal speed limit on any road could lead to a ticket.
Some regions have restricted speed limits at specific times, as well as heightened fines and penalties. These places comprise residential areas (Virginia Code 46.2-878.2), highway work zones (Virginia Code 46.2-878.1), and school zones and crossings (Virginia Code 46.2-873).
Simple speeding violations in Virginia are penalized with penalties. Virginia Code 46.2-878.3 states that unless the case is a reckless driving and speeding charge, the fines are pre-payable and dependent on the number of miles you drove over the legal speed limit.
You will typically be fined $6 for each mile you exceed the speed limit; except if you were operating the vehicle in a work or school zone which you'll be fined 7 dollars per mile; or $8 per mile when driving in a residential district. You should note that in Virginia, some incidences of speeding are treated as driving crimes rather than infractions.
Failing to Observe a Highway Sign Under Virginia Code 46.2-830
According to Va. 46.2-830, a traffic citation for failing to observe highway signage is considered a traffic infraction. It does not qualify as a driving crime. A conviction for the infraction, nonetheless, is recorded with the DMV and results in a three-point demerit being added to the driver's record. Both the points and the conviction themselves are removed from the driving history after two and three years, respectively.
Failing to Observe a Road Sign is most usually charged if a motorist violates a stop sign, surpasses the speed limits, disregards a yield sign, or makes a U-Turn on a forbidden road.
Following Too Closely (Virginia Code 46.2-816)
According to Va. Code 46.2-816, following too closely is an infraction. It does not qualify as a felony or misdemeanor. The highest penalties that could be levied are $250 in fines and about $67 in legal fees.
The Virginia DMV considers following too closely to be a four-demerit point infraction. A conviction will remain on your driving record for 3 years. The Department of Motor Vehicles points last for 2 years.
Virginia Driving Crimes
Traffic infractions like speeding or running a stop sign could be problematic. They could lead to increased insurance costs and fines. However, driving crimes are more serious and could result in significant jail time, fees, fines, as well as a criminal record. A reckless act or loss of judgment could lead to a crash or another driving crime, both of which could have long-lasting repercussions. Some of Virginia's driving crimes include:
If you have been found guilty, you will be subject to more severe penalties, an irreversible criminal record, plus demerit points imposed on your driving record.
Most Common Examples of Virginia Driving Crimes
Some examples of traffic violations that belong to this group are:
Reckless Driving Under Virginia Code 46.2-852
The principal reckless driving law in Virginia is found under Va. Code 46.2-852. According to this code, reckless driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle "on any roadway carelessly or at speeds or in a way that endangers the lives, limbs, or properties of other people," irrespective of the statutory speed limit.
Most motorists who are accused of Reckless Driving as per Va. 46.2-852 are convicted after being part of an automobile collision in which the officer believes the motorist is at fault. The motorist needs to have been operating their vehicle at speeds or in a way that puts another person's life, property, or limb at risk to be found guilty under this provision. A traffic accident could result in several major legal problems.
Reckless Driving By Speed Under Virginia Code Section 46.2-862
According to Virginia law, violating the legal speed limit by a specified level is grounds for criminal prosecution. You could be tried and convicted of reckless driving depending on speed when you were traveling at over 20 mph past the legal speed limit or higher than 85 miles per hour, irrespective of how many miles over the legal limit you had been driving.
There are numerous ways to approach such scenarios, and most of the potential solutions hinge on the judge who oversees your matter in the particular region where you got the ticket. Your driving history, the specific amount of mph you exceeded the limit, and the accuracy of the speedometer are a few variables that could have an impact on your case.
A citation or fee for speed-related reckless driving is not prepayable. Across many states, you'll be forced to show up in court (or, based on regional procedures, have an attorney appear on your behalf) or an arrest warrant will be granted for failing to appear. You should speak with your lawyer to find out how these issues are handled in the region where your ticket was issued.
Eluding Police Under Virginia Code 46.2-817
According to Va. Code 46.2-817, it's a misdemeanor offense for someone to operate their automobile in deliberate and wanton contempt of a law enforcement officer's visual or audible warning to stop or to make an attempt to flee the scene on foot or by using other means. This offense is categorized as a Class 2 misdemeanor offense
If found guilty, the defendant faces a maximum fine of $500. Additionally, they would have their driving license suspended for at least 30 days and a maximum of one year. Additionally, they would have a criminal conviction on their record, which could hurt their lives.
If someone deliberately ignores a police officer's order to stop and does so in a way that compromises the officer's car or puts another person's life at risk they could be accused of a Class 6 felony. If the law enforcement officer dies as a direct result of chasing the suspect, the offense is upgraded to a Class 4 felony, which carries greater penalties.
