QUARANTINE TRAFFIC – COVID-19 CRISIS
The lack of traffic is apparently a tantalizing and tempting scenario for drivers who find themselves essentially alone on the roads. Incidents of high speed on the now relatively empty roads is way up. WTOP recently reported that 100+ mph incidents are on the rise nationwide. Therefore, it is well worth reminding our readers that, in Virginia, traveling 80 mph or more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit is reckless driving (effective July 1, 2020 the maximum speed threshold will increase from 80 mph to 85 mph). The charge is a Class 1 Misdemeanor with potential for jail time, license suspension, and very high fines. A conviction will impact future insurance premiums and may show up in an employment background check. A conviction may have to be disclosed on a college application. A conviction can also affect your ability to obtain and retain a security clearance from the federal government. Jayson Werth, formerly of the Washington Nationals, served jail time a few years ago for traveling in excess of 100 mph on I-495.
The Virginia State Police and local law enforcement officers are currently overwhelmed with Covid-19 crisis duty, and the courts in the area are not currently holding hearing for traffic matters. However, high speed will still result in traffic stops, and when the courts do reopen, people can expect that Judges will show little sympathy to drivers that took advantage of a crisis situation to see how fast they could go and putting lives at risk.
Interestingly, while courts are not holding traffic hearings or trials, they are setting up procedures to resolve minor traffic matters that do not require a hearing or trial. Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s offices are open and negotiating with defense attorneys to resolve summonses for the less serious violations. The serious traffic matters are being postponed until the courts reopen to the public. If you do have to deal with a traffic citation, you need an experienced attorney to help you navigate the situation. Waiting until the courts resume hearing these matters may not be to your advantage. The dockets will be heavily congested and resolution may take longer and result in harsher than usual punishments.