News and Notes
Good people get entangled in the criminal justice system on a daily basis. Your first brush with the law can be a scary and intimidating experience. In Virginia, a number of offenses that may seem like minor traffic violations can in fact be punished with up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2500 fine.
For example, reckless driving in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries these potential penalties. But did you know that at most speed limits, driving 20 miles an hour over the posted limit is
reckless driving? If you you get clocked at 45 mph in a 25 mph zone - that's reckless driving, even if there was nobody on the road but you and the officer.
Other offenses such as driving under the influence carry a number of serious potential penalties - even if it's your first offense. If you are convicted of driving under the influence, you will be required to attend and successfully complete an alcohol program. Your license to drive will automatically be suspended for a period of one year. A restricted license may be available to you, but it will severely limit where you can drive, and can be conditioned on an ignition interlock device being installed on your car (at your expense). Finally, depending on the Commonwealth's ability to prove your level of intoxication, you may have to serve some time in jail - regardless of your prior record. If you are convicted of a DUI with a blood alcohol level (BAC) between .15 and .20, the Code requires a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 5 days - and if you were over a .20, it's a mandatory 10 days. See Va. Code 18.2-270
. The code section also provides a number of enhanced penalties for repeat offenders.
Other jailable offenses in Virginia include driving without a valid license (even if it's just expired) or driving on a suspended license. These are charged under 46.2-300 and 46.2-301. Forgot to mail in your payment for that speeding ticket you got a few years ago before you moved? Your license to drive is likely suspended - the Court notifies the DMV that you failed to pay your ticket, and the DMV suspends your license. If you failed to update your address with the DMV right away, you could be driving around on a suspended license and not even know it. If you get pulled over, you can be written a ticket, your car can be towed, and you'll be left with a court date and the risk that you could go to jail, be fined, or have another license suspension imposed.
If you get charged with one of these offenses, you should at least talk to a lawyer and find out whether you have a defense to your charge.