Speeding is one of the most common traffic violations in Virginia. In general, a speeding offense means you were driving faster than the posted speed limit for the road, street, or highway. Speed limits can vary depending one the area and the type of road you are driving on. In most cases, speeding is a simple ticket; however, driving too far over the speed limit can be considered reckless driving and become a crime.
It is also important to know that even though a regular speeding ticket is “just” a ticket, paying the fine is pleading guilty. Pleading guilty results in demerit points on your license. Paying the ticket and pleading guilty could also be detrimental if you are charged with another traffic offense in the future. Multiple infractions can increase penalties, and black marks on your driving history can negatively impact your ability to resolve future traffic charges.
If you want to preserve a clean driving record, or even if you already have points on your license, it is highly recommended that you consult an experienced traffic defense lawyer before paying a speeding ticket. An attorney may be able to provide defenses to your speeding ticket which could lessen the severity of the penalties you receive or, petition the court to dismiss your charges entirely.
Virginia Speeding Laws
Laws in Virginia include specific places beyond the basic speed rule where speeding is prohibited. In the following cases, penalties are even higher for speeding:
- Residential districts
- School zones
- Bridges and tunnels
- Highway work zones
The Virginia Supreme Court in its court rules sets a uniform fine schedule for prepaid speeding tickets in the state when no court hearing takes place. Court officials are not allowed to impose fines other than those listed in the rules. However, if you contest the ticket and have a court hearing, the judge isn’t restricted to the fine schedule. Fines increase slightly for certain offenses such as speeding in a school zone or in a highway work zone. However, the fine schedule tends to change annually.Virginia has the following statutes related to speed limits:
Virginia Code §46.2-870 is the general statute, which sets the speed limit for most interstate highways in Virginia at 55 miles per hour (mph) for passenger vehicles and 45 mph for trucks, semis, or other large vehicles. On some highways, the limit is as high as 70 mph for passenger vehicles.
Virginia Code §46.2-874 generally sets the maximum speed for streets other than large roads such as interstates and four-lane highways in business and residential districts at 25 mph.
Virginia Code §46.2-875 sets the speed limit for highways in towns and cities at 35 mph, but gives municipalities discretion to set their own speed limits on roads they maintain.
Virginia Code §46.2-1300 gives towns, cities and counties the authority to decrease the speed limits in their jurisdictions.
In addition to fines, pleading guilty or being convicted of speeding will result in the DMV assessing either 3, 4, or 6 demerit points being added to your driving record. In general, points are assigned as follows:
- 3 points – for speeding 1 to 9 miles per hour over the speed limit
- 4 points – for speeding 10 to 19 miles per hour over the speed limit
- 6 points – for speeding more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit
A speeding ticket also may have an effect on your car insurance rates, depending on the carrier. It’s a good idea to speak with your insurance company before you pay a ticket to find out how a guilty plea or conviction will affect your policy rates.
Prepaying a Ticket
By prepaying your ticket, you are pleading guilty to the speeding allegation and waiving the court hearing.
Remember that prepayment must be made before the hearing date on your ticket. Your ticket should inform you which court is handling your case and that will be the court you need to pay at. If you choose to prepay your ticket, there are a few ways you can do that:
By mail: Mail your payment in the form of a check or money order to the court named on your ticket. It is advised to send it about a week before your court date to make sure your payment is received and processed on time.
In the courthouse: Go to the clerk’s office in the court named on your ticket. This usually will be the general district court in the county where you were speeding, e.g., Fairfax County General District Court. District courts accept checks, money orders, and credit cards to pay your fines.
Online: Virginia’s general district courts also accept prepayment online with a credit or debit card at http://courts.state.va.us/caseinfo/tickets.html
Please note that you won’t be able to prepay if you were charged with reckless driving because the police officer said you were speeding in excess of 20 mph over the posted speed limit, or faster than 80 mph on any road. Reckless driving is a criminal charge in which you, and preferably with an attorney, will need to appear in court on the hearing date.
