Infraction v. Misdemeanor
In Virginia, there are several traffic offenses which are considered misdemeanors. It is very important to pay attention to the offense listed on your summons. Driving on a suspended license, driving without being licensed, and reckless driving are the most common traffic offenses for which people are unaware that there are serious consequences if convicted. You can find yourself in trouble if you are convicted of a traffic misdemeanor...it may become problematic on an application when asked if you have ever been convicted of a misdemeanor and you are unaware that the pesky reckless driving ticket you got five years ago WAS a misdemeanor and is still on your record.
So it's just an infraction...can you avoid conviction?
Know your jurisdiction and your driving record. Some jurisdictions may allow you to take a driver improvement course in lieu of a conviction. However, even if the jurisdiction has this option available, you may not be eligible if you have a bad driving record or have recently been convicted of a traffic infraction. Courts that do not offer a driver improvement class in lieu of conviction (like Fairfax County) will generally take your driving record into consideration when deciding how to resolve your case...the worse the record, the worse the punishment.
What about points?
Virginia courts do not assess points, only the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle does. It is important to be aware of what infractions carry what points. Most moving violations carry 3 points, while most non-moving violations do not have points. A detailed list can be found at http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/citizen/drivers/points_assess.asp. Keep in mind that a judge or prosecutor may amend the charge to a lesser offense in order to help reduce or even eliminate the points that are assessed by DMV. Points remain on the Virginia driving record for 2 years.
Get it fixed!
Many judges will dismiss your ticket if you have gotten the issue taken care of, such as an expired inspection or registration. However, not all judges do this (unfortunately), so pay attention when you go to court. It is best to get the issue resolved before court and to bring that proof with you to court. If it is for tint or a busted tail light, bring the receipt. For traffic misdemeanors, just because you got it fixed does not mean it will automatically be dismissed, for example, driving on a suspended license. You should consult an attorney before going to court.
These are the serious traffic offenses for which you should consult an attorney. Know what consequences you are facing before going into court because not knowing may result in a loss of your driving privileges without you realizing what is going on. I have even seen some people plead guilty to reckless driving thinking it is no big deal and end up in handcuffs after being sentenced to jail. Plus, if found guilty, a traffic misdemeanor remains on your criminal record forever. Moral of the story...consult an attorney!