Hit-and-Run Under Virginia Code 46.2-894
Leaving the accident scene, often known as "hit and run", is a major criminal violation that usually results from a failure to stop, offer help, and also provide identifying details. Do not assume that because you are a passenger you are exempt from Virginia law's requirements to carry out specific actions after an accident, irrespective of what caused it. According to Virginia laws, both passengers and drivers have obligations to carry out in such scenarios.
The obligations and punishments for fleeing the accident scene or hit-and-run rely on if you were the person driving or were a passenger, if unattended or an attended vehicle was involved, whether there was any injury or a fatality, and if the accident only resulted in damage to property of up to a particular amount. The hit-and-run offense could be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor based on the conditions, and you could be subject to fines, jail time, license suspensions, or loss of driving privileges suspensions.
Driving on a Revoked License Under Virginia Code 18.2-272
When a driver's license has been revoked, it implies they can no longer drive. Their driving privileges have been withdrawn. When a person's license has been suspended or revoked, the only way they can drive would be when they reapply for a driving license following the suspension or revocation term has passed.
The motorist will need to retake all of the required driving tests, such as the vision and knowledge examinations as well as the road skills exam. License revocations and suspensions could result from infractions such as vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, falsifying information given to the DMV, committing a hit-and-run, evading the authorities, and driving while intoxicated.
Driving While Intoxicated Under Virginia Code 18.2-266
Virginia's DWI, DUI, and DUID statutes are defined under Virginia Code 18.2-266, which classifies these crimes as felony or misdemeanor crimes.
In Virginia, first- and second-time DUI and DWI offenses are classified as class 1 misdemeanor offenses that are subject to up to one year behind bars, fines between $250 and $2,500, a suspension of the driver's license for 12 to 36 months, compulsory alcohol education programs, and probationary term.
If you have been detained for a repeat DWI violation or if your blood alcohol level was 0.15 or greater, the jail sentence will be dramatically increased. In addition to the usual typical DUI punishments, 3rd offense DUI charges are punished as felonies and carry mandatory minimum prison sentences of 90 days and maximum sentences of 5 years.
Driving without a License Under Virginia Code 46.2-300
Regardless of whether it's the first offense, driving without a valid driver's license in Virginia can have serious repercussions. If you are found driving without a license for the very first time, you could face $1,000 in fines and a maximum of 6 months behind bars. You could have your driving rights suspended for approximately 90 days.
A legal license is required for anyone who wants to drive a car in Virginia. A driving permit is a status that can only be earned by completing a series of examinations. Drivers must follow traffic laws to sustain this privilege. The revocation or suspension of a driving permit could result from violations such as speeding, driving while intoxicated, and reckless driving, among other offenses.
Driving on a Suspended License Under Virginia Code 46.2-301
When a driver's license is suspended, they are temporarily prohibited from driving. To reinstate their license, the motorist should wait till the completion of the grace term and settle the necessary amount. The driver can then resume driving. Driving recklessly, aggressively, or refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test can result in license suspensions.
According to Va. Code 46.2-301, driving when one's license has been suspended or revoked is categorized as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Additional driving privilege suspensions, license revocation, and car impoundment are among the repercussions of this violation. The violator could also be forced to pay a substantial fine of $2,500.
Major crimes may result in prison terms of up to 1 year. There is a minimum ten-day jail sentence that must be served for a third or succeeding violation within 10 years. A third violation for driving on a suspended permit because of a DWI conviction is classified as a Class 6 felony, penalized by a maximum of 5 years in state prison.
Aggressive Driving Under Virginia Code 46.2-868.1
Driving aggressively is charged as a misdemeanor. It entails committing any one or several of the 12 traffic violations while also posing a risk to other people or attempting to intimidate, harass, hurt, or obstruct another person. The following actions could be considered aggressive driving: improper passing, following too closely, neglecting to pay attention to lanes designated for traffic, or failing to yield.
The prosecution needs to demonstrate two components before a defendant may be found guilty of driving aggressively. The first requirement for being charged with aggressive driving is that you must have committed one or multiple of the crimes mentioned under Code 46.2-868.1 of Virginia laws. The second requirement is that the offender poses a risk to others or intentionally commits one of the acts to intimidate, harass, harm, or obstruct another individual.
Find an Experienced Defense Lawyer Near Me
Regardless of whether you have been accused of a traffic infraction, felony, or misdemeanor traffic offense, you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney to build your case so that the charges are withdrawn or lowered to a less severe offense.
A criminal defense lawyer can assist you in regaining your freedom by putting up a strong argument in court or by contesting some of the grounds on which the law enforcement official issued the citations. Contact the Virginia Criminal Attorney to find out how we can assist you with your traffic or driving charges. Call us today at 703-718-5533. We service Fairfax and Northern Virginia regions.