How to Handle That Traffic Ticket in Fairfax County
Have you ever felt that there is never a cop around when someone else is violating a traffic law, but the one time you go slightly above the speed limit or make a rolling stop through a stop sign, there’s sure to be an officer watching? An officer who just can’t wait to pull you over and write a ticket?
Traffic violations are often no respecter of persons. Many fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizens receive them. They are not generally a reflection on one’s moral quality. But it feels that way when we receive them, and we want to have a way to redeem ourselves to avoid the stain of that mark against our driving record. We don’t want the points, and we don’t want the insurance premium increase.
So instead of prepaying the offense, we take time from work or school, we arrange babysitting for the kids, and we make our way to the local courthouse to ask the judge for some mercy. And for those of us who have good or previously spotless records, many local jurisdictions have that option: a referral to a driver improvement clinic or traffic school with a dismissal (or reduction of the offense) as the reward.
Different jurisdictions handle such a referral differently: Prince William County or Stafford County, for example, will allow a person referred to traffic school to complete that requirement by attending an in-person seminar, or by completing a DMV-approved online program. Arlington County has a contracted agreement with a driving improvement school that requires attendance over multiple sessions. Other jurisdictions, like Orange County, do not make traffic school referrals, but will commonly reduce the violation based upon the years of safe driving a person can demonstrate.
None of this applies if your ticket was issued in Fairfax County, which does not participate in any of these traffic school programs. Why? The Fairfax courts take the position that, given the sheer volume of traffic cases in Fairfax, managing that number of referrals to traffic school would be an undue burden on the Clerk’s office. It is a perfectly reasonable position, but unhelpful when after 10 years without a traffic ticket you go shopping one day at Tyson’s Corner, miss the turn and make an illegal U-Turn, only to see those flashing lights. You want mercy for yourself and the fact that a thousand others do too does not really cross your mind.
So what can you do when busted for a traffic violation in Fairfax County? If you are a Virginia resident, attending voluntary traffic school can add 5 safe driving points to your license. If you have that good record and all the safe driving points already, sometimes taking that traffic school course before your court date can influence a judge or prosecutor to reduce your fine (or even reduce the level of offense). Fairfax County is not a merciless jurisdiction just because they don’t offer traffic school as a way out for those one-time traffic offenders. It just takes a little knowledge of their system to know how to navigate it and receive the results you want. Contacting an experienced traffic attorney for a consultation is always a good first step.