Virginia Traffic Lawyer Explains DMV Points: 3 Categories

[kc_background_pac_1_heading_12]Virginia Traffic Lawyer Answers: “How many DMV ‘points’ will I get if convicted?[/kc_background_pac_1_heading_12]

Virginia traffic lawyerAs a Virginia traffic lawyer (defense), I have found that most people tend to agree on this: one of biggest concerns relates to the number of points assessed by the DMV.   Virginia traffic tickets lead to points, and points lead to increased insurance rates.  Many offenses that are traffic-related are actually criminal (reckless driving, for example), and will stay on a person’s criminal record life.

On the other hand, most DMV points only stay on a driver’s record for a certain period of time: 11 years for many serious offenses!  This page, by Virginia Traffic Lawyer Brent Vincenzes, is meant to help those charged with a moving violation determine the number of points they could possibly face, if found guilty.  Please check the DMV website as well, or contact us for a free case evaluation (if you are accused of a traffic or criminal offense in Fairfax, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington, Great Falls, McLean, Reston, Manassas, Clifton, Fairfax Station, Burke, Prince William and Loudon Counties.

The number of points you will receive depends on the category your offense falls into.  There are three categories, depending on the severity of the infraction: a traffic violation in Virginia might result in three, four, or six demerit points.  As mentioned, some Virginia traffic tickets and/or criminal misdemeanors may stay on a person’s Virginia driving record forever.

If you have not already visited the page explaining how the courts and DMV interact, as well as the top three sources for information related to most traffic charges, visit that page located here.

3 Demerit Point Virginia Traffic Violations

For a complete list of 3 point moving violations in Virginia, see the DMV of VA website: we have provided a link on our resources page to the specific DMV site where you can view all of the three point offenses.

Virginia Traffic Lawyer on Speeding: DMV demerit points for speeding tickets may be more complicated

Making this determination related to your traffic violation may be slightly more complicated depending on how fast you were alleged to have been going…speeding-related charges may fall into one the three point categories and not be considered a “reckless driving” charge in Virginia.

On the other hand, a speeding ticket could very well amount to reckless driving, which will be discussed.  (For a Virginia speeding ticket that is actually a reckless charge, strongly consider hiring a Virginia traffic lawyer.  A well-versed Virginia reckless driving lawyer is not a “special” type of lawyer, and although there are no “special certifications” for lawyers which are approved by the Virginia State Bar, some Virginia traffic lawyers focus on an area – a sub-category — of the law.  If you can find a Virginia reckless driving lawyer who offers a free case evaluation or a free consultation, take advantage of his or her willingness to meet or talk to you at no cost.

Generally, a modest Virginia speeding ticket will result in 3 points if convicted.  For example, speeding one single mph over the speed limit (up to nine mph) falls into this category.  As for the “opposite” – driving too slow – impeding traffic is similarly a three point traffic violation.

Aside from a speeding ticket in Virginia, moving violations carrying three demerit points as a consequence related to passing others, including “improper passing,” “improper driving,” even “improper stopping.

Improper turns (including U-turns)

Similar to improper driving, an improper turn (including an improper U-turn or an illegal left-hand turn through a red light) Virginia traffic violation conviction will result in 3 demerit points.

Failing to Obey Signs

You may have heard of “failure to obey a highway sign.”  For those convicted of this charge, luckily it does currently fall within this three point category.  Interestingly, the charge for evading a “traffic control device” sounds like it would be treated more severely than it is, at least when it comes to demerit points.  It also is in this category.

Other 3-demerit-point Virginia traffic laws

Some lesser known offenses include Virginia traffic laws related to vehicle lights, licensing infractions, commercial vehicle-related violations, and others.

Virginia traffic laws related to vehicles lights

Every driver should know how dangerous it is to drive without working headlights, but sometimes they dim or go out completely while driving, in between point A and point B.  You can be ticketed for having excessive lights, lights deemed to be too dim, and even “inadequate hazard lights,” among others.

