Posts Tagged ‘Traffic’

Failure To Yield Right Of Way

Monday, October 1st, 2012

People can get cited for failure to yield right of way and if they are found guilty, it is a 4 point violation in Virginia.  That’s a pretty big deal and can have a big impact on your insurance rates.

But, it’s more important than just points on a license and insurance rates.

Of course, each state has rules on when a person has the right of way and when you should yield the right of way to someone else.  Most of us are familiar with those rules, and if not, perhaps we should review the handbook.  For example, we all know that Pedestrians have the right of way in a cross-walk and that merging traffic must yield right of way to traffic that is already on the road.

Personally, I like the comment from The California Driver Handbook that saysRight-of-way rules, together with courtesy and common sense, help to promote traffic safety. It is important to respect the right-of-way of others, especially pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and bicycle riders. Never assume other drivers will give you the right-of-way. Yield your right-of-way when it helps to prevent collisions.”  (I added the bold for emphasis).

The lesson for today?  Know the rules of the road.  But remember that it’s more important to use common sense.

There are many variations on this, but I often remember this little poem when I’m driving:

Here lies the body of MichaelO’Day,
Who died maintaining his right of way.
He was right, dead right, as he sailed along,
But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

Can I be found guilty of DUI when the car is not turned ‘on’?

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

In Virginia, the code section that is used for a DUI charge is section 18.2-266 which begins with ‘It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle…’

There are the obvious cases where the car is in motion and the driver has been stopped by a law enforcement officer. But what about the times when the car is not moving?

For example, there have been previous cases where the engine was running but the transmission was in ‘Park’, where the key was in the ‘on’ position but the engine was not running, or where the key was in the ‘accessory’ position and the radio was playing, etc.

Many times, a person is charged with DUI when he/she is found asleep in the car, sitting in the driver’s seat, with the key in the ignition, sometimes with the engine turned off and the question has been whether or not they were considered to be ‘operating’ the vehicle.

On March 2, 2012, The Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Jean Paul Enriquez v. Commonwealth of Virginia that has established the rule that ‘when an intoxicated person is seated behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle on a public highway and the key is in the ignition switch, he is in actual physical control of the vehicle and, therefore, is guilty of operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol within the meaning of code section 18.2-266.’

Obviously, the best solution is to not drive if you have been drinking at all.

It is safer for everyone if you get a cab home and come back tomorrow to get your car.

But, if you feel that you need to stay with your car, don’t sit in the driver’s seat and don’t put the key in the ignition or you might be found guilty of a DUI, even if the car is not in motion.

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.

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.

What is VASAP?

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

VASAP is the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.

VASAP helps police officers by assisting them to obtain state of the art alcohol identification equipment and by training the officers on the use of this equipment.

VASAP is most widely known to be the organization that provides programs and activities to educate the public on the dangers and costs of drinking and driving.

I know that I was confused about whether the name was ‘VASAP’ or just ‘ASAP’.  The ASAP programs are the local programs that are attended by the public and there are 24 local ASAP programs in Virginia.  The VASAP is the umbrella organization that oversees and evaluates the actions of the local ASAPs.  Most of the time, you can use either name to indicate the program.

It has been reported that 86% of all crimes can be somehow related to alcohol or other drugs, and there is a consensus that if we can limit the unreasonable use of alcohol or drugs, we can limit the number of crimes committed.  While there are many crimes that do not involve driving, most people today drive, and if the driver is habitually abusing either alcohol or drugs, it is very likely that he or she will eventually be given a ticket for some driving activity that can be attributed to the alcohol or drug misuse and that is one path that the state can take to get the driver into the VASAP program with the goal to eliminate, or at least minimize, the illegal use of alcohol or drugs in the future.

While most of us think of the VASAP programs as being for drivers that were found guilty of a DUI, VASAP also has programs for drug offenders and reckless drivers where the use of alcohol or drugs is not directly involved.  There is also a program for those that have been found guilty of driving on a suspended license.

The VASAP programs are funded by the fees charged to those that are ordered to take these programs.  This means that the cost of a DUI or other drug or alcohol related crime is increased by the VASAP fee.  There are usually payment plans available, but if the VASAP fees are not paid, the person’s driver’s license will generally be suspended, which can cause future problems for the driver.

You can find out more about the VASAP program at their website here.

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.