One of the most common traffic violations and interactions with law enforcement the average person has is because of speeding. Law enforcement conducts traffic stops and issues speeding tickets when a driver is driving faster than the posted speed limit on the road, street, or highway. The penalties for speeding vary depending on the speed the driver was going, the speed limit, previous driving record, and environmental factors such as school or construction zones.
An important fact in speeding tickets is that signing the ticket and paying the fine is entering an automatic guilty plea. This will result in demerit points on the license and can increase future repercussions, as multiple infractions result in higher fines and make resolving further charges more difficult.
In order to ensure you are treated fairly and do not suffer more severe repercussions in future infractions, it is recommended that you consult an attorney before signing a speeding ticket and paying a fine. Drivers may be able to present defenses to speeding tickets if there were unfair or unjust practices, and potentially have the charges entirely dismissed.
Speeding Laws In Virginia
Drivers are required to operate their vehicles under the posted speed limit and obey all signage that changes the speed limit. This is especially important in school and construction zones, where there is increased pedestrian activity and it is unsafe to drive at regularly posted speeds. Fines for speeding in these areas carry additional penalties.
When a driver is pulled over by a police officer and charged with speeding, the fine is set at a predetermined level if the driver does not go to trial. Officers are not allowed to deviate from this schedule for imposing fines. As with any criminal charge, the driver, as the defendant, is entitled to the due process of a trial if he or she wishes. However, if he or she decides to go to trial, the court may alter the fine to a higher or lesser amount.
Average Speed Limits
For most stretches of interstate highways in Virginia, the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour (mph) for passenger vehicles. However, this can range up to 70-mph in certain areas, so it is important to always be aware of posted speed limit changes and all road signage. Commercial or larger vehicles are restricted to 45-mph on interstate highways.
Highways in towns and cities are generally limited to speeds of 35-mph; however, municipalities are allowed to change these as local government bodies see fit. Similarly, the speed limit for roads in business and residential areas is 25-mph but can be increased or decreased by municipalities.
The Demerit Point System
Traffic violations will result in issuing demerits upon conviction. The amount of demerits usually depends on how many miles per hour over the speed limit a driver was traveling.
- 3 points – 1 to 9-mph over the limit
- 4 points – 10 to 19-mph over the limit
- 6 points – 20+ mph over the limit
Accrued demerits for speeding will stay on the driver’s record for two years from the date of the infraction. Demerits for more severe traffic violations, such as DUI/DWI, reckless driving, or hit-and-run, will remain on the driver’s record for longer.
Adult drivers who accumulate 12 demerit points within 12 months, or 18 demerit points within 24 months, must complete a driver improvement clinic. Not completing the driver improvement clinic within 90 days will result in the DMV suspending a driver’s license.
Adult drivers who accumulate 18 demerit points within 12 months, or 24 demerit points within 24 months, will have their driver’s licenses automatically suspended and will also be required to complete the driver improvement clinic.
Legal Defense Strategies For Speeding Violations
Simply because a law enforcement officer charges you with a speeding violation, and may pressure you to immediately sign, does not mean that you are obligated to do so. Every citizen of the United States has a right to a fair trial, and there are a variety of defenses that may be used, depending on the circumstances under which the officer issued the speeding ticket. Law enforcement officers are required to follow certain procedures to properly allege that a driver was driving above the speed limit. Even when these procedures are followed, there are still some legitimate grounds for legal defense.
Law enforcement officers use many devices to measure speed and allege that a driver was traveling over the speed limit; the most common of these is the speedometer. However, speedometers are not always accurate and their reading can vary based on a few factors.
- Your vehicle was carrying a heavy load
- Your tires had low pressure
- Your tires are larger than original factory-issued tires’ size
- The speedometer was not recently recalibrated
Law enforcement officers can also use radar or laser, also known as LIDAR, to measure a vehicle’s speed and compare it to the speed limit. These devices are also not always completely accurate and may be challenged on a few grounds:
- The LIDAR was not calibrated within 6 months of the date of the alleged infraction
- The calibration was not performed by properly trained personnel
- The certification of calibration has erroneous or missing details
- The officer using the LIDAR was not properly trained in its usage
- The LIDAR was used in improper conditions
Lack Of Signage
Posted speed limits can often change based on the surrounding geography. For example, there are lower speed limits in school and construction zones, and speed limits are lowered on interstate highways when nearing or surrounding cities with on and off-ramps that would affect the flow of traffic. For a reasonable expectation of drivers to adhere to these fluctuations, there must be ample signage alerting drivers to the changes. If there is not sufficiently conspicuous signage, a driver may have a legal defense against a traffic violation conviction.
If a driver has a legitimate emergency, such as a life-threatening injury to themselves or a passenger, and is rushing to seek medical care, there may exist a reasonable defense against a traffic violation. The circumstances of the case, as well as the arguments presented by an attorney, will depend on how much the charges are reduced or dropped.
Law enforcement officers may use methods that are less than completely scientific to allege that a driver was traveling over the speed limit. One of these methods is pacing, in which an officer will match the speed of another vehicle to determine if the driver was over the speed limit, and if so, by how many miles per hour. However, there are a few possible defense strategies to counter an allegation based in pacing, such as:
- The officer could not reasonably have an accurate measurement due to speed fluctuations
- Road conditions, such as elevation or curvature, altered the measurement
- The officer made a premature estimate of the driver’s average speed
- Traffic between the driver’s and the officer’s vehicles precluded an accurate measurement
Consult With An Experienced Traffic Ticket Defense Attorney
As previously mentioned, signing a speeding ticket is equal to entering a guilty plea for the traffic violation and can come with demerit points. Demerit points can affect your insurance rates and penalties for future infractions. It is important for drivers to get an opinion from an experienced traffic ticket attorney before signing a ticket and entering a guilty plea.
Our team is well-versed in finding evidence, establishing legal defenses, and courtroom procedure. We can help you find the best outcome and ensure that you are being treated fairly, call our office at 703.273.5500 or request a consultation online today.