Fairfax Traffic Violations Attorney
If you are like most people, your driver’s license isn’t a luxury; it’s a basic need. Whether you drive to work, take your children to school, or buy groceries, walking or public transportation is not a viable option for many people. Thus, it can be incredibly stressful when you get a traffic ticket that jeopardizes your ability to drive. At the Law Offices of A. Michael Pignone, our Fairfax traffic violations attorney aggressively defends drivers cited for all types of infractions. From those with several DUIs to new drivers who get slapped with one too many tickets, Attorney Pignone can advise you of your options and help you get the best outcome possible.
What Are the Traffic Points and Penalties?
Anytime you are convicted of a traffic violation, the Virginia DMV posts the conviction to your driving record and adds a certain number of demerit points to your license. The number of demerit points you receive depends on the type of citation.
There are three types of citations in Virginia.
Four-Point Violations: Four-point offenses include speeding 10 miles per hour or more above the speed limit, unsafe passing, failure to stop for a pedestrian, failure to yield the right of way, and failure to drive on the right side of the road.
Three-Point Violations: Three-point violations include speeding less than 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit, driving through a safety zone, driving on the sidewalk, making an improper turn, and making a turn on a red light.
For drivers 18 and older, the DMV will suspend your license if you accrue 18 demerit points within 12 months or 24 demerit points within 24 months. Additionally, the DMW will automatically suspend your license if you are convicted of any of the following:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Injuring another person in a DUI accident;
- Driving on a DUI-suspended license;
- Making a false statement to the DMV;
- Failing to stop at the scene of an accident;
- Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from an accident;
- Any motor-vehicle-related drug offense;
- Any felony while using a vehicle; and
- Fleeing or eluding police.
However, being charged with a traffic citation and being convicted are two very different things. While many people assume they have no choice but to pay a ticket, in reality, you do have options.
If your lawyer determines that you have any grounds to challenge the ticket in court, that is a good option. Or, even if the ticket is valid, you may be able to obtain a restricted license that allows you to drive only to work or school, for instance. Given how important driving is to your everyday life, it is essential that you understand all of your options before simply acquiescing to detrimental consequences. Before you pay a ticket, consult with our Fairfax traffic violations attorney and get a full understanding of your options and associated consequences.
Why Hire a Fairfax Traffic Violations Lawyer?
The truth is, if you are lucky enough to have a spotless driving record, you probably don’t need an attorney. You can simply pay the ticket and be on your way. However, for everyone else, paying a traffic ticket can bring about some pretty serious consequences. You are essentially admitting guilt by paying a traffic ticket, which results in the DMV adding points to your record. If you reach a certain number of points, the DMV suspends your license.
However, there are a few things a Fairfax traffic violations lawyer can do to help. First, your lawyer may be able to challenge the violation. If successful, the ticket may just go away. However, even if that isn’t an option, your lawyer can work to reduce the traffic ticket to an offense that carries fewer or no points. Additionally, an attorney may be able to appear in court on your behalf, so you can avoid the hassle and stress of going to court altogether.
Should I Pay a Fairfax Traffic Ticket?
It depends. The decision of whether to pay a ticket is an important one, especially if you have had several other traffic citations over the past few years. The reason for this is that paying a traffic ticket is essentially pleading guilty to the offense. When you pay a ticket, you admit wrongdoing and accept the consequences of the conviction. And, for the most part, you also give up your right to challenge the ticket as well as the points that will go on your record.
Thus, if you have a bad driving record, paying a ticket is probably not a good idea. Instead, you should consult with a dedicated Fairfax traffic ticket lawyer who can help you fight the ticket. Often, a Fairfax traffic violations lawyer can get a traffic ticket reduced to a less serious offense or may even be able to get it thrown out altogether.
Traffic Violations in Fairfax
Without a Fairfax traffic violations lawyer to fight on your behalf, you will have to appear in court and represent yourself. The law refers to self-represented parties as “pro se” litigants. Pro se litigants are at a huge disadvantage because they do not know the system and how it works. Only an experienced Fairfax traffic violations attorney who knows the local courts truly understands the traffic ticket process and how to navigate Virginia’s complex legal system.
You might think that you could save money by appearing pro se to fight your traffic ticket. However, having an experienced lawyer with you will give you sound legal advice so that you can make an informed decision concerning your case. Otherwise, you could be guessing as to how you should handle the situation. What might sound like a reasonable disposition for your traffic violation could turn out to be a nightmare for you because of the implications of your decision.
A judge or local prosecutor cannot give you legal advice; you’re expected to know the law when you represent yourself. That means you need to know about the ramifications of your traffic violation and any other collateral consequences you could suffer. On the other hand, working with a skilled attorney can reduce stress and ensure you have the best chance to obtain a favorable outcome.
Fairfax County Court Process
The Fairfax County General District Court hears a variety of cases, including criminal matters and traffic violations. If you have a traffic violation, you can pre-pay if you want or go to court to contest the matter.
Many of our clients want to fight their cases, so we’ve sketched out a typical day in the Fairfax County General District Court. The day you go to court might be different depending on the number of cases called that day and how your case proceeds through the system.
You should contact your Fairfax traffic violations lawyer as soon as you receive a summons to appear in court. If you have to appear (sometimes we can appear for you), arrange to be in court at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appearance time. Arriving early will be helpful, especially if you haven’t been to court before.
You and your Fairfax traffic violations attorney will approach when the court calls your name. The court will inform you of the charges and ask you how you plead. You have three options:
- Not guilty,
- Guilty, or
- Nolo contendere (no contest).
