Lots of people call me after missing their Virginia traffic court date or getting a result they’re unhappy with. Fortunately, there are some options in Virginia. You may be able to appeal the conviction or reopen the case.
I’ve had the video transcribed below for visitors who prefer to read the content
Hello, I’m Andrew Flusche. Today I wanted to talk to you about an issue that comes up quite a bit in my daily practice. Quite a few people call me and tell me that they were convicted in their absence of a traffic charge, such as reckless driving or speeding or some kind of other traffic violation, and they want to know if they can do anything about it. Or perhaps they went to court by themselves without an attorney and got a result that they’re unhappy with and want to try to change that result.
The good news is that, if you act quickly, there are a couple options that we might be able to pursue in a case like that; where you’re unhappy with the result you got at trial, whether you went by yourself or even if you had an attorney and you’re unhappy with that attorney’s work, or if you were tried in your absence. The two main options that we have in cases like that are to appeal the case, or to ask to have the case reopened.
Appealing is your right in Virginia. When you have a traffic charge it goes first to the General District Court; that’s the lowest level trial court in Virginia. If you’re not happy with whatever outcome happens in the General District Court, you have the absolute right to appeal that decision for a trial de novo, which means a new trial, in the Circuit Court.
Now the one key thing here is that you have to act very quickly. To have that appeal, you have to note the appeal within ten calendar days of your General District Court conviction. So that means that it is going to count weekends and holidays, so you definitely have to act quickly.
Now, noting the appeal is very simple. All we have to do is fill out a single form and file it in the General District Court. Now if you were given jail time or something you might have to post a bond for the appeal, and that way if you don’t show up for your Circuit Court trial, you have some kind of “skin in the game” so to speak. But in a lot of regular cases, there is not even a bond necessary, and we can just file the appeal within ten calendar days of your conviction in General District Court and then we get a brand new trial with a brand new judge in the Circuit Court. That gives us another bite at the apple, basically.
The other option that we have, that can sometimes work very well, is to ask to have the case reopened. What that does, is it opens the case and basically asks the judge to reconsider the verdict in the General District Court. So unlike an appeal, where we have a new trial with a different judge, the General District Court motion to reopen is having the case basically just redone in the same court with the same judge usually.
Now this doesn’t always work, but it can be very helpful in some cases. Perhaps if you simply forgot about the court date, and you didn’t appear and you were convicted in your absence, in some instances, a motion to reopen might be a good idea. Or if there is some kind of new evidence that’s come to light, and we want to ask to have the judge consider that evidence in the finding that they made, we can do the motion to reopen. Things like that make it a really good tool.
The other good thing about a motion to reopen is that we have a longer deadline. The deadline to file for that is sixty days after your General District Court trial date. So as you can see, instead of just ten days for an appeal, in a motion to reopen we have sixty days, which means that even if your appeal deadline has passed, we can still try to have some kind of relief against a conviction that you’re not happy with.
Now sometimes the judge might not grant the motion to reopen. They have to first grant that motion to reopen the case, and then all that means is they’re simply going to rehear the case and they could still convict or I guess it’s possible that they could even do a worse sentence in a motion to reopen. So it’s not something we would always want to use, but it’s something that could be helpful in some instances.
So you see if you missed your trial date or you’re unhappy with your trial result, all is not lost in Virginia. You have two options; the appeal and the motion to reopen, but things do move quickly and those deadlines pass by quickly, so definitely talk with a lawyer as soon as you can, and I would be happy to speak with you about that.
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I provide free consultations for traffic tickets and misdemeanors in my area. If I can't help, I'll do my best to connect you with someone who can.