Traffic FAQs Virginia Lawyer Maryland Fairfax Lynchburg Richmond Prince Anne
MARYLAND & VIRGINIA TRAFFIC DEFENSE QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Our Maryland & Virginia traffic defense attorneys are frequently asked questions regarding traffic defense. We hope that the answers you find herein answer some of your basic questions regarding traffic defense in Virginia & Maryland. After you read this, if you wish to talk to our Virginia traffic defense lawyers or Maryland traffic defense lawyers, please feel free to call us, email us or contact us via our fast on line form. We are here to defend you.
The traffic ticket defense attorneys of SRIS, P.C. have client meeting locations in Virginia & Maryland.
- Virginia: Northern Virginia, Central Virginia, Hampton Roads/Tidewater & western Virginia. The following are the different locations in Virginia: Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Manassas, Richmond & Virginia Beach.
- Maryland: Rockville & Baltimore.
What exactly is a traffic ticket? A traffic ticket is a citation or summons issued to someone who has violated a motor vehicle law. The citation or summons, usually issued by a police officer or other authorized representative of the government (such as the well known “meter maids”) is an order to appear in court before a judge or magistrate. After being issued the traffic ticket, the person accused of violating the law can remain free and go about their business pending their appearance in court.
Most traffic tickets are handled as criminal matters. The word “criminal” might sound harsh for something as innocuous as a parking ticket, but in effect the fine or sentence is an obligation that a person has towards the “state” for violation of the law, as “punishment” for the act that was committed. The “state” in these cases could be a local township, municipality, city, county, state, or the federal government.
A civil matter is different because the “state” is not a party to the action. A judgment in a civil matter doesn’t include the imposition of a criminal sentence – nor does it result in any jail time. Any judgment imposed is usually monetary in nature – in order to make the victim “whole” for the harm caused by the offender.
Since the judgment is civil, collecting any awards is not up to the state but up to the individual or individuals involved. (Think of the civil judgment levied against O. J. Simpson. He still hasn’t paid a dime.)
So, the major difference between a criminal matter and a civil matter is that the state can imprison a person who committed the violation. This “payment” of losing one’s freedom is ordered as punishment for an act that the offender has done. Of course, the state may also impose fines as well – which can then be pursued by government action.
Technically, no – you don’t have to sign a traffic ticket. However, if you refuse to sign, the officer involved has the right to place you under arrest. The traffic ticket itself is legal notice to appear in court to answer the traffic violation charges brought against you. By signing the ticket, you are acknowledging receipt of the “notice to appear” in court obligation imposed by the law.
By signing the traffic ticket, you avoid being taken into immediate custody, and are “released on your own recognizance” pending the court date.
For all practical purposes, it’s far better to sign the traffic ticket, go about your business and appear in court when specified. By signing the traffic ticket, you remain free. This is not an admission of guilt or lack of innocence. You always retain the right to contest the issuance of the citation or summons in open court.
Practically speaking, the bulk of traffic tickets are “boiler plate” matters. No one is going to think less of you if got a non-moving parking violation (except of course if you parked in a handicapped zone without a permit!).
However, there are things you should mull over in your mind after receiving a ticket:
- the potential punishment you face for the charged traffic violation
- any possible defenses, justifications or mitigating circumstances
- the impact the traffic violation will have upon your driving privileges
- whether a guilty plea or conviction of guilt will impact any third party claims others may have against you (persons injured as a result of the violation), or claims you may have against them
- how the traffic violation will affect your automobile insurance
- the amount of energy, time and cost involved in contesting the charged traffic violation
- the desirability and cost in hiring an attorney to defend you and protect your rights.
Regardless of what you think when getting a ticket, it’s advisable to always be polite, and cooperate with the police officer issuing the traffic violation.
Resist the urge to “blab.” (“Oh, Officer. I’m so sorry – I didn’t notice the (clearly marked) ‘No Parking on Mondays’ sign. I must need new glasses. Of course I’m in the wrong – but can’t you just give me a warning?)
In the vernacular this is called “talking your way out of it.”
But remember: Anything you say or any statement you give the police officer can be used against you in a court of law.