Virginia traffic laws and demerit points related to licensing infractions

Most people know not to drive without having their license, and to avoid driving without a license plate. But some people may actually be caught off guard if they have failed to have a license re-validated after it has been suspended.

Commercial vehicle-related Virginia traffic laws

People with jobs – or self-employed individuals who rely upon their vehicles commercially – should pay particular attention to these laws, since it is reasonable to expect an employer to require a very clean driving record.  These offenses relate to driving commercial vehicles may seem strange to those unacquainted with commercial driving,

Virginia Traffic Lawyer – Career Specific Issue:

Some lesser-known Virginia traffic laws are included in this “three-point” category and involve commercial vehicles:

–          Driving a commercial vehicle with alcohol in blood (this stays on one’s record for life)

–          Driving a commercial vehicle with more than 1 driver’s license

–          Driving more than 13 hours in a single day;

–          Driving a vehicle in excess of the height requirements for passing under certain tunnels; an

–          Many others…

Hiring a Virginia traffic lawyer may be especially important for those with a livelihood or career dependent upon the ability to drive their commercial vehicle.

School bus drivers are one such example of a group of persons who could be making a very wise decision to hire a trusted Virginia traffic attorney.  The same can be said for many delivery drivers, carriers, and government employees.

Some lesser-known (but easily overlooked) 3 point traffic violations in Virginia

“Failing” to do something may result in a Virginia traffic ticket, even if you were not aware of the illegality of the failure to do (or not do) something.  Others falling into this sub-category of lesser-known Virginia traffic violations include infractions related to something a driver did not “fail” to do, but did do, in violation of Virginia law.

Examples of Virginia traffic laws –  When “failing” to do something can cost you

–          Failure to stop at the scene of an accident or unattended property;

–          Failure to leave the scene of an accident/crash when an officer has directed you to leave; and

–          Failure to report a crash, as long as the damage is less than $250

Examples of Virginia traffic violations related to driving while doing something prohibited

–          Driving with earphones in;

–          Driving with a TV screen visible

–          Driving in violation of a curfew requirement;

–          Drinking while driving (this is NOT DUI);

–          And numerous others…

Four Point Virginia Traffic Violations

As points increase, generally the years an infraction will remain on your record will also increase.  These examples of four-point Virginia traffic laws may increase the chances of determining it a wise decision to hire a traffic lawyer near you.

Speeding and 1 Non-Speed Related Example of Virginia Reckless Driving Laws

When charged with reckless driving, it is important to carefully consider whether you would be better off if a Virginia reckless driving attorney were to assist you.  The penalties for reckless driving are severe.  Learn more about your case by accessing the General District Court Case Information Website here, if you have not done so already.  It is extremely important to show up to your court date on time, so make sure you know the courtroom and time (and floor number, if applicable) before you arrive.

Virginia Speeding Ticket – Revisited

Speeding in Virginia from 10 to 19 mph above the posted limit will earn four demerit points if convicted.  20 mph is reckless driving, as is driving in excess of 80 mph, in general.  Thus, keep in mind a Virginia reckless driving lawyer if charged with speeding over 20 mph (or over 80 mph, as just stated).  Even if your Virginia traffic ticket is not a reckless driving charge, you may have a valid defense.

Common Virginia traffic violations related to illegally: passing, following, signaling, yielding, stopping, and crossing railroads

Although some Virginia traffic laws related to the aforementioned types of violations result in three or even six demerit points, this middle-ground area includes several to take note of, and at this point, if four demerit points are on the line if convicted, it may be wise to call your local Virginia traffic lawyer – or Fairfax traffic attorney – if you were stopped and charged by an officer in Northern Virginia.

