Most of us have broken a traffic law at one time or another, and the consequences when you are caught can be costly, no matter how minor the offense. Fines, demerit points, higher insurance rates, and driver’s license suspensions can all take a serious toll on drivers who commit infractions. But some traffic offenses result in criminal charges that can lead to prison time, steep fines, and loss of driving privileges. How do you know when you are facing a serious charge? Learn about Virginia traffic offenses here.
3 Levels of Traffic Offenses in Virginia
When you are ticketed or arrested by a police officer for a traffic offense in Virginia, it is because you have committed either an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony. Guidelines for these levels of offenses are as follows:
- Infractions. Most often, drivers are ticketed for committing minor traffic infractions. These include speeding, following too closely, failing to come to a complete stop before making a right turn on red, driving with a taillight out, failing to yield, and making an illegal U-turn. While infractions can result in fines and demerit points, jail time is not a possible sentence and, while the offense appears on your DMV record, it is not a criminal charge.
- Misdemeanors. More serious traffic offenses are considered misdemeanor criminal offenses in Virginia and can result in jail time. These offenses include driving on a suspended or revoked license, reckless driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sentences of up to a year in jail and fines of up to $2,500 are possible if convicted of a misdemeanor, and you will have a criminal record.
- Felonies. In Virginia, a third DUI conviction is considered a felony, as is vehicular homicide. Penalties for these crimes include prison time and significant fines. Conviction of a traffic felony is as serious as any other felony conviction.
If you are facing criminal charges for a traffic offense—whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony—you should speak to a criminal defense attorney. Stephen Bloomquest represents traffic offenders in the Richmond area and will meet with you to discuss your case.
Fighting Criminal Traffic Charges
When you are arrested for a criminal traffic offense, it may seem that there’s no point in trying to fight the charge. However, there are possible defenses against these charges, and an experienced attorney can advise you of your options for the following:
- Reckless driving. In Virginia, you may be charged with reckless driving if you are caught driving 20 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit or driving over 80 mph regardless of the posted speed limit. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor and could land you in jail.
- DUI. A first DUI offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, but the seriousness of the charges increases with each offense. It is important that you discuss your DUI with an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest to see if there may be a viable defense. Multiple DUIs on your record can seriously impact your ability to work, get a loan, rent an apartment, maintain custody of a child, and more.
- Vehicular homicide. If your actions behind the wheel of a car lead to a death, you may face manslaughter or homicide charges. If you were the driver in a fatal hit and run or DUI, you are likely facing prison time. Do not attempt to defend yourself in these cases. You will need a criminal defense attorney to protect your right to a fair trial.
If your teenager is facing one of these charges, you will want to find him the best possible representation. Quest Law PLLC is committed to defending young adults charged with crimes in Virginia. Their future is too precious to trust to just any defense attorney.
The Lawyer You Need in Richmond
Stephen Bloomquest is an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands Virginia traffic law and will work hard to build a defense when you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Call his criminal defense law office in Midlothian for a free consultation if you have been arrested in Richmond, Chesterfield, Powhatan, or Ashland.