Your best bet is to say as little as possible, answer any questions as succinctly as you can, and give a simple “thank you” after receiving the ticket.
Remember: The police officer has a badge – you don’t. He has the entire “state” behind him. You don’t. He can detain or arrest you. You can’t detain or arrest him or her.
Sign the traffic ticket, and fume later in the privacy of your own home. Remember, signing the traffic ticket doesn’t mean you are admitting error or guilt. It only means you’ll go to court to answer the traffic charges brought against you.
As soon as possible, write down detailed notes about the circumstances that lead up to the issuance of the traffic ticket. Do this while events are still fresh in your mind. Include the time, the weather conditions, the exact location, what the officer said to you, and what you said to the officer (even if you said some things you shouldn’t have).
Don’t trust yourself to remember all these details. You won’t. Write them down on paper and/or enter them in a computer file. That way you won’t forget or miss any important details.
You may want to ask an attorney for some advice, but if it’s just an ordinary ticket, and there are unlikely to be any serious consequences, it often makes sense to pay the ticket and get on with your life.
If the proposed fine is minimal or affordable, the admission of guilt is not likely to be used in a lawsuit against you, and the impact upon your driving privileges and insurance rates inconsequential, you might decide to enter your guilty plea and be done with it. In a couple of weeks, you’ll probably have forgotten the entire incident.
On the other hand, after weighing the consequences of an admission or finding of guilt or entering a plea of no contest, you might want to contest the traffic ticket in court. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you – this decision must be based upon a careful analysis of the relevant facts and law governing the particular traffic ticket. If it comes down to your word vs. the officer’s – expect to lose.
The “point system” is used in many states to assign a numerical value for each covered traffic offense. The greater the offense – the bigger the point value. For example, failure to come to a full and complete stop at a stop sign might only be 1 point, while speeding 50 miles per hour over the posted speed limit might get you 3 points. Points can be accumulated over time. Points also have a life span – after a certain number of months or years they’ll be taken off your current record. (But record of the actual traffic conviction will remain.)
If you get too many points within a given time frame, your driving “privilege” or license can be suspended or even revoked. For example, Bob has a lead foot when it comes to driving. His habit of driving too fast gets him 6 points in a five month time period. Since that’s over the number of “allowable” points in his state within that specific time frame, his driving “privilege” is suspended.
If Bob continues to drive anyway and gets caught speeding again, not only will he get another traffic ticket, but he’ll also be charged with driving under a suspended license as well. So in addition to the petty traffic offense, he’ll also be charged with a misdemeanor. (Time for Bob to consult with an attorney.)
Good, bad or indifferent – that’s the way the law is written. The state can suspend or rescind your license for any legal reason it chooses – even if the matter has nothing to do with a traffic violation. That’s why you’ll sometimes read about someone convicted of a drug crime losing their driver’s license – even though they weren’t near a car when arrested.
Insurance rates are based on statistics and probabilities. Statistics show the probability of a person getting into an accident increases with the number of traffic violations. The increased probability of an accident raises the risk of loss to the insurance company. The greater the risk, the higher the probability for loss, and thus the higher the insurance premium.
It’s all economics. Insurance companies hate to pay claims. Your bad driving record is a risk they rather not have. But since insurance is mandatory, if you are dropped because of too many points or accidents on your record, there has to be a way for you to comply with the law. Hence the state mandates each company accept a certain number of these high risk policies from a “pool” of these risky candidates.
Of course – the rates these higher risk drivers are charged are many times astronomical.
If you’ve been convicted of minor traffic violations in some states, you may be given the option of attending a state authorized “traffic school.” Think of it as “Driver’s Re-Education.”
Traffic school is a 6 – 10 hour program of instruction on driving safety and traffic laws. After successfully completing the traffic school course and submitting proof to the state DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) the violation and the “points” are removed from your driving record.
Typically, you’ll only be allowed attendance at traffic school to remove a violation from your driving record once every 12 – 18 months, and only if it’s a minor traffic violation.
Even if you opt for traffic school – you’ll still be expected to pay the original fine. (Of course!) Plus – you’ll also have to shell out the fees for the traffic school course itself. In addition, you have to take into consideration the time involved in attending.