More “Failure-to” Type Virginia traffic violations

Passing “when unsafe” – as well as “passing to the left of an approaching vehicle,” are both passing-related violations deemed more severe (at least, in the sense they will result in four points instead of three).  But there are also many more traffic tickets one can incur based on the failure to:

–          drive to the right and stop for police, fire, or emergency vehicles

–          stop for a pedestrian (with a white cane)

–          stop and yield the right-of-way to another with such right-of-way, based on Virginia traffic law

–          yield the right of way ( in some areas, drivers are required to stop AND yield, as opposed to only yielding)

–          yield when turning left (it is an action that might be deemed reckless, if it endangered the life of another)

–          yield to a funeral procession

–          drive on the right half of a highway or street;

–          keep to the right when crossing an intersection

–          signal before moving away from a curb

Railroad Crossings

If you are familiar with the town of Clifton, Virginia, then you know how frequently trains pass through.  Many places in rural areas have railroad crossings: in Northern Virginia, they are more rare.  But no matter where you live, the most important thing is to realize how easily you can be killed or seriously injured, if you violate one of the following Virginia Railroad Crossing laws.

Traffic Violations Involving Non-commercial drivers/vehicles and Railroad Crossings

These infractions, though not listed in full on this page, are surprisingly numerous.  They are often of the “failure to” variety of Virginia traffic violation, and include the failure to:

–          obey a railroad crossing signal;

–          stop at a railroad grade crossing;

–          Keep to the right at a railroad crossing;

–          Stop a vehicle carrying passengers at a railroad grade crossing

1 Lesser-known Railroad Crossing Traffic Violation in Virginia

It is a violation of Virginia law to improperly operate a “crawler-type” tractor at a railroad crossing.  This is in contrast to the very obvious and very dangerous infraction of stopping on a railroad crossing.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers are Subject to Even More Railroad Crossing Virginia Traffic Rules

Once again, these are primarily “failure to” type violations, and include the failure to:

–          slow down and/or stop at a railroad crossing;

–          keep “sufficient” space to drive through a railroad crossing;

–          obey a traffic control device, or an official who is enforcing traffic control measures at a railroad crossing;

–          have “sufficient” clearance for your commercial vehicle’s undercarriage at a railroad crossing

Commercial vehicles are generally larger, they take longer to slow down, and as a result of these and other basic general differences between them and non-commercial vehicles, we see the difference in the laws reflected.  These “commercial vehicle related” railroad crossing Virginia traffic laws must be carefully followed, because a conviction leads to the charge remaining on your Virginia driving record for life, unlike the period the conviction would remain on a non-commercial motor vehicle driver.  For this reason, and several others, a Virginia traffic lawyer may be a professional to consult with as soon as you have a chance.

Many More Virginia Traffic Violations Exist:

Consult a Virginia traffic lawyer for more information on your charge if you are unclear or have questions about the penalties you face, if convicted.  Some of the four point Virginia traffic laws inapplicable to the above categories already specified include, but are not limited to:

–          aggressive driving;

–          improper backing;

–          impeding  a funeral procession

–          disregarding police officer’s signal to stop (or disregarding a crossing guard or officer’s signal, in general)

–          failure to stop obey highway lane markings; and more

It is worth noting – even before driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is more broadly discussed – that if someone is found to be operating a vehicle with a suspended, revoked, or restricted license, then almost always, a very small amount of alcohol (.02%) will result in a charge, if convicted, that will remain on the driver’s record for a staggering 11 years!  A Virginia DUI lawyer can help you understand the possible additional consequences of this charge if you are faced with it an alleged violation.

Six Demerit Point Violations:Virginia reckless driving attorney

These may be misdemeanors or felonies.

Strongly consider a Virginia traffic lawyer

Whether you hire a lawyer – or even wish to speak with a Virginia traffic attorney – is completely up to you, if charged.  However, with the six point offenses discussed below, the penalties can be so severe, and the detrimental effects can be so long-lasting, that it could be a mistake to fore go considering representation.