Defending Against a Speeding Violation in Virginia
Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be legal grounds to examine particular elements of your case. It is in your best interest to work with a legal professional in order to determine if there are certain aspects of your case that should be challenged in court such as the speedometer calibration or whether you were involved with a legitimate emergency situations. Additionally, Virginia police personnel are required to follow specific guidelines when investigating a driver for a speeding violation. Your attorney may decide to challenge the officer’s reasoning and method for pulling you over. This may include assessing traffic markers, challenging use of radar/LIDAR or other actions taken by the officer.
If you were pulled over for speeding, but the speedometer on your car showed you were driving at or below the posted limit, getting your speedometer checked may be useful. Your speedometer reading can be affected by having a heavy vehicle load, low tire pressure, or if the tires on your car are bigger than the original factory tires.
If you can demonstrate, through a process called speedometer calibration, that your speedometer wasn’t working properly when you got the speeding ticket, you may be able to reduce or avoid the penalties. This is especially important if your speed was close to a threshold triggering higher penalties or if you were charged with reckless driving because of your speed. A difference of just a couple miles per hour could mean the difference between a simple traffic infraction and a criminal charge.
Prior to a calibration defense, you will need to take your car to a mechanic who can perform the test and provide a calibration certificate that you can take to court. An experienced traffic defense attorney can refer you to the right mechanic that can perform the calibration.
You may be able to have your penalties reduced or dropped if you were speeding because of a legitimate emergency, such as rushing someone to the hospital with a life-threatening illness or medical condition. An experienced traffic defense attorney can get you prepared and help you if an emergency was the reason for speeding.
No Conspicuous Marker
When you are on a highway and approach a town, the speed limit often drops under the authority given to the town by Virginia Code §46.2-1300. You may be in a 55 mph zone and suddenly find yourself in a 25 mph zone when you hit the town’s boundaries. If you hit that boundary and haven’t slowed down enough yet, you can be ticketed for speeding based on the local ordinance lowering the speed limit.
However, Virginia Code §46.2-879 says that you cannot be convicted for violating that local speed limit unless the decreased speed limit is conspicuously marked. If there was no conspicuous sign reflecting the lowered speed limit, you may be able to contest the ticket.
There are a few methods police can use to allege that you were driving faster than the posted speed limit. One of the most common is the use of radar or laser (known as LIDAR) speed determination devices to clock your speed. When radar or LIDAR results are introduced in court as evidence of your speeding, there’s a presumption that the information was true unless proven otherwise. However, you can challenge the results of the radar or LIDAR speed check, and there are two different ways to do that:
1. First, you can question whether the device was properly calibrated. Virginia Code §46.2-882 says that radar and LIDAR devices have to be calibrated every 6 months, and that a certificate has to be produced showing the calibration date and the name of the person who did the calibration. The certificate has to be a “true copy,” not a photocopy. You may have a defense to the speeding ticket if:
- the calibration was more than 6 months before your ticket,
- if the person who did the calibration wasn’t properly trained, or
- if any of the details on the certificate are not in order.
2. Another way to challenge radar and LIDAR results is by showing the court that the officer who used the device wasn not properly trained or used the device under conditions that affected its accuracy — from too far a distance to get a good reading in heavy traffic, for example.
Officer Used Pacing to Measure Your Speed
Sometimes an officer does not have a device to measure speed, but instead will use a technique called “pacing,” where the officer will try to match your speed on the road with his/her own vehicle. There are a lot of factors that can affect the accuracy of pacing, such as:
- the road was curved
- the officer spent too little time trying to match your speed
- there was a lot of traffic between you and the police officer’s car
- either you or the police officer sped up or slowed down while he/she was tracking your speed
Always Work With a Legal Professional!
A qualified traffic defense lawyer may be able to petition the court to have your charges lessened or even dropped entirely, depending on the unique aspects of your case. If you are facing a charge for speeding in Virginia – contact The Brown Firm PLLC today. We are prepared to protect your rights and fight on your behalf so that the court hears your side of the story. Our experienced traffic defense lawyers will be able to craft a legal defense for your cases that ensures the best result possible.
To discuss your case or learn more about our services, call our offices or send us a message online. We offer legal consultations so that you understand what your best option is before moving forward.