However – the points will be removed from your record, as well as the original violation being expunged. (But you won’t be reimbursed for the fine you had to pay.) Traffic School might be well worth it when weighed against the potential long term impact traffic violation points may have upon your insurance rates.
There are times when an innocent party is charged with careless driving or failure to notify a police officer of an accident. This can happen for several reasons. A witness may have legitimately believed you were involved in an accident, but was mistaken. Or you might simply be “set up’ by a vindictive or misguided person seeking revenge or money from a false insurance claim. What are your rights?
The fact is that once a formal complaint has been made, and the police or DA initiate a criminal type action, you’ll have to defend yourself against the charge. You might try and go it alone – but that’s a very dangerous policy. You don’t know the nuances of the law – and anything you say or state in writing can and will be used against you. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney is your best bet to attempt to get the original charge dismissed.
If the matter does come up for trial, the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Absent photos or your confession or admission (remember – never admit guilt!) it has to call the complaining witness or witnesses to testify under oath. You or your attorney can then cross-examine them. You must be proved guilty – which is a far cry (and far better) than having to prove your innocence.
(This is derived from British Common Law. It’s by no means universal. In many countries, the standard of proof is just the opposite. You must prove your innocence – a much tougher and less fair standard for the accused.)
A skilled lawyer will know the exact questions to ask the accusing witness. They’ll hone in on the details to expose any inconsistencies or outright lies. They’ll see if the witness has any possible biases against you, or if there are other reasons to suggest they lack reliability – such as the number of times they’ve sued other people! (It’s a sad fact – some individuals file frivolous lawsuits as a matter of course. Some do it for money – others for a perverse sense of entertainment.)
The DMV and law enforcement agencies have immediate access to information about your license and any violations. However, for “good cause” reasons, employers, attorneys and insurance companies also can get access.
Unless expunged by court order, offenses stay on your permanent record. However, your insurance company may only be concerned with offenses during the last several years when setting your premium.
Probably of all the traffic laws on the books, the one broken most often is the speed limit. In fact, it’s fair to say the posted speed limit is followed more in the breach than the observance. However, it doesn’t matter if that’s the case or not. If you are traveling above the legal limit, you can be cited for speeding. The defense that “everyone else” was doing it won’t count one iota in your favor.
In order to clock your vehicles speed, police departments currently use four primary measurement devices: 1) speedometer clocks, 2) radar, 3) average speed computers and 4) LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). They also employ aircraft, photo radar and radar drones, but these are not as widely used as the previous four.
Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Clocking by Speedometer in Virginia & Maryland
This is the original “tried and true” method of clocking speeders. Basically, the patrol car paces the suspect vehicle, clocking the speed with the officers own speedometer. This method, though not very high tech has two big advantages: It’s cheap and effective. The police department already has patrol vehicles and officers – they don’t have to invest in any fancy gear or apparatus. Of course, the most important component of using this method is having a factory certified, accurate speedometer.
There are several methods to accurately make sure a speedometer is recording the true velocity. One method is by attaching a “fifth wheel” to the rear of the vehicle. This wheel is already calibrated, and records the patrols vehicles true speed. If the two match, then the police car is “ready to roll.” (Without that 5th wheel of course!)
Another low tech method of calibration uses a stopwatch. The officer’s vehicle is simply timed over a standard, measured course. If the speedometer is accurate, it should jibe with the results given by the stopwatch.
A more sophisticated way is by using a dynamometer. Basically, the patrol car sits on top of this device, and the wheels are rotated on a drum. The dynamometer records the true speed and the results are compared against the car’s internal speedometer. This method is the most accurate and effective – but it’s also the most expensive.
The drawback of clocking by speedometer? Usually, as soon as some one sees a patrol car, they’ll simply slow down! (Before they can be issued a ticket.)
RADAR (“Radio Detection And Ranging”) was invented during the second world war. In fact, the original idea was to develop a way to destroy or disable aircraft by use of invisible radiation. RADAR was the second best thing – being able to track moving objects at a great distance without itself being detected.
