Often people think of traffic infractions as minor inconveniences and out-of-pocket costs, such as speeding or making an illegal U-turn. These are things that could result in a ticket and fine and can be added to the DMV records but don’t show up on criminal records. However, there are traffic violations that are more serious in nature and can result in criminal charges that show up on criminal records, which in turn, has negative consequences. Read on for what you need to know about criminal traffic violations in Virginia.
What Traffic Offenses Can End up on a Criminal Record in Virginia?
There are several, some considered misdemeanors and some considered felonies.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs (including legal drugs that cause drowsiness or otherwise impair driving ability). This involves first and second offenses.
- Reckless driving
- Driving with a suspended or revoked license
If convicted of these misdemeanors, someone could receive up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,500, which will appear on their criminal record. For misdemeanor DUI convictions, a first offense could cause the driver’s license to be suspended for one year, and a second conviction could result in the license being suspended for three years.
- Vehicular homicide (when the driver causes another person’s death while driving)
- Third or more DUI convictions
Penalties for traffic felonies are as serious as other felonies. They will include mandatory prison time of a minimum of six months and up to five years and fines of $1,000-2,500, as well as having the driver’s license suspended indefinitely.
If the DUI conviction involved the death of another party, the driver could be convicted of involuntary or aggravated manslaughter. An involuntary manslaughter conviction can result in one to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. An aggravated manslaughter conviction could lead to a one-year minimum prison sentence up to a maximum 20-year sentence.
These will appear on criminal records as well.
How Long Do Criminal Traffic Convictions Stay on My Criminal Record in Virginia?
DUI convictions, as are all felony convictions in Virginia, are permanent convictions. It’s a six-point DMV offense, which means it stays on your DMV records for 11 years but stays on your criminal record forever. People often wonder if it’s possible to have a DUI expunged from their criminal record in Virginia. The answer is sometimes–but only when the driver was innocent or wrongly accused. If determined guilty and convicted, the DUI cannot be expunged. Someone could request a pardon from the governor, but those are rarely granted. This is why it’s vital that someone charged with a criminal traffic infraction work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to prevent that conviction whenever possible.
What Effect Can Traffic Violations on My Criminal Record Have on Me?
The consequences vary, but criminal records can be used against you when you’re applying for a job, a loan, university, or college, whether or not you can have child custody, housing, security clearance, during immigration processes, or if you’re trying to earn or maintain a professional license. If the criminal conviction is permanent, this will follow you for the rest of your life.
What Are Possible Defenses When Charged with a Criminal Traffic Infraction?
There are several, although it’s essential to understand that each case is unique with varying factors.
An experienced defense attorney can help you determine what might best fit your case and provide the best opportunity for reduced or dismissed charges.
- The infraction was a mistake. This involves things like not stopping at an intersection because the power for the streetlight was down. It does not involve ignorance of the law; someone claiming they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to drink and drive is not going to be helped by that defense because it’s their responsibility to know the law.
- The police stop was illegal. The police officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion that you were guilty of something, and they had no probable cause for arrest.
- In a DUI, the breathalyzer wasn’t working correctly, or the results weren’t appropriately interpreted. The field, eye, and blood tests (if used) can also be challenged.
- The officer didn’t read the Miranda rights, which violates the driver’s constitutional rights.
- Rising blood alcohol content (BAC). Depending on what someone drank and when, it’s possible they were driving below the legal limit, but their BAC actually increased in the time before the blood test was done. This usually involves bringing in expert witnesses.
- In the case of reckless driving, there are various potential defenses: The radar or LIBAR used to check speed was improperly calibrated; the driver’s speedometer wasn’t working correctly, so the driver didn’t know they were speeding; or whether or not you were charged in the city or county where the offense took place.
What Should I Do if I’m Worried About a Traffic Conviction Ending up on My Criminal Record?
Call Scott Nolan Criminal Defense as soon as possible at 703-688-9236 to request a free case evaluation. Because having criminal traffic violations on your record can have long-term consequences, it’s best to work with experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys to determine the best approach for your case and what the best possible outcomes could be.