Why defend a traffic ticket? Here’s one reason: some traffic tickets in Virginia are issued for criminal charges, not traffic infractions. For example, if an officer issues a ticket for reckless driving, that is a criminal charge. A conviction for reckless driving, or any other criminal offense, is likely to show up on employer or government background checks.
If you ignore such a ticket, and do not appear in court on your court date, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. That warrant can result in a new criminal charge, called failure to appear. Or, the court may hold a trial in your absence, find you guilty, and impose a fine, jail time, &/or suspend your driving privilege in Virginia. That shows up on your record as a criminal conviction.
If the officer took you to the local jail in connection with the ticket, that’s a good sign the ticket could be for a criminal charge. Examples are DUI, DUI-drugs, and a second or subsequent refusal to submit to a breath test after arrest for DUI (this is refusal of the breath test conducted within three hours of the DUI arrest, on more elaborate equipment installed in a jail facility).
Most tickets are issued for traffic infractions, not criminal matters. You cannot be jailed for an infraction. Unlike tickets for criminal charges, tickets for traffic infractions are usually pre-payable. “Pre-payable” means you do not have to appear in court or pay court costs, if you pay off the fine before your court date. But prepayment is an admission of guilt, which may result in a points deduction for you at the DMV. Too many points deducted, or too many traffic infractions in a short time, and the DMV may suspend your driving privilege in Virginia. There can be an impact on auto insurance, as well. Drivers with a CDL license, and rideshare drivers (e.g., Uber, Lyft, etc.) have more reasons to defend traffic infractions.
Mr. Basu reviews the charge(s) with every traffic client. He analyzes the facts of the case looking for possible defenses, negotiates and discusses plea deals (“offers”) with the prosecutor, and represents the client if the case goes to trial or is appealed for a trial de novo. In some cases, the final result is a different, reduced charge, which is not a criminal offense, or which carries fewer or no DMV points. If your driver’s license is from another state, you should also consult a lawyer in that state about a traffic ticket in Virginia, because there may be obligations or consequences at your home DMV or MVA.