RADAR is simply the transmission of electromagnetic waves reflecting off a moving object. The frequency of the waves change in relation to the speed and direction of the object involved. The RADAR unit calculates the shift in frequencies and converts that to a numerical speed. This change is referred to as the Doppler effect or Doppler shift.
You’ve all heard the sound of a ambulance siren. As it approaches you – the sound rises in pitch. As soon as it passes, the pitch goes down. This is because as the ambulance is moving closer to you – the sound waves are being compressed. As soon as it passes, the waves become elongated. The same principle applies to radio frequencies. Currently RADAR is used in both moving and stationary modes.
RADAR is a very popular technology for speed enforcement. (Just take a look at the sheer number of RADAR Detection units being sold to consumers!) These detection devices emit a beeping sound when radar waves are intercepted, warning drivers of a speed trap. They work so well because all they have to do is detect the radio beam coming at them, while the RADAR unit must not only send out the radio waves, but be able to capture the reflection as well.
Despite its popularity, RADAR use is in litigation across the country. A novel approach is being taken, citing health concerns regarding increased cancer risk resulting from frequent use of these RADAR devices. All recent evidence indicates these claims are groundless, but litigation is still pending. Since most cancer studies involve long term research, 20 or more years may pass before scientists lay this issue to rest.
There is another concern about using RADAR, and that has to do with the skill of the person using the device. Many people, including police officers, think of it as emitting a “magic” beam of radiation. In fact, if two vehicles are in close proximity to each other, one large and one small, the RADAR unit will record the stronger signal – that from the larger of the two. So if you’re driving a compact car and a speeding truck is passing you by – any RADAR aimed at you will only record the truck’s velocity.
An average speed computer uses micro chip technology measuring speed by dividing the distance traveled by the time it took to travel it. It’s sort of like a super-charged stopwatch approach. These units are typically mounted in police patrol cars and can be used in both a moving and stationary mode.
Where RADAR and LIDAR (see below) usually measure maximum speed, average speed computers measure the average speed over a specified distance. The advantage these have units have is that they don’t use electro-magnetic waves, thus making RADAR detectors useless.
The disadvantages are that a set course must be marked out, and the entire procedure can be made moot if the tracked vehicle simply slows down or even stops, thus affecting the calculated average speed.
One of the more recent speed measurement devices used in law enforcement is laser or LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging). LIDAR devices use an invisible infrared laser light wave. Since laser light can be focused into an extremely thin beam, it doesn’t have the same problems as conventional RADAR. The devices are compact and small, usually operated in the hand-held mode. Although they can be used through glass, doing so reduces the device’s range. An open window or exterior use is preferred.
Because conventional RADAR detectors are so widely used, LIDAR has become more popular with police units. Detecting laser beams is of course possible, but the detection devices are limited in their effectiveness. Since clocking is done almost instantaneously, once the unit captures the signal, it’s already too late for the driver to do anything about it.
However, some of the more modern detectors try and detect ambient reflected laser light. These are beams focused at another vehicle “splattering” off light harmonics. These detectors merely warn the driver that lasers are being used in the area.
There are some limitations however to LIDAR. One is distance. The LIDAR units have to be closer to the vehicles than standard RADAR units. Also, since the laser light has to be measured by the unit, a good reflecting surface is necessary. Very dirty vehicles make it harder for LIDAR to get a good sampling of returned light.
Many police officers will train the laser on the vehicles license plate, this usually being one of the most reflective surfaces available. There have been reports of some people spraying their license plates with special light absorbing aerosols (such as common hair spray or artist’s protective sprays) in order to thwart these newer detectors.
This method of speed enforcement uses a combination of ground-based units and a fixed wing airplane.
Again, this a variation on the stopwatch approach. Painted lines on the roadway pavement identify a measured course. As a vehicle travels this course, a stopwatch in the airplane determines how fast the target is traveling. Once the course is completed, the speed is calculated and, if the vehicle was speeding, the description is broadcast to the ground units. The vehicle is pulled over and a ticket issued.
This method of course has its drawbacks. First, the aircraft must have an unobstructed view of the road, plus enough space to safely maneuver. The police force must also pay for an airplane as well as a trained pilot. Then there’s the care and maintenance expense of the aircraft itself.
