The Virginia Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: May 17, 2021

No matter if you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.

After receiving a Virginia traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away?  Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.

Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?

(I’m going to save you a little suspense here. That last step, the “safety course” one? That one is almost always your best choice, but who knows? One of the others might work just as well.)

You Got a Ticket. Now What?

Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.

It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.

You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.

You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.

You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?

Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight

Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?

The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with Virginia attorney” and see how many results you get.

Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like

“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”

Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.

These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.

“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”

Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?

If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have…

“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”

The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:

Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.

But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…

You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request one of three things:

A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.

A contested hearing is one you attend with the purpose of getting the conviction overturned.

Requesting permission to take a driver safety course is exactly what it sounds like.

For most minor violations, traffic courts in Virginia may allow you to dismiss your ticket by completing a driver’s improvement course.

These decisions are made on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of your violation and your previous driving history. The court’s considerations include things like:

If the answer to these questions is no, you’re generally good to go.

If the court does grant permission, you will be given information as to how the process works, including:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like playing “Mother May I” when you were a kid, DO NOT start a driver’s improvement course before receiving permission. You’ll wind up paying for a second one and starting all over. Also, while most courts will accept an online course, you’ll want to make very sure your court will.

Taking Your Virginia Driver’s Improvement Course

All driver safety courses follow the same basic curriculum. Your course will touch on topics such as:

At the end of the course, you will be required to pass a test over the presented material to be awarded a completion certificate. This certificate of completion can then be submitted to your court, keeping the conviction and associated points off of your driving record.

Virginia drivers who complete driver’s improvement may be eligible for one of the following benefits:

You can find driver’s improvement courses taught both live in classrooms and online.  Online is often the more convenient option because it can be worked on wherever and whenever the student has the time.

Most courts in Virginia will dismiss tickets with driver’s improvement if you meet their qualifications.  Each court is individual in its requirements, but generally, you will need to meet the following criteria:

If you meet these requirements, you may be eligible for ticket dismissal. In some cases, depending on the severity of your violation and previous driving history, you may be required to take driver’s improvement as a part of your sentencing.

In either case, you will receive procedural instructions from your court about which course you must take, the date the course must be completed, and any additional fines, fees, or documents you may need to submit.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on individual circumstances, some drivers may not be approved for ticket dismissal with a driver safety class, but it never hurts to ask!

If Your Court Says Yes

Virginia DMV-Approved Driver’s Improvement

Virginia driver’s improvement can be completed online or in a classroom. The most important point here is that the course must be approved by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

For most busy folks, an online driver’s improvement course makes the most sense. Taking your course this way allows you to complete it all at once or a piece at a time, whenever you have the time. Online defensive driving is fast becoming the first choice for many Virginia drivers. Start your search with some of Virginia’s top online providers.

Best VA DMV-Approved Driver’s Improvement Schools

Website

Name

Phone

Register NOW!

I Drive Safely 

800-723-1955

Go To Traffic School

888-329-7069



#1 in VA

MyImprov

800-660-8908

Drive Safe Today

800-991-0310

Driver Training Associates, Inc.

800-440-4194

American Safety Council, Inc.

276-623-8222

Driving University, LLC

877-937-4846

National Traffic Safety Institute

888-312-6874

Virginia Driver Improvement

877-972-4665

ABC Driving Clinic

703-271-7233

ADA Driver Improvement

703-777-8833

River City Driving School

804-288-2338

American Safety
Concepts

703-304-8928

1 Stop Driver Improvement

757-262-1446

Safe Driving Academy

703-350-4800

Commonwealth Driving

804-510-4830

Safe2Drive

800-763-1297

Traffic School Online

800-800-3579

Online Urban Traffic

888-925-7373

Delta Driving School, Inc.

703-573-1231

Tala Driving School

703-337-5000

Anytime Traffic School

888-442-8866

VA Driver Improvement Academy

703-626-9556

Be Better Drivers

804-748-2851

Top Notch Driving School

757-926-5956

Colonial Heights Driving School

804-943-3395

Quality Driving School of Virginia

540-827-4882

A Final Word

Ticket dismissal is not the only reason to take driver improvement. Find out how taking a course can keep you safer and put money in your pocket.

More Questions? We Have More Answers!

If this is your first time taking a Virginia driver improvement course, or it’s been a minute since your last one, here is some more useful information just in case.

How many points does a driver’s improvement course take off in Virginia?

Virginia drivers can remove five points by completing a driver improvement course, a process that can be repeated once every 24 months.

How can I check my driving record in Virginia?

Virginia drivers can obtain their driving records in three ways.

The form or written request can be mailed to:

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Attention: Vehicle (Driver) Records Work Center
P. O. Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269

What Happens if You Get a Speeding Ticket in Virginia?

Depending on the speed you were driving…

As you can see, any of these outcomes would be harmful, so slow down!

How long does a speeding ticket in Virginia stay on your record?

Demerit points from a Virginia traffic citation remain on your driving record for two years or longer following the date of offense. The severity of the offense determines the length of time.

Virginia is especially tough on speeders. A speeding conviction for traveling a mere 1-9 MPH over the speed limit will remain on your driving record for five years.