Posts Tagged ‘speeding’

Do I need to go to court?

Monday, September 5th, 2011

I was in court last week and noticed that there were a lot of people who didn’t show up for their scheduled court dates.  The judge was NOT happy and issued a lot of ‘failure to appear’ charges.

In fact, in one case I remember, the judge dismissed the underlying reason for the person to come to court that day….but issued a summons for the person and that person now has a ‘failure to appear’ charge pending.  I know this judge usually gives people a couple of days in jail for the failure to appear, so this one particular person went from having his charge dismissed to facing possible jail time.  All because he didn’t show up.

Why do people not show up in court as scheduled?

I imagine that a lot of them just forget.  Forgetting is NOT a good excuse.  Think of it this way, would you want the jail to ‘just forget’ to let you out?  Get a calendar and mark that date.  Put a reminder on your cell phone.  Put a note on your refrigerator.  Whatever it takes to get you to court on the right day.

And make sure you know what courtroom you are assigned.  I’ve often seen situations where people will sit in court all morning just to find out they were in the wrong court!  If you don’t know for sure where you are supposed to be, ask the guard when you first come in the building.  Show the guard your summons and ask for directions to the right courtroom.   This can be especially frustrating when there are different buildings.  You can also check online to make sure you know where the court is located.  Or call the clerk’s office to confirm your date (and time) and ask the clerk for directions to make sure that you are going to the right place.

Some people say that they got a paper in court, but they never got anything in the mail.  In the past, they always got something in the mail, so they figured they would get a notice in the mail this time too.  Sorry, you get notices in the mail when they can’t give you the notice in person.  If they give you a piece of paper in court with the next court date, you NEED to be there!

I had one person tell me that the original date was ‘just for child visitation’ and they decided they didn’t want to fight the visitation request, so they didn’t show up.  Not a good idea!  If you don’t want to fight the visitation request, you need to show up in court and tell that to the judge.  Otherwise, the judge will probably issue a ‘failure to appear’ summons and you will show up in court at a later time, with a much bigger problem!

Some people say that something else came up and they couldn’t make it to court.  If something really does come up, you can contact the court before your scheduled time to appear and the judge MIGHT give you a break and schedule another day.  Being in the hospital for surgery is the type of thing that the judge might accept.  Wanting to go shopping instead, or oversleeping because you were up late the night before is something that the judge will probably NOT accept.

For traffic tickets, the officer will write on the ticket whether or not you need to appear.  Most of the time, you can use the online system to pay for simple speeding tickets (although you should be aware that pre-paying the ticket is the same as pleading ‘guilty’ and you will receive the ‘points’ against your license).  If you have been charged with reckless driving, you must appear.

Sometimes an attorney can appear in court on your behalf and you don’t need to be there yourself.  Be sure to check with your attorney to make sure whether or not you need to appear yourself.  I generally suggest that my clients also appear in court even if they don’t really need to be there.  After all, it’s your life, your money, or your freedom that is at stake and you really should be involved in anything that might happen.  The attorney can tell you what the ‘regular’ judge will probably do, but that judge may be sick this one day and there is a substitute.  It’s just better to be there yourself.

The bottom line is that if you have been told to be in court on a certain day at a certain time, you need to make arrangements to be there!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Improper Driving in Virginia

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Improper Driving is not something that will be written on a ticket.  Instead it is a statutory creation found in Virginia Code section 46.2-869 that says “upon the trial of any person charged with reckless driving where the degree of culpability is slight, the court in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving.”

The penalty for improper driving is much less than the penalty for reckless driving.  There are only 3 points assessed by the DMV, as opposed to 6 points for reckless driving.  There is also a maximum fine of $500 instead of the max fine of $2500 for reckless driving and there is no jail or license suspension duration either.  Of course the biggest difference is that improper driving is a traffic violation while reckless driving is a crime!

How do you get your charge reduced from ‘reckless driving’ to ‘improper driving’?  It’s up to the judge.  You need to convince the judge that you really should have your charge reduced because ….

The … after the because is where you would put in your arguments to try to convince the judge that you deserve the break.  The judge can take a lot of things into consideration including whether you were cooperative with the officer, whether you have had multiple driving offenses in the past, whether you were speeding because you didn’t plan your trip correctly, or any other thing that the judge feels might make a difference.  And yes, often your demeanor in court will have an impact on the judge’s decision too.

The judge will not always agree to a reduction in the charge to improper driving, but it is usually worth it to make that request and have an explanation ready to help the judge make the decision in favor of the reduction.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Reckless Driving in Virginia

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Have you been charged with Reckless Driving?

Reckless Driving in Virginia is more than a glorified speeding ticket.  It is a class 1 misdemeanor that can result in up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2500!

That’s right!  Reckless Driving in Virginia is a CRIME that will remain on your record FOREVER.

The judge will probably not order the maximum penalty for a first offense Reckless Driving charge.  However, there is a really good chance of receiving a hefty fine and a suspension of your driving privileges.  Regardless of the other conditions, the part of the guilty verdict that results in the finding of guilt of a crime remains.

Why is this important?  I had a potential client call me because she was trying to rent an apartment in Florida and they did not approve her application because her name came up when they did a criminal background check.  Yep…it was the Reckless Driving ticket she got 5 years before that showed up as a ‘criminal conviction’ with really no other information explaining that it was for driving at excessive speed.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do except try to get the records to explain that this was a speeding matter and not something that most of us think of as ‘more criminal’ in nature.  By the time we could arrange all of this, the apartment was no longer available, but at least the Potential Client has the information for the next time this happens.

So, what is Reckless Driving?  Reckless Driving is driving at any speed that is in excess of 20 miles over the posted speed limit OR driving at a speed in excess of 80 MPH (regardless of the posted speed limit) OR any driving action that is perceived by the officer to be driving in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.

When they raised the speed limit on most of the interstates in Virginia to 70 MPH, they did not change the limit for Reckless Driving.  I know most people think you can go 10 miles over the speed limit and not get caught, but this is something you should really be aware of.   (As a side note, I’ve been in court when people were found guilty of going 4 miles over the posted speed limit.  After all, it was technically over the posted limit.)

The bottom line is to take a ticket for Reckless Driving very seriously.  I would suggest that you consider the ticket for Reckless Driving as being the same as being arrested for any other crime.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Should I fight my traffic ticket?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Virginia is tough on drivers who speed.

I’ve talked before about Reckless Driving, which is really so much more than just a speeding ticket.

But what about your ‘garden variety’ speeding ticket that doesn’t rise to the level of Reckless Driving?  Most of these tickets can be paid online through the court website and you don’t need to show up at all.  But is it a good idea to just pay the ticket?

That’s really a personal decision.  The ticket itself may not cost much.  and I’ve had client’s tell me that they really don’t want to spend the money for an attorney to go to court to fight the ticket.  I can understand that.

But you also need to consider the increased cost of your insurance.  I had a client who got 2 speeding tickets within 3 months and his insurance bill went from $250 every 6 months to over $600 every 6 months.  That $700 a year in increased insurance cost would have paid for an attorney in just one year.  (and his increased insurance rate will go on for much longer than one year).

Something to think about.