The aircraft, typically a high-wing design allowing an unobstructed view of the ground, is usually put to other duties, such as marijuana eradication activities, emergency transport, traffic monitoring, surveillance and other law enforcement programs.
This is usually know as the “traffic camera.” An extension of traditional radar devices, this device uses digital photography to capture images of a vehicle and its license plate. The date, time and speed can be superimposed onto the photograph, verifying the offense. Some devices are so accurate they can also capture the driver’s face in the picture. (Smile for the camera!)
Photo radar is used many times in a passive approach – meaning it just sits there and records information to be gathered later or transmitted to a central location.
Devices installed in lights at busy intersections are good examples of this. Photo Radar is commonly used in jurisdictions where specific legislation permits its use and where vehicles have both front and rear plates.
Drone radar is another passive system. Basically, it’s an unmanned radar transmitter that triggers motorists’ radar detectors. When the detector’s alarm sounds, the driver usually slows down, thinking a policeman must be in the area.
These units can be mounted almost anywhere. In moving vehicles, concealed in road signs, installed in highway work vehicles or any number of other locations and choices.
One drawback is that the FCC and NHTSA have regulations that must be met in order to use this method of speed enforcement. The drone radar can’t interfere with other communications for one, nor can it interfere with other highway monitoring devices.
It also suffers from the “calling wolf” effect. As motorists catch on to where the units are being used, they’ll just ignore any signals coming from the targeted area.
While certainly not the end of the world, a speeding ticket can be expensive. Not only is there a fine to pay, but you’ll also be liable for “points” against your license. Plus, your insurance company may even raise your premium. If you were traveling way in excess of the posted or legal limit, you may also be charged with reckless driving – which is a far more serious offense.
THE POINT SYSTEM in Virginia & Maryland
The Point System is simple in theory. Most every moving traffic violation is assigned a numerical value, from 1 to 12, depending upon the severity of the offense. If convicted of the violation, the judge will send of record of the offense to the State’s Motor Vehicle Department. The DMV will then assign the mandated amounts of points to your driving record. If you accumulate too many points over a specific period of time, your driver’s license could be suspended or even revoked.
INSURANCE RATES in Virginia & Maryland
Insurance companies routinely check the number of points their policy holder’s have on their record. You can rest assured that before being issued your policy, your driving record will be checked. As with everything else in life, if you don’t have any convictions or points on your record, you’ll get the better preferred rates, perhaps even a good drivers discount. If you have multiple moving violations, the insurance company will view you as a higher risk and charge you accordingly. If you have some serious violations on your record, (DUI, reckless driving, vehicular homicide) insurance companies would rather not insure you at all. But since the law mandates compulsory insurance, there is what is termed an “assigned risk” pool. All the heavy duty violators are placed in this “pool” and every insurance company must provide a certain amount of them with insurance. The risk is spread out between the various companies – hence the term “assigned risk.” If you’re in such a pool, be advised that your rates will in all probability be astronomically high. It’s to your advantage to avoid getting points on your record. If you do receive a moving violation, by all means consult with your attorney. Paying a fine isn’t pleasant – but it’s usually only a one time deal. Paying a fine and having to pay higher insurance rates for years to come is a lot less desirable. In any event, in order to drive you must show you own the proper liability insurance for your vehicle. Driving without insurance is a serious offense, and can result in a suspension of your driving privileges. Remember: Under the law, driving is a privilege, not a right. Even though this theory is somewhat suspect (after all, your taxes do pay for the highways and agencies that govern the driving system) it’s still the law. Once your license is suspended or revoked, you’ll have little chance to contest the validity of such actions.
TRAFFIC TICKETS: TO FIGHT OR NOT in Virginia & Maryland?
Every person feels the urge to “fight the ticket.” That’s understandable. But before you do, you’ll need reasons to dispute the ticket, as well as supporting evidence to back you up. Fact of life: If it’s just your word against the ticketing officer, you’ll lose. Fair or not, that’s the way the system works. If you have independent witnesses however, the balance of power may shift in your favor. Notice the “independent” part. If your witness is your wife or best buddy who was a passenger in the car at the time of the offense, the judge will probably give their testimony short shrift. Again, it may not be fair – but it’s the way things go in the real world. However, if your witness was someone who was at the scene and has no personal interest in you as an individual – that will weigh heavily in your defense.
