Potential Penalties For Speeding:
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 clerks and magistrates 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 or magistrate isn’t restricted to this 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. A complete list of fines can be found in the Virginia Supreme Court rules at http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/scv/rulesofcourt.pdf.
In addition to fines, pleading guilty or being convicted of speeding will result in the DMV assessing either three, four, or six demerit points being added to your driving record. In general, points are assigned as follows:
- 3 points for speeding 1 to 9 mph over the speed limit
- 4 points for speeding 10 to 19 mph over the limit
- 6 points for speeding more than 20 mph over the limit
A speeding ticket also may have an effect on your car insurance rates, but that will vary from carrier to carrier. It’s usually a good idea to talk to your insurance company before you pay a ticket to find out how a guilty plea or conviction will affect your policy rates.
By prepaying your ticket, you’re pleading guilty to the speeding allegation and waiving the court hearing.
If you choose to prepay your ticket, there are a few ways you can do that. Prepayment must be made before the hearing date on your ticket. Your ticket should tell you which court is handling your case — that’s the court you need to pay.
- By mail: Mail your payment in the form of a check, money order, or certified check to the court named on your ticket. It’s generally advised to send it about a week before your court date to make sure your payment is received and processed on time.
- At the court: 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, certified checks, and credit cards to pay your fines.
- Online: Virginia general district courts also accept prepayment online with a credit or debit card at http://epwsgdp1.courts.state.va.us/gdcourts/captchaVerification.do?landing=landing
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 and either you or an attorney will need to appear in court on the hearing date.
Defenses Against Speeding 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 several ways to do that.
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 six 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,” or in other words not a photocopy. If the calibration was more than six months before your ticket, or if the person who did the calibration wasn’t properly trained, or if any of the details on the certificate aren’t in order, you may have a defense to the speeding ticket.
Another way to challenge radar and LIDAR results is by showing the officer who used the device wasn’t 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.
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 whether the tires on your car when you were pulled over were 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 avoid or reduce 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 a few miles per hour could mean the difference between a simple traffic infraction and a criminal charge.
For a calibration defense, you 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 a good mechanic to perform the calibration.
No conspicuous marker
When you’re 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, you may be ticketed for speeding based on the local ordinance lowering the speed limit.
However, Virginia Code §46.2-879 says that you can’t 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.
Sometimes an officer won’t 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 or her vehicle.
There are a lot of factors that can affect the accuracy of pacing. If the road was curved, or if the officer spent too little time trying to match your speed, or if there was a lot of traffic between you and the police car, or if either you or the officer sped up or slowed down while the officer was tracking your speed all are circumstances that could affect the results. A good traffic defense lawyer may be able to spot flaws in the way the officer measured your speed and help you fight the ticket.
When an officer uses pacing to determine your speed, he or she has to have the police vehicle’s speedometer calibrated and produce a calibration certificate in court. If there are problems with the certificate, or the person who did the calibration wasn’t qualified, that also may open up room to challenge the speeding ticket.
You may be able to fight the ticket or have your penalties reduced if you were speeding because of a legitimate emergency, such as rushing someone to the hospital with a life-threatening illness or medical condition.