Petition to Restore License as Habitual Offender? Learn from a Virginia Traffic Attorney and Criminal Lawyer in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, & Arlington

Restoration of License in Virginia: Learn from a Virginia Traffic Attorney

This post is for those of who currently do NOT have complete driving privileges; our Northern Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney serves people in counties all over Virginia, and has posted this on the Vincenzes Law, PLLC, Virginia criminal law firm website as a good starting point for those researching the basic process and overview of restoring or reinstating driving privileges.2

So what is it? Restore or reinstate? These two words do not seem to be distinguishable from one another, but indeed, you use one word in a different context than the other.

virginia traffic attorneysVirginia is well-known for strict reckless driving penalties, tough DWI enforcement measures, and congested traffic routes (Northern Virginia and Norfolk/Virginia Beach come to mind). If you have been driving in the Commonwealth for quite some time, you may be aware of,

“habitual offender status in Virginia.”

If a person was convicted of a number of specific traffic-related crimes and/or infractions, then they may have been deemed a habitual offender by

These people would have been declared a habitual offender, if at all, prior to July, 1999. Today, there is no habitual offfender status, and the law was modified as our Fairfax criminal lawyer and Virginia traffic attorney discusses. The two categories:

  1. those declared “habitual offenders,” and
  2. those who have a suspended license and are not habitual offenders.

Why draw a distinction between habitual and non-habitual offender status? There are important issues pertinent to each type of offender.

For one, penalties for the same behavior may be much different, depending on status. But for purposes of this post, the main difference to take note of is the way one goes about starting the process.

While our Virginia defense attorney and Fairfax criminal lawyer covers habitual offender status and the process of restoring one’s driving privileges (or driver’s license), but there are many other related points that are beyond the scope of a single post (yet, should still be grasped conceptually). A restricted driver’s license application, what it entails and requires, and whether or not you are eligible to apply are all examples of knowledge your local Fairfax, Loudoun, or Prince William criminal lawyer and Arlington traffic attorney may want to discuss with you.

In other words, this post is the tip of the ice-berg, but it is not legal advice. Nobody should rely on anything they read online, because there is no substitute for a private discussion with a criminal defense lawyer…people tell us our site is great all the time, but please, go offline and consult with a Virginia defense attorney from Vincenzes Law, PLLC. If you are in Northern Virginia, then can serve you in your location, , Virginia.

A comment about Northern Virginia Jurisdictions and Police

Virginia traffic attorneysVirginia State Troopers patrol major highways with vigor. Ask anyone who has ever been on one of these major highways:

95, 66, 64, 495, 395, 270, 81, and the list could continue much longer.

Virginia Troopers are not the only officers on the roads. They are the officers with the jurisdiction and enforcement ability throughout the Commonwealth.

Next, the county police have jurisdiction in their respective counties. Some county police units are very large (like Fairfax County, a jurisdiction with over a million residents), and others are very small (like some smaller western Virginia localities). You may notice city or town officers, too. There is overlapping jurisdiction in many of these cases. Even college campuses these days have their own police units – including George Mason University. As a local Fairfax criminal lawyer, I often see GMU or Mason police officers at the Fairfax County Traffic Court.

If you drive or have had your license to drive in the past, then you likely value your independence when it comes to transportation; it is a part of everyday life. Whether it is necessary for you to drive to get to work, take your kids to school, visit a doctor, or visit loved ones, having a driver’s license is something most adults embrace. But when it is suspended, revoked, or otherwise invalidated, how does one go about getting driving privileges back? The process is different, depending upon your circumstances. Always speak with a local  criminal attorney or local Fairfax criminal lawyer and traffic law firm if in Northern Virginia for a consultation.

Virginia Habitual Offender Introduction

The penalties are far more serious.

Even Virginia Class 1 misdemeanors like driving on a suspended license or revoked license (DWI) are not as serious as driving after declared a habitual offender. The convicted habitual offender will be given at least a 3 month (90 day) jail sentence. Unlike many criminal offenses in Virginia, driving after being declared a habitual offender could be a felony. Felonies are punishable by a range of severe penalties.