As we shall see, these very serious charges include reckless driving, DUI, manslaughter, and even a few other categories.

Virginia Reckless Driving Laws – Six Demerit Points May be the Least of Your Worries

Although this section is on this page – primarily dealing with traffic charges – it is important to realize that reckless driving is considered a criminal offense.  It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which means a potential fine of up to $2,500, up to a year in jail, and loss of driving privileges. It will appear on your criminal record, not solely your driving record.  And furthermore, if convicted, it will remain there for life.

Here is a list of most of the reckless driving offenses in Virginia

(note: as of July 1, 2013, police officers can charge drivers with reckless driving if they are text messaging while driving.  Texting and driving is also now a primary offense, meaning officers are legally allowed to pull over drivers suspected of texting and driving, even if no other infraction is suspected.)

Driving (speeding) “in excess” of 80 miles per hour;

Drivers should pay attention when traveling on highways, especially where the speed limit is 65 mph or higher.  Many people routinely drive 10 mph above the limit, and although they may think this is safe, it is not (officers can pull drivers over for going just one mph over the limit).

If your speedometer is off by just a few miles per hour, then it becomes an even greater risk (legally) to travel above the posted limit when the limit is already relatively high.

Driving (speeding) 20 miles per hour or more over the limit;

This reckless driving charge, in contrast to the “in excess” of 80 mph” type, may be more likely incurred on roads where the speed limit is low.  (For example, residential areas where the speed limits are just 25 mph). 45 mph does not “seem” fast, especially on a clear road at nighttime, and even more so if a driver was recently on a highway…

Racing

This sounds simple, right?  Not so much.  To prove you were “racing” the Commonwealth must show a number of elements.  Speak with a Virginia traffic or criminal attorney if you have been charged with racing “reckless driving,” because unlike the first two reckless driving types (listed above), this charge generally arises from the observation(s) of a police officer and is not backed up by equipment (like a  radar gun, for example).

“Passing or Overtaking an Emergency Vehicle”

This charge, as obvious as it sounds, can still cause a big problem for many normally cautious drivers in Virginia.  Although it is careless to drive on any road without paying full attention, failing to pay full attention at the wrong moment could prove disastrous to a driver’s criminal record.  This form of reckless driving is an example of such a “moment.”  Most experienced drivers do notice when emergency vehicles are coming from behind, due to the flashing lights and loud sirens.  However, many different factors can influence whether or not a driver does in fact notice the presence of an emergency vehicle.

Passing a School Bus

Given the fact that children are on school buses, expect to get a reckless charge if a police officer sees you illegally passing one.  This is a common sense rule, and if charged under this reckless driving law, it likely is either due to a conscious disregard of the law, or (more likely) an accidental lapse in judgment.  No judge in the Commonwealth will assume your innocence unless there is some valid defense to this reckless charge.

Driving too Fast “for Conditions”

How does a driver know what speed is acceptable in inclement weather conditions?  “What if I drive a four-wheel drive SUV? Will I be treated and judged the same as a driver operating a sports car in the same weather conditions?” This is a valid question. How do you know if you have a defense to this seemingly very subjective reckless driving law?  Find out the answer to this question and more in my special 4-part reckless driving defenses and failures report.  The answer may surprise you.

“Surprising” Reckless Driving Offenses

Below is a list of a few of the lesser-known reckless driving offenses which police officers are well-aware of.  Just because you did not know a violation of any of the following constituted reckless driving will not help you escape a ticket:

  • Failing to give a proper signal – how do you know whether your failure to give a proper signal constitutes a reckless driving charge?
  • Failing to maintain control of a vehicle – what if you are involved in a single-car accident and you truly do not know why your car went off the road and struck an object or other vehicle?
  • Driving a vehicle with faulty brakes – what if you were not aware of your vehicle’s “faulty” brakes?  Can you still be found guilty?
  • Parking lot reckless driving – what does this even mean?  Does it mean more than doing “doughnuts” in a parking lot?