DISMISSAL in Virginia & Maryland
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and more than one way to fight a traffic violation. In most cases, the ticketing officer must appear at the traffic court to support his or her actions. If the officer doesn’t appear, you can ask for an immediate dismissal of all charges (summary dismissal). Never agree to a “continuance” or postponement of trial if the officer isn’t present. There’s no benefit to you, and the worst that can happen is that the judge denies your request and you’ll appear at a later date. The best that can happen is that you walk out without any convictions, fines, or points.
SUSPENSION OF DRIVING PRIVILEGES in Virginia or Maryland
You can lose your driving privileges for a number of reasons. As noted above, accumulate too many points over a specific time period, and your license can be temporarily suspended for 30, 60 or even 90 days or more. Continue to accumulate violations after the suspension is over can cost you a year without driving privileges. Other causes include lack of liability insurance, DUI/DWI (drunk driving), refusing to take a breathalyzer test, reckless driving, or failure to appear and answer to outstanding traffic charges or failure to pay traffic fines. Suspension of your driving privileges will almost always result in a huge hike in your insurance rates once you do get your license back. It’s to your distinct advantage to consult with an experienced traffic law attorney if your type of offense could result in that scenario.
REVOCATION in Virginia or Maryland
Suspension of your drivers license is bad enough – but at least you’ll get those privileges back. Revocation is another matter. Once your license is revoked – it’s gone. Reapplying is a long, tedious and costly process. If you’re caught driving with a suspended license, you’re risking not only license revocation, but arrest, jail time, and very large fines as well.
AN ATTORNEY OR NOT in Virginia & Maryland?
When receiving a traffic ticket, your options are rather clear cut. You can plead guilty or no contest, accept the conviction, pay the fine and get the points. Whether you do this in person or as allowed in some jurisdictions by mail, the result is the same. You’ve been convicted of the violation and you must reckon with the legal consequences as well as the fact your insurance rates will eventually rise because of it. Or… You can plead not guilty and fight. If you decide to stand your ground and fight, you may want to seek legal advice and counsel. Even if you decide to go it alone and defend yourself, an attorney can make sure you have your facts straights and advise you how to best present your case. FIGHTING THE TICKET: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! If you retain the services of an attorney, he or she will be able to guide you through the legal mazes, as well as speak in your behalf. Your best bet? Let the attorneys do their thing – they know best how to raise the proper defenses and protect your rights and privileges. Follow your attorney’s advice. They’ve had years of experience in handling traffic cases, and know the ins and outs far better than the average layperson. If you decide to go it alone and present a self defense, there are some things you must know. The first is raising a defense.>
SPEEDING TICKETS in Virginia & Maryland
There are some general defenses to contest a speeding violation:
- The officer was mistaken – you weren’t speeding
- In those states with a presumed speed limit, road and weather conditions warranted a higher rate of speed than the posted limit. You’ll need to have the exact road and traffic conditions at the time, as well as your vehicle’s mechanical condition.
- You were indeed driving above the posted speed limit, but out of necessity and not design. An emergency situation made it necessary to avoid injury (such as a serious accident happening). Your vehicle may have experienced sudden mechanical failure, or perhaps you were speeding in order to protect life and limb (such as rushing to a hospital emergency center because your child suddenly started convulsing in the car, or your spouse experienced a heart attack.)
DEFENDING AGAINST RADAR in Virginia & Maryland
RADAR is simply the transmission of electromagnetic waves reflecting off a moving object. The frequency of the waves change in relation to the speed and direction of the object involved. The RADAR unit calculates the shift in frequencies and converts that to a numerical speed. This change is referred to as the Doppler effect or Doppler shift.
RADAR is a very popular technology for speed enforcement. (Just take a look at the sheer number of RADAR Detection units being sold to consumers!)
