Fight Traffic Ticket in Virginia
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Pleading Not Guilty to Your Ticket
The first step to contesting your Virginia traffic ticket is pleading “not guilty" to the Virginia district OR circuit court in charge of your case.
Typically, you'll need to plead in person on the arraignment date printed on your citation. Refer to the instructions on your ticket for specifics on how AND where you can submit your plea.
If you lost your traffic ticket, review our page on misplaced VA traffic citations for advice on what to do next.
After pleading, the court will assign you a date to return for your pre-trial conference OR trial before a judge or jury. Don't miss your court dates! If you do, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest, and charge you with failure to appear.
What It Means to Plead Not Guilty
By pleading not guilty, you're using your legal right to stand before a Virginia judge or jury to make a case for your innocence. You're also verifying that you:
- Have the time to appear in court, potentially on multiple occasions.
- Are aware you could face jail time if convicted of a serious charge, like DUI or DWI.
- Understand points may be added to your VA driving record.
Still on the fence about pleading not guilty? Take a look at our guide on When to Fight a Traffic Ticket for more on making that decision.
How to Fight a Virginia Traffic Ticket
Contesting your Virginia traffic citation will usually consist of the following court appearances:
- Pre-trial conference.
- Trial before a:
- Judge, if you're in a Virginia district court.
- Jury, for VA circuit court cases.
Consider hiring a traffic ticket lawyer PRIOR to your first court date. If you decide to represent yourself, take some time to familiarize yourself with the procedures of VA traffic court.
The court will appoint you counsel if you meet the following criteria:
- A conviction will result in incarceration.
- You don't have the means to hire an attorney of your own and can prove indigence to the court.
Less serious traffic charges may not warrant hiring representation. For more information on the circumstances that might require an attorney, take a look at our page, When to Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer.
During the pre-trial conference, the Virginia state prosecutor and yourself (or your attorney) will try to negotiate a pre-trial settlement. A pre-trial settlement will typically require:
- You plead guilty.
- Reduced penalties for your charges.
If a settlement is agreed upon, you can avoid having to go to trial. However, if you can't reach a settlement, the court will assign you a date to return for trial before a jury or judge.
DID YOU KNOW: Pleading guilty to your traffic charges can increase your auto insurance payment.
Before agreeing to a pre-trial settlement, make sure you're fully aware of how traffic convictions can
affect your insurance rates.
Regardless of whether you're going to trial before a judge or jury, the process usually follows these steps:
- Opening arguments from you (or your lawyer) and the VA state prosecutor.
- Presentation of:
- Rebuttals and witness cross-examinations.
- Closing arguments from both sides.
- Judge or jury's verdict.
- oIf you're found guilty, the judge will announce your sentence.
To appeal a guilty verdict, you'll need to submit a written notice of appeal to the VA court handling your case. You MUST submit your appeal within 10 days of receiving judgment or conviction. For more information about filing an appeal, contact the district court or circuit court in charge of your case.
Consequences of Fighting Your Ticket
In the aftermath of fighting your VA traffic ticket, you may feel completely relieved or somewhat disappointed. The outcome of your case will determine the long-term positive OR negative consequences of contesting your citation.
Losing Your Case
The severity of your charges will determine which of the following penalties you could face as a result of a guilty conviction:
- Be prepared to pay all fines on the day you're found guilty. If you can't afford to, the court may allow you to set up a payment plan.
- Suspended VA driver's license.
- Additional points on your Virginia driving record.
- Community service.
- Enrollment in a driver improvement clinic.
- Jail sentence.
NOTE: If you're a commercial driver in Virginia, federal law requires you notify your employer of any traffic violations within 30 days of conviction.
Is your driving record feeling the pain of a guilty verdict? Enrolling in a VA driver improvement clinic can help you earn safe driving points, which can ultimately prevent your license from being suspended.
Learn more and sign up for a course today.
Winning Your Case
If you win your traffic ticket case, congratulations! You can look forward to the following:
- Your VA traffic citation is dismissed.
- No points are added to your record.
- No fines or penalties to endure.
- Your insurance rates stay the same.
After receiving the results of your traffic ticket case, make sure to check on your VA driving record. Any incorrect information could lead to unnecessary stress, penalties, and fines in the future.