Few drivers are intimately familiar with Virginia’s traffic code and the myriad ways a person can violate the law while on the state’s roads and highways. But in this instance, ignorance is not bliss. Violating traffic laws can result in severe consequences, including possible incarceration, fines, and the suspension or loss of your driving privileges. If a driver injures you while breaking the law, you can more easily pursue compensation in a car accident claim.
Virginia law divides crimes into three categories, ranging in severity from least to greatest: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
Differences Between Infractions, Misdemeanors, and Felonies Explained
There are specific and significant differences between infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Under Virginia law, if the offender can serve time in a state correctional facility or prison, the offense is considered a felony. The most severe felonies can result in imprisonment for life or up to $100,000 in fines. Class 6 felonies, the least severe felonies, can result in imprisonment for five years and a $2,500 fine.
If an offense is not an infraction and is not a felony, then it is considered to be a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors range in severity from Class 1 misdemeanors to Class 4 misdemeanors. Class 1 misdemeanors may land a person in jail for up to 12 months, and a conviction can result in up to $2,500 in fines levied against the person. At the other end of the spectrum, Class 4 misdemeanors are only punishable by a fine of up to $250.
Traffic infractions are violations of the Code of Virginia Title 46.2: Motor Vehicles. They are similar to Class 4 misdemeanors in that they are punishable by a fine of no more than $250. No infraction carries the potential for incarceration in jail or prison. Traffic infractions are also not considered crimes in the same way as felonies and misdemeanors. Nevertheless, accumulating too many convictions for traffic infractions can still interfere with one’s ability to drive legally in the state.
Suppose someone violated the law or has a history of doing so behind the wheel. In that case, an experienced Virginia car accident lawyer can uncover and may be able to use those facts in your claim.
Examples of Traffic Infractions
Speeding over the posted or statutory speed limit, following too closely, failing to give an adequate signal before turning, and improperly stopping at a stop sign or signal are typical traffic infractions. The court can punish each of these infractions with a fine.
You can use these fines or points on their driver’s license as evidence in your car accident claim.
Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors
While it’s easy to see misdemeanors as seemingly harmless, never dismiss them. A misdemeanor may still result in incarceration, fines, and other repercussions.
Reckless driving is an example of a traffic misdemeanor in Virginia.
Several circumstances can give rise to a charge of reckless driving, including where the driver:
- Travels at a speed that endangers others
- Operates a vehicle with faulty brakes
- Speeds 20 or more miles per hour over the posted speed limit
- Engages in racing
If a driver has their license suspended for a moving violation and engages in reckless driving that results in the death of a person, the court will treat reckless driving as a Class 6 felony. Otherwise, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. As with felony offenses, traffic misdemeanors like reckless driving can land a driver in jail for several months and lead to thousands of dollars in fines.
A car accident lawyer will examine the facts of any misdemeanor charge against the at-fault party who injured you and may use those charges to show a pattern of negligence that could bolster your case.
Looking For a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you have been personally injured recently one of the best decisions you could make right now is to hire a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer will be able to go over your case details and provide the crucial steps you need to have a chance of winning your claim. Emroch and Kilduff is here to support you, reach out to us!
Examples of Traffic Felonies
Driving felonies generally result in severe harm or death to others (or crimes for which a court previously convicted someone).
Virginia requires a driver who strikes and injures or kills another person or hits attended property must immediately stop at the crash scene and give their contact information to those at the scene. The driver must also render reasonable aid and promptly report the crash to law enforcement authorities. Prosecutors may charge drivers who fail to execute these steps with a Class 5 felony.
Another example is the state’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws. The first and second DWIs are misdemeanors punishable by fines and jail terms that become progressively more severe. Once a driver has accumulated two prior convictions for driving while intoxicated in the past ten years, the state will treat subsequent convictions in the same ten-year period as felonies.
Protect Yourself Legally
If a bad driver injured you, it pays to uncover their driving record and pay close attention to any criminal proceedings against them. A car accident lawyer near you can investigate the at-fault party’s violation history and incorporate it into your claim as they pursue compensation for your injuries. Call one today.