You can view a chart by our Fairfax traffic attorney to display the maximum penalties in Virginia for classes of misdemeanors, and then take a look at the Virginia felonies penalty chart.

It is hard to imagine going to jail for five years if charged and convicted of driving a vehicle (even in a safe manner). EVEN if you are not a habitual offender but have serious offenses on your record after 1999, you may face penalties similar to those faced by habitual offender violators if you have driving while intoxicated convictions on your record.

Virginia traffic law is complicated; far more complex than many people realize. Whether you face a criminal Virginia reckless driving charge, a Virginia DWI arrest, driving on revoked charge, or simply want to restore your driving privileges, it is my opinion as a professional and Virginia traffic defense attorney that any non-traffic attorney at least should speak to a local Virginia defense attorney.

Some drivers traveling into the Commonwealth

find out the hard way

when it comes to many types of offenses, with reckless driving being one prime example. And would you expect the Virginia DWI laws4 5 to be any less strict, or heavily enforced? If you are old enough to have been charged and convicted of specific offenses prior to July, 1999, it is possible that either a state agency (DMV) or the court declared you a “Habitual Offender.” it is imperative you know whether or not you are a habitual offender.

If you are, then the restoration of driving privileges process will include different steps.  Although the Commonwealth no longer uses the designation, “Habitual Offender,” the laws have been modified to punish people for certain offenses in such a way so as to still penalize drivers who would have been deemed habitual offenders had their offenses been dated post-July of 1999.

The good news for newer drivers is that there is no longer a habitual offender provision; but if you have been declared a habitual offender under the old rules (either by the court or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)), then there are specific rules to understand, and even more to learn from a Virginia criminal defense attorney who can analyze the facts of your case, your goals, and ultimately guide you through the long and arduous process of restoring or reinstating a driver’s license in Virginia.

As a Virginia traffic attorney, I help people with traffic infractions, speeding tickets, Virginia reckless driving violations, driving while intoxicated (DWI), and all types of different traffic and criminal matters. As you are about to find out, when you have been declared a habitual offender or have lost your license due numerous DWI’s, the process is complicated and requires much dedication and persistence.

As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, traffic attorney, and defense practitioner, I strongly recommend any person searching for the process online to simply call a local or traffic attorney to represent you at the hearing, file the petition, communicate with the DMV and courts as needed, and answer your questions along the way.

Do I Need a Virginia Traffic Lawyer to Reinstate or Restore My License and Privilege to Drive?

You may have lost your driving privileges for a number of reasons: perhaps it was a DWI; maybe it was a drug possession offense; or, maybe you forgot to pay the fine for a speeding ticket, and your license was suspended. If you were declared a habitual offender years ago and have yet to petition the court for your license, please see the section after this one. If your license was suspended and you wish to reinstate your driving privileges, it is still suggest you consult with a local  Northern Virginia defense attorney. It may be necessary for you to you to visit your local DMV office and request a something called a “compliance summary” document. This document explains your requirements…basically a checklist. It sounds helpful, and it should be…but as an actively practicing exclusive Northern Virginia, Fairfax County traffic attorney and criminal lawyer, people tell me often that this compliance summary is overwhelming. Depending upon the reasons behind the lack of privilege to drive, there could be various requirements and steps to take. To reinstate your Virginia license, you may have to: Visit DMV personally, in order to:

  • Show proof of residence
  • Complete a driving skills test
  • Deliver an order from a court, among other possibilities

Fairfax traffic attorneys vaCertain requirements may not require a trip to the DMV, but nonetheless do require diligence on the part of the client. Your local Fairfax traffic lawyer and Northern Virginia defense attorney can explain the requirements in your case, because each and every scenario is different. Examples of tasks to complete (in some cases) in addition to those outlined above, include but are not limited to Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program completion (also known as ASAP / VASAP6), fines and fees, and other less common requirements we will not list here for sake of space. Remember: forgetting to pay the reinstatement fee will only cause headaches and frustration. Do not go through the entire process only to fail to remember to pay the reinstatement fee to the DMV, and thus risk a serious criminal charge for driving on a license that is technically still suspended.

