Mitigation in Speeding, Traffic, and Reckless Driving Cases
Often completing a Driver Improvement or Driving School class and/or community service is important for your Reckless Driving, Speeding, or Traffic case. Sometimes you may want to proactively complete a Driving School class, perform some amount of community service, or have a speedometer calibration performed in anticipation of trial. In other cases, a judge may order that you complete a class or do community service in order for your case to be reduced or dismissed or to avoid a license suspension and/or an active jail sentence.
In Virginia, there are two types of Driving School classes that may be appropriate: a regular eight (8) hour class and an aggressive twelve (12) hour course. Certain courts have different requirements on which course they will want you to take. Sometimes the charge dictates that it’s better to take a more intensive class than in other cases.
If you have any question as to which class you should complete, or whether taking a class is necessary at all in your case, please give us a call to discuss.
This eight (8) hour class can be completed either in-person or online. However, certain jurisdictions may have a requirement that the course be completed in-person so give us a call if you have questions about which option to take for your case.
This course covers a wide range of topics including traffic laws, driving safety, the point system, DMV guidelines, and safe driving techniques. At the end of the class, you will be required to take a test that covers what you learned.
Courts typically do not have a preference on which course to take as long as it is a DMV-approved course and is eight hours long. When you complete an online class, you do not have to take the class in one sitting.
If you are an out-of-state driver looking to take a class for your case here in Virginia, make sure that you select a Virginia course, not a course for your home state. Furthermore, if you are an out-of-state and you enroll in the Virginia class, it is imperative to select the “Non-Resident” option. Residents of Virginia must complete a test in-person at a testing facility upon completion of any online program.
The class I typically recommend for online completion is Safe2Drive. The judges are familiar with it, you will get a certificate upon completion, and it is one of the more affordable options.
When you sign up for a driving school class, typically the course provider will ask you what reason you have for taking the class. The options are typically “Court Referred” or “Voluntary.” Make sure that you select the “Court Referred” option. Voluntary driving schools improve your point balance whereas Court Referred classes do not. Judges are typically of the opinion that the voluntary driving school class already gave you the benefit of taking that class through an insurance benefit and will not accept voluntary course completion certificates.
RADEP is a twelve (12) hour in-person aggressive driver improvement class offered through Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). The course is located at VASAP offices throughout Virginia and typically consists of two separate courses: one eight hour regular driving school component and one four aggressive driving component.
Classes are usually held on the weekends and evenings. If you are required to register for the class by the court, I highly encourage you to sign up as soon as the judge refers you to RADEP. The courses are offered infrequently and have limited spots available. Typically judges do not grant continuances for more time to complete RADEP so you will want to register as soon as you can.
This is a twelve (12) hour course offered by the National Traffic Safety Institute (NTSI) out of Florida. Most courts here in Virginia will accept this version of aggressive driving school unless you are specifically referred to some other twelve hour class by the court. Once you complete the class, NTSI will email you a Certificate of Completion. Even though it is offered out of Florida, it is routinely accepted by the judges in Virginia.
Judges will typically only accept community service hours that are performed with a 501(c)(3) organization. Please note that most judges prefer that the hours not be performed with a church. Organizations that judges are familiar with such as SPCA, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs are all good options. If you have any questions as to whether a particular organization will be acceptable, please contact our office.
The Court will require that proof of performance be made through a letter from the organization on the organization’s letterhead, signed by whoever supervised or administered your community service. The letter will need to include the number of hours you performed and what you did specifically for the organization. Some organizations have time sheets that are also helpful to include.
There is a bit of nuance here when you contact community service organizations. Very rarely is the community service ordered in a traffic case “Court Ordered.” Court ordered community service typically happens when the judge refers you to VASAP or Community Corrections to administer and supervise your community service. An actual Order exists saying that you have to complete ___ hours of community service. Noncompliance with that Order brings a new and separate charge for noncompliance.
That is very uncommon in a traffic case. In a traffic case, it is usually an agreement that you make with the judge that you will complete a certain number of community service hours to avoid a conviction, license suspension, and/or active jail time. Failure to perform the requisite tasks issued by the court will result in a conviction or the original charge, but the judge will not hold you in contempt for noncompliance.
All of that is to say, don’t tell the community service organization that you are performing community service because the court ordered you to unless that is actually the case. A lot of organizations either don’t want people volunteering that are doing so under court order, or will require that you submit a copy of the Order before they will allow you to perform any amount of service hours. It is never advisable to be deceitful or lie about why you are performing community service, but don’t put yourself in a position where opportunities are closed to perform service hours when they didn’t need to be.
Sometimes it helps to have a speedometer calibration performed on your vehicle prior to court. Your best bet for finding someone to perform the calibration is searching online for mechanics in your area that provide this service. Using the search terms “speedometer calibration (your location)” is usually the best place to start. This isn’t always necessary so make sure to discuss with us whether you need to go this route.
When you have the speedometer performed, make sure that you receive an actual certificate that shows exactly how off your speedometer is before the calibration is actually done. Judges won’t find it helpful if the mechanic just writes on an invoice, “Customer complained about speedometer accuracy, removed instrument panel and replaced speed cluster.” If your speedometer is inaccurate, the judge will want to know to what extent. Here is an example format of what we commonly see and that the judges have come to expect:
11 22 33 44 55 66 77
10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Where this can be helpful is when you’re charged with going 87 mph, your speedometer may have shown something less than 80 mph. If the judge typically treats speeds at or above 85 mph more harshly than speeds below 85 mph, we may be able to convince the judge to treat your case as he or she might if you were charged with going less than 85 mph.
Speed related charges in Virginia are more or less “strict liability” crimes, meaning that it doesn’t matter if you thought you were going the speed limit if your were in fact exceeding it (limited to very few circumstances where an affirmative defense might come into play), but this piece of mitigating evidence can sometimes mean the difference between a reduced charge that carries points versus one that doesn’t, or a conviction with just a fine versus an active jail sentence.
Keep in mind that judges are savvy about this issue and won’t suspend reason if you’re charged with going an unreasonably high speed and you want to submit a speedometer calibration that shows you thought you were going the speed limit. As the speed you’re alleged to have gone increases, most judges take the position that someone going significantly over the speed limit likely had a good idea that they were speeding.