Criminal Defense & Social Security Disability Law

A Speed Pass Lane to criminal charges: Virginia’s highly punitive traffic offenses

D.C. area residents appreciate less commuting time. Expensive tickets and misdemeanor charges they could do without.

Virginia’s Speed Pass Lanes are allowing drivers the opportunity to get around The Beltway and other D.C. interstates more quickly. So quickly, in fact, drivers have noticed the heavy fines associated with speeding through I-95, I-495 and other Express Lanes. It is one thing to get a speeding ticket for going a little over the speed limit. In D.C., however, not paying much attention to the speedometer can get a driver into serious trouble.

In Virginia, drivers who go only 11 mph over a 70 mph speed limit on interstate highways face criminal charges for reckless driving. Going 81 mph or more, even on a blank stretch of highway, could lead to potential jail time, license suspension, and potentially increased car insurance costs.

That may change in the future. This January, a House of Delegates panel approved legislation that would raise the speed required for a reckless driving charge to 85 mph. Delegate Jeffrey Campbell, the sponsor of the bill, has noted that in residential neighborhoods a driver must be 19 mph over the speed limit before incurring reckless driving charges. This “illogical juxtaposition” is something the bill aims to address, according to CBS DC.

The bill may also help reduce the number of drivers, especially out of state, pulled over who opt to pay a fine, unknowingly pleading guilty to a class one misdemeanor.

Toll violations and other traffic offenses

Officers are also cracking down on toll violations and other associated traffic offenses throughout the area. Since December 29, drivers on I-95 must pay a toll similar to those on I-495. To determine if a driver is paying tolls, law enforcement officers use EZ pass readers, which can tell if an EZ Flex is in toll mode or HOV mode.

Drivers must beware; a fourth ticket within five years for violating the EZ pass car pool carries a $1,000 fine. This can be easy to do, as there is a learning curve associated with the toll system. For example, solo drivers commuting to work who wish to use the Express Lanes during rush hours can do so, except in Arlington. In 2009 Arlington sued the Virginia Department of Transportation to stop the Express Lanes from continuing into the D.C. border. So drivers must exit the Express Lanes before Edsall Road or risk getting a $50 fine.

Defending traffic tickets

In the D.C.area traffic can be difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, in many cases minor confusion can lead to major fines. Drivers, especially younger drivers, may not realize passing a stopped school bus can be the beginning of serious criminal proceedings.

A class one misdemeanor is a serious charge, capable of showing up on criminal background checks. A misdemeanor can affect many aspects of a person’s life, from the fines associated with a conviction to negative consequences on a career.

Plea bargaining may reduce a criminal misdemeanor charge and mitigate the difficulty associated with a license revocation. An expungement can seal records associated with an arrest and subsequent criminal proceedings for eligible petitioners.

Virginia drivers facing traffic charges should contact the skilled attorneys at Lawrence, Smith & Gardner, to discuss their legal options moving forward.

Keywords: Traffic offenses, misdemeanor, speeding, speed pass lane, express lane, reckless driving.