Virginia Traffic Attorney:
Do you remember July, 1999? Why is it an important month?

Today, we no longer label convicted individuals as “habitual offenders.” However, the laws have been modified so that many of the same offenders receive an enhanced penalty; just as they would have had their offenses occurred prior to 1999.

For example, if you are charged and convicted of driving on a revoked license because of two driving while intoxicated (DWI) convictions, then the penalties are far more severe and a violation of 18.2-272 could be a felony.1

Before July, 1999, if you had a Virginia driver’s license and within ten (10) years were convicted of committing three serious offenses (on three separate occasions), or twelve (12) delineated milder offenses of a second type, then you would be deemed a habitual offender. The thing that surprises many people…at least, those who are not Virginia traffic attorneys…is that even if declared a habitual offender back in the 1990’s, such a person needs to be aware of specific legal issues pertaining to their status. 3

Habitual Offender and Virginia DUI and DWI Conviction

Perhaps the worst consequence of being declared a habitual offender is the nature of the waiting game. Not only do you lose your driving privileges, but you lose the privilege for five years. And if a DWI is one of the offenses on your record, you will not even be allowed to apply for a restricted license for a period of three years!

Habitual Offenders Seeking to Restore a Driver’s License in Virginia

The first question I tend to ask people who come to me with restoration of license inquiries concerns itself with their status. After determining that they are sure they are or are not a habitual offender, I ask if it was the court or the DMV that deemed them a habitual offender.

Next, the person’s residence is important. These initial questions help the Virginia criminal attorney and/or  or local Fairfax County traffic lawyer handling the matter know where to properly institute the proceedings, or, “petition for restoration of driving privileges.” Jurisdiction is but one issue non-lawyers may struggle with when attempting to handle matters like expungement and restoration of one’s license.

Dear Virginia Traffic Attorney and Criminal Lawyer in Fairfax: Where to Petition? Help!

We warn people all the time: this is a complex process (restoration of one’s privileges to drive after declared a habitual offender). If you attempt this without a Virginia traffic attorney, you need to be prepared to be meticulous and put in a lot of work, research, calling around (typically, these cases involve many calls back and forth to various agencies, including DMV, VASAP, and the court).

If it was the court that declared you a habitual offender, then a local Virginia,  serving traffic defense attorney can file a client’s petition for restoration7 with the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction that originally so labeled that client. But if the DMV – not the court – declared the individual as such, then the question becomes,

Does the client live in Virginia?

If so, the circuit court where they reside is the appropriate place to petition. If the client does not live in Virginia, then a third rule applies (when it comes to the place to file): out-of-state drivers who were declared a habitual offender by the DMV can actually go to any Virginia circuit court to file the petition for restoration.

Restoration of Driving Privileges in VA

How Complicated is it in Virginia? Do I Need a Virginia Traffic Lawyer?

You can certainly petition the court yourself…just like you are able to represent yourself in the court of law when accused of a crime. But does that make it a good idea? Hardly.

The process of restoring the driving privileges of a habitual offender is a long and often complicated and convoluted one.

Depending on the jurisdiction, the process may be slightly easier or more nuanced. Keep in mind that it typically takes an attorney around 10 hours or more (in my estimated guess) to handle an average-degree-of-difficulty restoration matter. There is a hearing involved as well, and having an attorney to represent you before a judge is always something that can simply not go overlooked by the petitioner or defendant, depending on the situation.

What is the Basic Process?

The process is a long one, so be prepared to be patient. While your local Virginia defense attorney and or local Fairfax traffic lawyer can explain how the steps will be executed in your scenario, here are a few of the broad, basic steps:

  • petition for restoration of driving privileges accurately and sufficiently.
  • petition must be delivered to prosecutor in correct jurisdiction
  • petition must be delivered to the DMV
  • hearing date must be set by the court
  • may be required to first submit report to court detailing findings of evaluation by (VASAP)
  • grants petition for restoration
  • wait out any remaining suspension time
  • pass a driving test

Many are charged with traffic-related criminal offenses (especially reckless driving, driving without a valid license, driving on suspended, and driving on revoked due to DWI), and given the unique nature way the laws in Virginia have adapted over time, a unique group of people classified as habitual offenders must be cognizant of their status and that such status means.

