There are multiple types of license-related offenses in Virginia. They vary in many respects, and it can be quite confusing to sort through them all. If you’re facing a violation for a license offense, this article will shed some light on your situation.
No license in possession
The lowest level of license-related offense is not carrying your license while driving and showing it to the officer upon request. This violation is under 46.2-104.
If you are charged with not having a license in your possession, you may be able to have the charge dismissed by simply presenting your valid license at court. If you are convicted, it’s just a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of $10. Pretty simple.
Driving without a license
The next level up is a misdemeanor: driving without a valid license. There are several statutes at play here, but the main prohibition is 46.2-300. Essentially, no one can drive in Virginia without a valid license.
If you are convicted under this statute, the first violation is only a class 2 misdemeanor. Jail is technically possible, but most courts do not impose jail on a first offense. The punishment is typically a fine around $100. License suspension up to 90 days is also possible, but that usually doesn’t happen (at least in the courts around Fredericksburg).
A second offense of driving without a license becomes a class 1 misdemeanor. Jail doesn’t always happen the second time around, but it is much more likely.
Driving on a suspended / revoked license
If you are driving after your license has been suspended or revoked by DMV or a court, you could be charged under 46.2-301. This statute is always a class 1 misdemeanor.
Importantly, any conviction under 301 requires license suspension. If you get your license reinstated before trial, many courts will only impose a few day suspension. But if your license is still suspended at the time of trial, it may be suspended for an additional 90 days.
The other key part of a driving on suspended offense is the real possibility of jail time. Many courts won’t impose active jail time on a first offense, but you could be looking at suspended jail time. A second offense typically does get a little bit of active jail time. And the kicker is that a third or subsequent offense has a mandatory minimum jail time of 10 days.
Driving after forfeiture of license
One of the worst types of license offenses is under 18.2-272. This statute prohibits driving while you have been suspended or revoked due to DUI / DWI.
It’s typically punished more harshly than all the other offenses, because in this scenario a judge has specifically instructed you not to drive.
Courts differ on the amount of jail time received for a 272 violation, but even a first offense typically gets some jail. Around the Fredericksburg / Stafford / Spotsylvania area, you might be looking at 20-30 days on a first 272 violation.
Also, it’s important to note that a conviction under 272 revokes your license completely for a year. If you get two or more convictions, your license is revoked for three years. This can be a serious mess.
The various levels of license offenses come into play in many cases during plea negotiations. You might be charged with a serious violation of 272, but there might be an issue with the case where the prosecutor is willing to amend the charge to 301. The license implications alone can make it worth your while to plead to a reduced charge in that scenario.
The same sort of things happen when folks are charged with regular driving on a suspended license. Sometimes if the license wasn’t suspended for long, the defendant didn’t have solid notice of the suspension, and/or they got it reinstated quickly, we can try to get the charge reduced to not having a valid license or not having a license in possession.
The bottom line is to call attorney. These cases can be more complicated than they seem, and you might be surprised at the possible punishments.
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