What is a Highway in Virginia?

The Virginia traffic code refers to “highways” quite a bit. Many of the offenses specified in the code have to take place on a “highway.”

Quite often I hear from potential clients and people who represent themselves in court: “But I wasn’t even on a highway!”

I’m sad to report that defense usually isn’t going to fly.

When used in the Virginia traffic code, “highway” is a specialized word. It doesn’t carry the meaning we use in every day speech. It is defined in Virginia Code 46.2-100:

“Highway” means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel in the Commonwealth, including the streets and alleys, and, for law-enforcement purposes, (i) the entire width between the boundary lines of all private roads or private streets that have been specifically designated “highways” by an ordinance adopted by the governing body of the county, city, or town in which such private roads or streets are located and (ii) the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place used for purposes of vehicular travel on any property owned, leased, or controlled by the United States government and located in the Commonwealth. (emphasis added)

Essentially, a “highway” is any public road.

With all that said, there IS a time when the “highway” defense could be used. Not all areas where cars drive are “highways.” This issue doesn’t normally arise in routine traffic infraction matters; however, it does come up in higher stakes cases like driving on a suspended license. If your driving took place in a private parking lot or something of that nature, it may be a defense to a charge that requires a “highway” as an element.

Just remember that if you’re charged with something like “improper stopping on a highway” (46.2-888), that can be charged on any road. It could be a small residential street or an interstate. They’re all highways.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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