What Are The Potential Consequences For Being Convicted Of A Traffic Violation?
Updated: May 4
The consequences that a traffic violation conviction can impose on a person’s driving privileges are generally not well-understood. The truth is that the full scope of such a conviction can be deceptive and extend beyond the ruling of the court itself. With this post, I hope to shed light on both the visible and more hidden potential repercussions of receiving such a conviction.
Court System Consequences
Let’s begin by discussing the provisions that a district court may include in its order. While this is not an exhaustive list, I have seen courts in Southwest Virginia include the following provisions in their traffic violation orders:
Driving school requirements
Community service requirements
Drivers license suspensions
Drivers license revocations
VASAP class requirements
installation of ignition interlock system requirements
Obviously, a case’s potential outcome can depend upon the severity of the offense. In Virginia, some traffic violations are categorized as civil offenses, whereas others are categorized as criminal offenses. This distinction is important, as a criminal conviction will usually result in a more severe punishment than a civil infraction. For example, a court can order a defendant to be incarcerated in criminal cases where the defendant is convicted of a class 1 or 2 misdemeanor or a felony, but cannot do so for civil traffic infractions. A case’s potential outcome can also depend upon whether the facts of the case include an alcohol or substance use component. In these circumstances, such as in DUI cases, a court may order that the defendant’s driver’s license be suspended (sometimes with the opportunity to receive a restricted driver’s license) or revoked, or otherwise place limitations on the defendant’s ability to drive (such as through ordering the defendant to enroll and complete a VASAP course or install an ignition interlock system in his or her vehicle). Sometimes, a court may be willing to reduce or dismiss a civil traffic infraction upon a showing that the defendant has taken certain steps to mitigate the offense, such as by completing a driving school course or community service hours. Often, the court will continue the case to a future date to allow the defendant time to accomplish these tasks. An experienced attorney may help aid you in convincing the arresting officer or the court that circumstances surrounding the offense warrant a reduction or dismissal, as further discussed here.
Although modifications to a driver’s driving privileges flow from a court’s conviction order, the court system itself is not the entity responsible for administering those modifications. That job belongs to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. One of the DMV’s many roles is to oversee driver’s license suspensions and revocations ordered by Virginia courts. It also oversees the point-based system used to rate Virginia drivers. In the DMV’s point-based system, drivers begin with a point balance of zero. For each year that a driver maintains a clean driving record, he or she receives one “safe driving point,” up to a maximum of plus five points. On the other end of the spectrum, drivers receive “demerit points” when convicted of a traffic violation. Demerit points subtract from a driver’s overall point balance and, unlike safe driving points, are incurred in bulk.
The number of demerit points a driver receives after a conviction of a traffic violation depends upon the severity of that offense. In Virginia, traffic violation convictions can incur 3, 4, or 6 demerit points. If a driver incurs too many demerit points within a short time span, the DMV will place his or her driver’s license on probation or suspension. A more thorough breakdown of the demerit point system can be found on the DMV website. Demerit points remain on a driver’s record for two years after the offense date when the traffic violation occurred. However, the conviction itself may stay on a driver’s record for three to 11 years, depending on the severity of the offense.
Auto Insurance Premiums
Traffic violation convictions typically also result in a driver’s auto insurance company raising its premiums. Each insurance company possesses its own system for assigning demerit points to traffic violations. The insurer’s system will sometimes calculate demerit points identically to the DMV’s system, and at other times will deviate substantially. Regardless, the more insurance demerit points a driver receives, the higher his or her auto insurance premium will rise after the current policy period expires.
Consult An Attorney
Regardless of your circumstances, it can be worthwhile to consult with an experienced traffic law attorney to explore your legal options.
Please be mindful that every case has different facts and can implicate different areas of the law. As such, the subject matter contained within this article should not be interpreted as specific legal advice for any individual case. Please contact Curcio & Curcio, PC at 276-466-3377 if you are need of any of the following:
An attorney in Bristol, VA
An attorney in Abingdon, VA or the broader Washington County area
An attorney in Marion, VA or the broader Smyth County area
An attorney in the broader Southwest Virginia area