The best defense for receiving a ticket based upon RADAR is the proximity defense. Many people, including police officers, think of it as emitting a “magic” beam of radiation. In fact, if two or more vehicles are in close proximity to each other, one large and the others smaller, the RADAR unit will record the stronger signal – that from the larger of the bunch. So if you’re driving a compact car and a speeding truck is passing you by – any RADAR aimed at you will only record the truck’s velocity.
Other electromagnetic sources can likewise confuse RADAR signals. Neon signs, utility wires, power stations, amateur radio transmissions, proximity to airports, even stationary traffic signs and signals can cause signal scattering and false results.
If your intent is to prove the RADAR unit wasn’t working properly, you’ll have to subpoena the RADAR unit’s maintenance records, as well as any calibration devices used to tune the unit in question. Unless you are an expert in mechanical electronics – this defense is best left to an experienced attorney.
Your other defense would be to attack the ticketing officers expertise with using RADAR. If you can prove they had little knowledge of how the unit operates or how the aforementioned factors could skew results, you may be able to convince the judge to dismiss the case. (But don’t bet the farm on it!)
If the officer was using a LASER (LIDAR) unit, then your options become even more limited. LASER units can pick out an individual vehicle from many others, and they are far less prone to spurious electromagnetic interference.
IN TRAFFIC COURT in Virginia or Maryland
At court, the judge will call the list of cases scheduled for that day. You can ask for a summary dismissal if:
- The officer who gave you the ticket isn’t there
- The “fair and speedy trial rule” deadline has not been met
- The ticket itself is faulty (not signed, wrong date, the vehicle in question doesn’t exist, and so on)
Assuming the case can’t or isn’t dismissed, the prosecutor will present the case against you. Then the officer who wrote the ticket will be sworn in to testify.
Even if you are sorely tempted – never interrupt! Your turn to testify will come. You should use your time to take any notes and go over any points that could support your case.
After the witnesses for the state have finished, you can then cross-examine them, asking questions and gathering information favorable to your case.
Remember – this is court. Disrespect, especially to law officers, won’t be tolerated. Your questions should be clear, concise, and to the point. If there are any discrepancies between what the witnesses remember and what was written on the ticket – by all means bring that up.
If you are called upon to testify, don’t talk too much! Sometimes your worst enemy can be a too active mouth! Answer only the questions posed to you, and don’t volunteer information. If you don’t understand a question, don’t be shy about asking for clarification. Don’t ever guess at what the prosecution means to say. If you don’t know an answer to a question – simply state you don’t know.
You and the prosecutor will then be allowed closing statements. When it’s you turn, point out any weaknesses or conflicting evidence in the prosecutor’s case, any points the prosecutor failed to prove and any extenuating circumstances in your favor.
Verdict and Sentencing in Virginia & Maryland
After the closing statements, the judge will rule.
If the verdict is “not guilty” or “the case is dismissed, that’s that. You walk out with no further obligations.
If you are found “guilty,” you’ll be sentenced and will have to pay the mandated fine – usually immediately or make arrangements to pay over time. If you don’t pay – the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
You always have the right to appeal, and if that’s the case the court clerk will give you the necessary details, deadlines and process.
While it’s very unlikely you’ll end up in jail for a common traffic infractions, the consequences can be both painful and expensive.
License Suspension in Virginia & Maryland
If your sentence included suspension of license, you’ll be able to state your case beforehand at a revocation hearing before the Department of Motor Vehicles.
You can perhaps mitigate the severity of the suspension by bringing up positive actions you are taking to ensure you won’t repeat the violation, such as drug counseling or alcohol treatment programs.
You can even ask for a restricted license in order to drive yourself to work or to continue attending school, or perhaps to drive your children to and from school.
Traffic School in Virginia & Maryland
In many states, if your offense wasn’t very serious you may have the option of attending a one or two day traffic school. Successfully completing the coursework will expunge the ticket from your official record. Even though you’ll have to pay for the course out of your own pocket, and of course still pay the original fine – you won’t get any points and your insurance rates won’t be affected.
While in many cases a traffic ticket isn’t the end of the world, they can be expensive. Not only is there a fine to pay, but you’ll also be liable for “points” against your license. Plus, your insurance company may even raise your premium.