Types of Traffic Offenses in Virginia

In Virginia, there are three separate types of traffic offenses: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Below, a Virginia traffic lawyer discusses each and how each is penalized by the court. For assistance with your traffic offense, call and schedule a consultation today.

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Traffic Infractions

Traffic infractions are the violations of Title 46.2 of the Virginia Code that aren’t punishable as a misdemeanor or felony and instead are what come to mind for most people when you mention a traffic ticket. It’s a charge for a non-criminal offense that is handled by paying a fine and sometimes results in demerit points on the person’s driver’s license.

In contrast with a misdemeanor or a felony, a traffic infraction is far less severe and will likely only carry fines, while a misdemeanor or felony would likely carry a jail sentence and impact your criminal record. Additionally, the penalties for an infraction go away eventually, while a misdemeanor or felony (if you are convicted) will stay on your record forever.

Some examples of infractions are:

  • Speeding
  • Driving with a taillight or headlight out
  • Failing to make a complete stop at a red light before turning right
  • Running a red light
  • Following too closely

Appealing an Infraction

Any matter heard in general district court can be appealed within ten calendar days. An appeal causes the case to be heard de novo in Circuit Court. This means that there will be a completely new trial, as though the first trial had never happened.

Traffic Misdemeanors

In Virginia, there are several traffic offenses which are also considered misdemeanors. The most common are:

  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Driving without being licensed
  • Reckless driving

The difference is that a misdemeanor can result in jail time and then will also appear in a criminal background check later on, whereas an infraction is simply a violation of public code not a violation of the criminal statute. However just like traffic infractions these cases are heard in the General District Court.

Misdemeanor Penalties

Due to the fact that they are misdemeanor offenses, the possible penalties can include:

  • Jail time
  • A fine
  • License suspension

The severity of the penalty is going to depend on the nature of the charge, the defendant’s history and background, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Traffic Felonies

Felonies are the most serious crimes under the Virginia system. The penalties are more severe than misdemeanors and traffic infractions and the sentence is served in a state correctional facility rather than a Virginia County Jail.  Because a felony is a criminal conviction, it will also be noted on someone’s criminal record which doesn’t ever go away and can’t be expunged if you’re found guilty. Infractions are noted on DMV records and go away with time.

Filing An Appeal

You have a right to appeal this as well, however only if there was some mistake in the legal process. Unlike an appeal from General District Court, an appeal from the Circuit Court, which is where felonies are heard, will not be accepted just because someone doesn’t like the results of their case.

Additionally, it is not an easy process, as you and your attorney will have to show that some mistake were made during the initial trial. Appeals from the Circuit Court are by a Petition to the Virginia Court of Appeals. A notice of the appeal must be filed within 30 calendar days of the conviction date.

Importance of a Virginia Traffic Lawyer

This is important because you want to make sure you have someone on your side fighting for your rights and doing absolutely whatever it takes to make sure you obtain the best possible results for your case. Driving is a privilege that many people count on in order to successfully go about their lives. It isn’t something most people would readily give up without a major fight and for this reason, you should definitely get a lawyer as soon as possible to help aggressively challenge your charges and make sure you are able to continue driving.