Driving with an obstructed view

How many times have you seen someone driving down the road with a half-way closed trunk, perhaps with rope or cables wrapped around in an attempt to secure the lumber, materials, or supplies the driver is attempting to transport?  Or, similarly, have you ever seen a mattress on someone’s rooftop?  Although your view may not be obstructed in reality, if it appears as if your view is obstructed or if you are involved in an accident and your vehicle is unusual in the load it is carrying, an officer might have reason to believe your view was obstructed. This does not mean you will be found guilty in the court of law, but if you want your day in court to be something other than your word versus the officer’s, you should hire a reckless driving lawyer.

No Surprises Here: DWI and DUI are Six-Point Violations

It should come as no surprise that it is a six-point violation if convicted of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  What if you are under the age of 21?  Since it is illegal to consume alcohol (except in rare circumstances) if under age 21, it is considered “driving under the influence.”  However, unlike the charge of “driving under the influence of alcohol” those convicted of driving after illegally consuming alcohol based on their underage status in Virginia will remain on a DMV driving record for three years as opposed to eleven.

Other Six-Point “Driving Under the Influence” Violations

  1. Driving while license is suspended/revoked based upon a driving while intoxicated conviction
  2. Driving while license is suspended/revoked for driving while intoxicated, and:
  • A person is “maimed”
  • A person is killed (involuntary manslaughter)

*Note: this list of “driving under the influence” six-point violations is not comprehensive.

Habitual Offenders

Not only will getting caught and convicted of driving after being declared a “habitual offender” result in six demerit points, but it will remain on your DMV record for eleven years!  Furthermore, a related violation (yet somewhat surprising) is the “authorization” of a person suspended for a driving while intoxicated violation OR suspended for declared a habitual offender results in six-points.  However, it will remain on one’s driving record for three years, not eleven.

Driving while License Suspended

The Commonwealth of Virginia severely punishes drivers found guilty of driving on a suspended license (or revoked), even if the suspension or revocation is based upon the failure to pay court fines/costs.

More Virginia Six Point Moving Violations

–          Blocking access to a “service facility”
–          Attempting to elude the police
–          Operating an unsafe vehicle
–          Passing a stopped school bus (non-reckless)
–          Failing to stop at the scene of a crash where there is an injury, death, or property damage of $1000 or more

To check all of the current six point violations listed on the DMV website, click here.  Many violations are not listed on this page, including commercial vehicle-related six-point violations.

If you live in Fairfax or can get to Fairfax, schedule a free consultation with a  local Fairfax traffic lawyer or Fairfax criminal defense attorney– assuming you have been charged of the violation in Fairfax County or an area in Northern Virginia where a Fairfax traffic lawyer serves.

Vincenzes Law PLLC was founded by Brenton D. Vincenzes, attorney at law, in Fairfax, Virginia.  To receive the Vincenzes Law PLLC Special Report entitled, “The Virginia Reckless Driving AND Speeding Defense Cheat Sheet,” as well as periodic updates with helpful information, please click here.  The special report is free for any person who meets at least one of the following conditions:

–          You live in Virginia;

OR

–          You are a driver of a vehicle and pass through Virginia on occasion or frequently (out-of-state drivers are welcomed)

OR

–          You are at least 15 years old and intend to obtain a Virginia learner’s permit or driver’s license

OR

–          You are a friend or family member of a resident or driver in Virginia

*NOTE* you do NOT need to be a U.S. citizen to receive the Special Report

Please note: this page was last updated July 26, 2013: do not rely on this as it is not legal advice, but educational information only.

DISCLAIMER: this page is not to be relied upon for legal advice.  For legal advice, speak with an attorney. This page/article is for educational purposes only. It is not to be relied upon in any way, since driving laws and correlated demerit points may frequently change.

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“Upsidedown Vehicle:” Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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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