What Qualifies as a “Serious” Traffic Offense in Virginia?

Technically, all traffic offenses are crimes. Any person guilty of one breaks the law, whether they turn without using a signal or engage in street racing.

When speaking about crimes and punishments, we often consider some crimes more “severe” than others. They may be highly immoral, such as murder or armed robbery, or they can be “severe” based on how harshly they are charged and punished.

In this article, we will broadly discuss traffic offenses that carry heavy charges and penalties in Virginia.

Traffic Infractions in Virginia

Most traffic crimes are infractions. Infractions are often considered the “lowest” level of crime. Often, they are penalized through fines alone, and the offender will not suffer jail time. If someone refuses to pay their fines, they could suffer harsher consequences. Rusal to pay these fines, however, is technically a separate crime. Therefore, you won’t directly go to jail for most infractions.

Examples of traffic infractions in Virginia include:

  • Speeding
  • Illegal U-turns
  • Failure to yield
  • Failure to make a complete stop when turning at a red light

Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses in Virginia

In most states, misdemeanors are the “mid-level crimes.” These offenses come with jail time and large fines. They stain records and background checks, and depending on the offense, they can harm reputations.

When the state labels a traffic offense a misdemeanor, it is sending a message. It is telling its citizens that these crimes are serious and will not be tolerated.

Examples of misdemeanor traffic violations in Virginia include:

  • Driving with a Suspended License
    • Class 1 misdemeanor; jail time up to 1 year; fines up to $2,500; 90 days license suspension
  • Driving with a Revoked License
    • Class 1 misdemeanor; jail time up to 1 year; fines up to $2,500; license revoked;
      • Third Offense: Class 6 felony; 1 to 5 years in prison
  • Reckless Driving
    (going 20 miles an hour over the speed limit; driving over 80 miles an hour; driving without proper brakes; weaving or dangerous passing; driving with overloaded cargo; etc.)
    • Class 1 misdemeanor; jail time up to 1 year; fines up to $2,500; license suspension up to 6 months
  • DUI
    (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol)
    • Class 1 misdemeanor; jail time up to 1 year; fines from $250 to $2,500; license suspension for 1 year; mandatory alcohol education (sometimes with treatment); possible orders for rehab or drug and alcohol education
    • Penalties are enhanced for second and subsequent offenses

Felony Traffic Offenses in Virginia

Felonies are the highest crimes in the U.S. They can result in prison sentences, and the most extreme versions lead to incarceration for life.

Examples of felony traffic violations in Virginia include:

  • Three (or More) DUI Offenses
    • Class 6 felony; prison for up to 5 years with mandatory time depending on the number and recency of prior offenses; fines from $1,000 to $2,500; license suspended for 3 years
  • Hit-and-Run Accidents
    • Penalties depend on the details of the crime. For instance, in a hit-and-run with only property damage below $250, offenders can face Class 4 misdemeanor charges. However, if the accident results in death or a serious injury, the offender could face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.

Exercising Your Rights in a Traffic Offense

No matter how light or severe, you always have the right to defend yourself against any criminal allegation. This fact is the cornerstone of our justice system. If you’ve been accused of a traffic violation, contact an attorney to discuss your options. In some cases, it may be easier to simply pay your fine and move on. In other situations, it may be necessary to challenge an injustice in court.

Our firm can represent you in an alleged traffic violation case, no matter how severe. For a free consultation, call us now at (540) 386-0204, or contact us online.

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