Each new legislative session in Virginia seems to bring harsher fines and penalties for traffic offenses. Conviction for a traffic violation can raise the cost of your car insurance, negatively affect employment background checks, and even put your driver’s license and security clearance at risk. For commercial drivers, even the slightest infraction can have a severe impact on your ability to make a living.

Serious Traffic Offenses

Back to Top

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles maintains a “point system” for every driver licensed in the state. For each year of safe driving without an accident or ticket, Virginia drivers gain one positive point, up to a maximum of five. Conviction for a traffic offense results in negative points, which reduce the number of positive points. No matter how safe a driver you are, you can only have five positive points on your record at any given time.

The accumulation of a large number of negative or “demerit” points can affect your insurance coverage and possibly lead to the suspension of your driver’s license. Below is a brief summary of the demerit points for some of the most common traffic violations in Virginia. The number of years that the charge will remain on your driving record is also included.

• Reckless Driving (6 demerit points; up to 11 years)
• Speeding (3, 4, or 6 demerit points depending on the speed; up to 5 years)
• Driving with a Suspended License (6 demerit points; up to 11 years)
• High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Violation (3 demerit points; 5 years)
• Improper Lane Change (4 demerit points; 3 years)
• Following Too Closely (4 demerit points; 3 years)
• Failure to Yield (4 demerit points; 3 years)
• Running a Stop Sign (3 demerit points; 3 years)
• Illegal U-Turn (3 demerit points; 3 years)

Although the risk of jail time for these offenses is not high, there are advantages to hiring an attorney such as K.M. Khan Law for a traffic violation. K.M. Khan Law can provide you with a realistic expectation of what you might be facing for any given charge. Depending on the offense, you may be able to avoid appearing in court. The firm will serve as your advocate, highlighting positive aspects of your background and character to the prosecution. Finally, if the charges proceed to trial, you will have an experienced attorney on your side who is familiar with the legal procedures involved and capable of effectively raising a technical defense on your behalf.

If you have been charged with a traffic violation in Virginia, K.M. Khan Law is here to help. Contact the firm for a no-cost, confidential consultation.

Driving Under the Influence

Back to Top

In Virginia, as in other parts of the country, no one is allowed to drive or operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Driving while under the influence (DUI) is a dangerous practice which can have grave results for both the driver and the general public. Accordingly, the Virginia legislature has enacted harsh penalties for those convicted of DUI, including lengthy driver’s license suspensions, mandatory jail time for certain BAC levels, the use of an Ignition Interlock Device, and mandatory alcohol and substance abuse treatment.

For a first offense DUI, there is no mandatory jail time unless the offender’s BAC is greater than 0.15, or if there is a minor child in the vehicle at the time of the stop. For a second offense, a person will serve at least ten days in jail, with this number rising to a minimum of 90 days for any future DUI offenses. Additional jail time is imposed if the BAC is greater than 0.15. Furthermore, three or more DUI offenses within a certain period of time will be treated as felony charges.

If you are accused of a DUI offense, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under the influence while driving. The state must provide evidence of your driving behavior, the officer’s observations at the time of the stop, your performance on sobriety tests conducted in the field, and the results of any blood or breath testing, in order to find you guilty. The officer making the stop must also follow certain protocols when conducting the field sobriety tests or the breath or blood analysis. If these protocols were not followed precisely, your chances of successfully obtaining a plea bargain for a lesser offense – or perhaps even a complete dismissal of the charges ¬– are greatly increased. Similar protocols and procedures also apply to stops made at a sobriety checkpoint.

If you have been charged with a DUI, K.M. Khan Law is here to help. Contact the firm for a no-cost, confidential consultation.

Field Sobriety Test

Back to Top

Police departments in Virginia use a variety of tests to help determine a person’s level of intoxication. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed a “Standardized Field Sobriety Test,” made up of three individual tests which it believes are the most helpful and accurate in detecting a driver under the influence.

A driver cannot be forced to take the field sobriety test. However, Virginia courts have held that a driver’s refusal to take a field sobriety test is a valid justification for arresting him or her for suspected DUI.

The following are common sobriety tests used by police officers in the field to evaluate drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye. It occurs naturally when a person looks to the side at a sharp angle. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at less extreme angles. An alcohol-impaired person will also tend to have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object with his or her eyes, such as a pen or the officer’s finger.

Officers are instructed to test for three indicators of impairment in each eye: if the eye cannot follow a moving object smoothly, if jerking is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation, and if the angle when jerking begins is within 45 degrees of center. If four or more indicators are present within the total of six for both eyes, the suspect likely has a BAC of 0.08 or greater.

Walk and Turn Test

The Walk and Turn is a divided attention test. This means that two tasks must be completed: the person being tested must first listen carefully to the instructions, then perform the physical exercise.

The officer will instruct the driver on how to perform the test. He or she will also briefly demonstrate a heel-to-toe step and how the required turn should be carried out. At the officer’s direction, the suspect will then take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, then turn and return to the starting point with nine steps, heel-to-toe.

For this test, the officer is looking for eight indicators of impairment: if the suspect falters in his or her balance while listening to the instructions, begins before the instructions are finished, stops while walking to regain balance, does not step heel-to-toe, steps off the line, uses his or her arms to balance, makes an improper turn, or takes an incorrect number of steps.

One Leg Stand Test

Like the Walk and Turn, the One Leg Stand is also considered a divided attention test, with an instruction phase followed by performance of the actual exercise. The suspect is told to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud, starting at one thousand, until instructed to put his or her foot down. The officer times the subject for 30 seconds. The officer looks for four indicators of impairment: swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down prematurely.

Preliminary Breath Test

Although not considered part of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, a Preliminary Breath Test is also used by many police officers in Virginia. This is carried out with a simple Breathalyzer machine that analyzes a person’s BAC at the scene of the traffic stop. Unlike a refusal of breath or blood analysis at the police station or hospital, refusal to take the Preliminary Breath Test does not trigger the Implied Consent Law.

If you have been charged with a DUI, K.M. Khan Law is here to help. Contact the firm for a no-cost, confidential consultation.

Implied Consent Law

Back to Top

Under Virginia’s “Implied Consent” Law, the mere fact that you are driving a vehicle in Virginia – even if your license is from another state – means that you consent to chemical tests for the presence of alcohol or drugs if you are arrested for suspected DUI. While you cannot be forced to take a test, refusing to do so will result in the suspension of your driving privileges for a minimum of twelve months. There is no restricted license option during this time. Furthermore, the fact that you refused to take the test can be used against you at your trial for the DUI charges. In addition, other evidence and observations from the traffic stop, such as your driving behavior, appearance and speech patterns, performance on field sobriety tests, and statements by you or other witnesses, can be enough to lead to a DUI conviction even without the blood or breath analysis.

Chemical analysis consists of either a blood or breath test. It is up to the officer to decide which test he would like to administer. Generally, asking a driver to submit to a breath test using a Breathalyzer machine is the most common approach. However, if the driver is unable to perform the breath test because of an injury or physical disability, a blood test will be conducted instead.

If you have been charged with a DUI, K.M. Khan Law is here to help. Contact the firm for a no-cost, confidential consultation.