For these individuals, a petition for restoration of driving privileges may be the starting point required to get back on the road.

Many local Fairfax criminal lawyers and defense attorneys will talk to you about your case or matter at no cost. At Vincenzes Law, PLLC, we allow people to select their preferred method should they wish to discuss the case’s possible outcomes, defenses, weaknesses, and costs/penalties: either in-person (our office location in Fairfax), over the telephone, or by email (online).

You may even use our online appointment-tool to specify a time of the day you would like for a Virginia,  serving traffic defense an criminal law attorney to call you.

Call us at 703.665.3719 or toll free: 888.695.6565

Fairfax Virginia Traffic Attorney

or visit our contact page to leave our Loudoun, Stafford, Fairfax, and Arlington criminal lawyer and Virginia traffic attorney your message or question. We serve all of Northern Virginia. To see our (very long) list of service areas, click here. If you do not see your jurisdiction, ask if we are able to help. We may be able to assist you. If we are not able to, we may be able to help you find a trusted attorney who can.


Virginia Code Sections cited by our Fairfax traffic attorney on this page

[1] § 46.2-357. Operation of vehicle by habitual offender penalty

[2] § 46.2-360. Restoration of privileges Also see:

[3] § 18.2-271.1. Probation, education and rehabilitation

[4] § 18.2-266. DWI in Virginia (main statute)

[5] § 46.2-341.24. Driving a commercial motor vehicle while intoxicated

[6] § 18.2-271.2. VASAP

Non-Statute References by our Northern Virginia Defense Attorney

[7] Blank Petition for Restoration of Driving Privileges (for Habitual Offenders) Example (

[8] Blank Petition for Restoration of Driving Privileges (for a third offense) Example (

You may want to read our Virginia criminal lawyer’s pages covering these topics:

Virginia DMV Demerit Points: Chart to Compare Violations and Demerit Points in VA

Virginia Reckless Driving Laws – excellent resource for any driver facing a Virginia reckless driving charge Written by our Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer

DWI Penalties – DWI Mandatory Jail Time (Chart) –

Hidden Virginia DWI Costs

Virginia Marijuana Prohibition Policy Fail: First Offender Program Shortcomings Exposed

Virginia Driver’s License Offenses (No Valid License; Driving on Suspended/Revoked)

The Google Community Page: Fairfax County Drivers (moderated by our Fairfax criminal defense attorney)

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Brenton D. Vincenzes is a lifelong Fairfax County resident and Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer. He is a member of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National College of DUI Defense, NORML, and has been awarded the following in 2014-15: Top 100 Trial Lawyer (National Trial Lawyers) Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer (National Trial Lawyers) Nationally Ranked Top 10 Under 40 Defense Attorney (National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys) 10 Best in Client Satisfaction for Criminal Defense (American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys) Nationally Ranked Top 1% Attorney Award Recipient (National Association of Distinguished Counsel) As a local leader, Mr. Vincenzes mentors troubled youths, volunteers his time to serve at his church, takes select pro bono clients, and strives to improve the community. Mr. Vincenzes represents men, women, and juveniles through zealous and diligent advocacy, strategic planning, and skilled trial work preparation. Mr. Vincenzes' areas of criminal law practice are broad, and include most felonies and misdemeanors such as: reckless driving, DUI & DWI, drug offenses, assault and battery, domestic violence, assault on an officer, destruction of property, alcohol offenses, firearm offenses, larceny, shoplifting, embezzlement, fraud, and other theft offenses, and moving traffic violations among others. His private legal services are available in most Northern Virginia jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, Arlington County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Stafford County, Alexandria, Manassas, Leesburg, South Riding, and other cities and towns.

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