You can ask the court to continue your case—sometimes called postponement—to another date if you are unable to proceed at that time. A judge could grant your request if you provide a good reason to continue the matter.
Types of Pleas for Traffic Violations in Fairfax
We discussed your options when the court asks for your plea. Now, we will discuss the meaning of each plea in greater detail.
Pleading guilty means that you admit you committed the offense charged. The court will hand down its punishment. For traffic violations, the punishment is a fine. You could receive a jail sentence, alternative disposition, fines, and license suspension ordered by the court for criminal traffic crimes.
Pleading nolo contendere means you do not contest the facts. It’s not a guilty plea, but you are waiving your right to defend yourself. The court can punish you as if you pleaded guilty as long as the facts support the offense charged.
Pleading not guilty means you want to contest the allegations brought against you. The judge will set the matter down for trial later that day or give you another date if the court cannot hear your case at that time.
Pleading not guilty means that you want to have the judge decide your case. However, we use the time before your hearing to negotiate a favorable resolution to your case with the local prosecuting attorney or police officer who brought the charges. We will try to negotiate your charges to a less-serious offense with a reduced fine or no demerit points.
If there is no resolution, the judge will hear evidence, starting with the prosecutor to determine your guilt or innocence. Your attorney can object and will cross-examine witnesses. You have the right to call witnesses and testify if you want. The judge will then decide the case. A not guilty finding means the judge will dismiss your case. However, a guilty finding means you might have to pay a fine.
Can You Appeal?
A traffic violation conviction gives you the right to appeal your guilty finding to a jury. The local circuit court hears cases on appeal from the general district court. Your lawyer can file a notice of appeal within ten days of the judge’s guilty finding. The circuit court clerk will schedule a jury trial when the docket allows. You have to appear for the case. Otherwise, the ruling of the general district court will stand, and you could face a criminal charge.
Your rights at a jury trial are the same, except that a jury of your peers will determine your fate rather than a judge alone.
What Is the Difference Between a Driver’s License Suspension and a Driver’s License Revocation?
Under Virginia law, the DMW can either suspend or revoke a person’s driving privileges. While many people use these terms interchangeably, they have different meanings. A suspension is a temporary withdrawal of your driving privileges. Once you fix whatever condition caused the suspension and complete all the reinstatement requirements, the DMV will reinstate your license.
Common reasons for Virginia driver’s license suspensions include:
- Driving without insurance;
- Driving an unregistered vehicle;
- Failing to complete a driver’s education course;
- Failure to pay child support;
- Too many demerit points; and
- A conviction for providing alcohol to a minor.
On the other hand, a revocation is more serious. A driver’s license revocation is the total removal of your driving privileges. Once you address the reasons for the revocation and complete all the reinstatement requirements, you still need to take the written and practical tests before you can obtain a new license.
Common reasons for Virginia driver’s license revocations include:
- DUI convictions;
- Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter convictions;
- Felony convictions involving the use of a motor vehicle;
- Too many traffic tickets;
- Driving on a suspended or revoked license;
- Providing false information on a driver’s license application; and
- Hit and run accidents.
If the DMV suspends or revokes your license, an experienced Fairfax driver’s license attorney can help. At the Law Office of Michael A. Pignone, we’ve helped countless drivers keep their licenses despite traffic tickets and other convictions. We can help you assess the situation and determine the best approach to keep or regain your driving privileges.
How Can I Reinstate My Driver’s License After a Suspension or Revocation?
If the DMV suspends or revokes your driver’s license, there are several steps you need to take to regain your driving privileges. While reinstatement requirements vary depending on the reason your license was suspended or revoked, some common reinstatement requirements include:
- Providing the DMV with proof of insurance;
- Attending a driver improvement course;
- Providing the DMV with proof you completed the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program;
- Complying with child support orders; and
- Paying all reinstatement and licensing fees.
In some cases, even if you cannot immediately reinstate your license, you can obtain a restricted license. For example, you may qualify for a restricted license right away if your suspension or revocation is based on the following:
- A first-offense DUI;
- Reckless driving;
- Speeding or aggressive driving; and
- Drug convictions.
A restricted license will enable you to drive to essential places like work or school. So qualifying for one can make your life much easier. However, some offenses require you to wait three years to seek a restricted license, such as:
- A third-offense DUI;
- DUI involves injury; and
- DUI manslaughter.
Granting a restricted license is within the sole discretion of the court, meaning a judge is under no legal obligation to grant your request for a restricted license. But the DMV has the authority to grant restricted licenses in limited situations, as well. Regardless, the assistance of an experienced Fairfax driver’s license lawyer can be critical to obtaining a restricted license. Driver’s license lawyers know what courts want to hear before considering reinstating even part of your driving privileges. They can help you present a strong case and get you back on the road. An attorney can also assist in identifying the reinstatement requirements that pertain to your situation and gathering all necessary documentation of compliance.
Do You Need the Help of an Experienced Fairfax Traffic Violations Attorney?
If you have multiple traffic tickets in Fairfax and want to learn about the options you have to keep your license, contact the Law Office of Michael Pignone. Attorney Michael Pignone has more than a decade of experience personally representing clients facing a wide range of traffic violations, including DUIs, driving on a suspended license, and reckless driving. With his help, you can effectively challenge the violation in hopes of keeping your driving privileges. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.
Our experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyer also handles other types of criminal defense cases, including: