Fairfax County is the largest jurisdiction in Virginia and traffic tickets are almost an inevitable part of driving in this area. Thousands of tickets are issued every year many of which come from driving on the Fairfax County Parkway, Interstate 66, Route 28, Route 29, Route 123, and the Dulles Toll Road among others. Many traffic tickets are prepayable and include a fine. However, prepaying the fine is a guilty plea to the charge and DMV demerit points will be assessed accordingly. Before you prepay the ticket, feel free to give us a call at 703-273-4100 or use the contact form below and we would be happy to explain the penalties and your options. Talking to a traffic ticket lawyer who handles cases in Fairfax County is the best way to help you get the result for your case. Below you will find a comprehensive overview based on our years of experience handling traffic cases in the Fairfax County General District Court.
Fairfax County General District Court
The Fairfax County General District Court is located at 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, Virginia 22030. Cases are heard primarily on the first floor of the Fairfax County Courthouse. Every now and then there is an overflow courtroom on the second floor. Check your summons carefully to make sure you are in the correct jurisdiction (courthouse). At the top of the summons there will be the name of the court and the court's address. Pay particular attention to the Court noted because Fairfax County also includes the localities of Town of Vienna, Town of Herndon, and Fairfax City. However, the towns and city have separate courthouses at other locations within Fairfax County.
Upon arriving at the courthouse complex you will need to park in a paid parking deck (Garage B). The cost is $2.50 an hour (maximum $12.50 for a day). Follow the adjacent sidewalk to the Fairfax County Courthouse. A trick if it's raining is to go up to the fourth floor of the parking deck because there is a covered bridge that will take you from Garage B (public parking) to Garage A (employee parking). This will take you out much closer to the courthouse.
Entry into the courthouse requires first going through security. The security detail in the Fairfax County Courthouse is similar to what you experience going through airports. Be mindful of what you bring because anything deemed dangerous will not be permitted into the courthouse. This includes pepper spray, guns, and knives. If you're unsure it's best to leave the item in your vehicle or at home as items cannot be left with security. You are permitted to bring your cellphones into the courthouse.
We get a lot of questions about what to wear when appearing in court. The short answer is to dress as if you are appearing for a job interview. You don't necessarily need to dress formally but we recommend against wearing jeans or anything too casual. Your attire tells a lot about you to the Judge and is a subtle way to show you are to be taken seriously.
THE FAIRFAX COUNTY Traffic COURT PROCESS
It is recommended you appear at least 20 minutes prior to your court hearing. This will ensure you have enough time to find your courtroom and have a seat. Upon your arrival there is a computer docket board on the wall with your name and courtroom number. If you arrive very early the door to your courtroom may be locked which is normal. A deputy will unlock the door when it's time.
Every Judge and every Bailiff is different in how they handle their dockets. Many Judges and their Bailiffs will give a short speech prior to commencement of the docket. If they do listen carefully because you will want to follow their instructions. They will advise of your right to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. They will also advise you which podium to approach when your name is called. Please keep your cellphone on mute and in your pocket or bag. We have seen people have their cellphones confiscated by the Bailiff (they get it back later in the day).
The Judge will typically start the docket by calling some preliminary matters involving attorneys first. They will also “swear in” the police officers. Once the Judge calls on the police officer that issued you the traffic ticket you should pay close attention to when your name is called. When your name is called the Judge will ask you how you plead: You can plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. If you plead guilty or no contest to the charge the only thing left for the Judge to decide is punishment. Most Judges will proceed with the case at that point and ask the officer what happened and then you will have an opportunity to explain your side of why the offense happened. If you plead not guilty, you will have a trial (in most cases trials are heard later in the docket so the Judge can dispose of the quicker matters first).
Many people call us and ask if a Judge will likely reduce or dismiss their traffic ticket when their court date arrives. This is a difficult question to answer because every Judge is different and some are more strict than others. The best approach is to hire a traffic attorney that regularly handles traffic tickets in Fairfax County.
A Fairfax County Judge may reduce a charge if it is the person's first traffic ticket, they have no prior record, the offense was minor, and they were otherwise cooperative with the police officer during the stop. The Judge will then issue a fine and court costs. If the Judge finds you guilty of the original charge they will simply issue punishment that corresponds with the charge as it was written by the police officer. Of course, if the Judge finds you not guilty of the offense following a trial, the charge will be dismissed. If the charge is dismissed there is no fine or courts to pay.
Notwithstanding the above, if you have a lawyer for your case, your court experience will be different. Many of our clients don't need to appear for their court date because they appear “through counsel” and we handle everything for them. In those cases where we have our clients present for court the Judge won't call their case until we ask them to. This is because we will first speak to the police officer and, where appropriate, speak to the prosecutor. In many cases we will work out an agreement to a reduced offense and hand it up to the Judge asking them to impose the agreement. Most of the time we simply have our clients wait outside of the courtroom during the docket so they can do work or otherwise relax.
At the conclusion of the case with the Judge you may be required to pay a fine and court costs. You will have 90 days to pay from your court date. If you wish you can pay the fine and court costs on the same morning of court in the Traffic Division, Room 106. Please note that use of any credit or debit card will result in a 4% fee. If you can we recommend bringing a check or cash. Any payments made later can be paid online and the courthouse has pamphlets to that effect. Otherwise you can simply call the clerk's office at 703-246-3764 and pay over the phone.
COMMON TRAFFIC TICKET POINTS AND PENALTIES
Upon a conviction for a traffic offense, the Fairfax County Court sends an abstract of the conviction to the Virginia DMV. The DMV will then issue demerit points according to the severity of the offense, including offenses that are incurred out of the state. Depending on the type of charge, the conviction will remain on the driving record for a certain period of time. The maximum fine for simple traffic infraction is $250.
When people hire us for their traffic ticket we will do our best to avoid points entirely. We accomplish this through case preparation and then either negotiating with a prosecutor for a reduced offense or by argument before the Judge. This result is on a case-by-case basis and depends heavily on the facts of the case and the person's prior driving record.
Below are the most common traffic violations we see come through our office:
- Speeding 1-9 mph above the posted speed limit (5 years on driving record)
- Impeding Traffic/Driving Too Slow (3 years)
- Improper passing on the right (3 years)
- Improper turn (3 years)
- Improper Lane Change (3 years)
- Improper U-turn (3 years)
- Improper Driving (3 years)
- Violation of right turn on red (3 years)
- Violation of left turn on red (3 years)
- Driving without lights/excessive lights (3 years)
- Fail to Obey Highway Sign (3 years)
- Stopping on a Highway (3 years)
- Evading Traffic Control Device (3 years)
- Driving Without a License (3 years)
- Hit and Run (3 years) (Damage to Unattended Property)
- Holding a Cellphone While Driving (3 years)
- Watching Television While Driving (3 years)
- Speeding 10-19 mph above the posted speed limit (5 years)
- Failure to yield right-of-way (3 years)
- Following too closely (3 years)
- Improper signal (3 years)
- Disregard Crossing Guard (3 years)
- Passing stopped school bus (non-reckless)(3 years)
- Failure to obey traffic signal (3 years)
- Hit and Run (3 years or 11 years) (Damage to Unattended Property less than or more than $500)
- Speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit (5 years)
- Reckless Driving (11 years)
- Driving While License Suspended (11 years)
- DUI/DWI (11 years)
- Eluding (3 years or 11 years)
- Hit and Run (11 years) (Injury to Person or Damage to Property $1,000 or more)
how to PREPARE FOR YOUR TRAFFIC TICKET IN THE FAIRFAX COUNTY GENERAL DISTRICT COURT
Upon issuance of a summons to appear in Court the very first thing to do is to speak to a traffic attorney so you know what you're facing. Not every case requires an attorney but sometimes even a minor ticket can have consequences you should be aware of. For example, if an accident is involved, there may be civil liability implications. We also regularly represent Uber and Lyft drivers that must maintain a good driving record in order to keep working for those companies. In other cases the person may have already been cut a break by the officer and it's unlikely it will get better in court. Or perhaps the citation is for a no-point offense so there's no reason to hire an attorney. Every traffic case is different.
If you decide to address your ticket in court there are a few things you will want to do. First you will want to prepare for the court date. The gold standard in the Fairfax County General District Court is to take a defensive driving course prior to court. This traffic course is used for purposes of mitigation to show the Judge that the driving behavior that led to the traffic ticket has been changed for the better after education. It also shows the Judge that person took the time to complete the course and that they care about the outcome of their case above and beyond just showing up for court. It should be noted this doesn't work for every Judge but most will give extra consideration by either lowering the charge or at least lessening the fine. Here are two defensive driving course options we use frequently:
a) AA Driving Academy (online or in-class): 703-478-6800; and
The other pre-court task is to go to the VA DMV or online and request a copy of your driving record. We frequently use driving records to show the court that our client does not have a history of traffic tickets. We use the driving record in conjunction with a defensive driving course to obtain favorable results from Judges and prosecutors. The driving record will also help you prepare for your case for the Judge. If your driving record is clean then you can explain to the Judge you have a history of good driving. If your driving record reflects a prior ticket or two but they are very different from your current charge then you can explain to the Judge you don't have a history of committing the offense you're in court for that day.
Please note that most Judges in the Fairfax County General District Court do not dismiss tickets simply because a person has taken a defensive driving course or have a good driving record. Remember, from a Judge's point of view, if they had a practice of dismissing tickets because the person has a good driving record then that person could appear in court frequently for traffic tickets and routinely get their tickets dismissed because they always have a good record due to the prior dismissals. However, there is no harm in asking the Judge to consider lowering the charge if you have taken the course, learned a lot from it, and have made the necessary adjustments so that it's unlikely you will be in court again under those circumstances. If the Judge reduces your charge to failure to pay full time and attention under the Fairfax County Code this is a win. Failure to pay full time and attention under Fairfax County Code 82-4-24 is a local ordinance that is not reported to the DMV so it doesn't go on the driving record. If the Judge reduces the charge to defective equipment this is a no-point non-moving violation which is also a win. Defective equipment will go onto the driving record since it is a Virginia State Code but we haven't heard anything negative come from it.
APPEALING A CONVICTION FOR A TRAFFIC TICKET IN FAIRFAX COUNTY
We regularly handle traffic appeals in Fairfax County. Sometimes we must appeal our cases in the event the case does not go as expected. In other cases, our clients may have handled the case by themselves in General District Court and the Judge found them guilty and wish to hire us for their appeal. In either case, you have options if the Judge finds you guilty in General District Court.
If you are found guilty of a traffic ticket in Fairfax County, you have the right to appeal the case within 10 calendar days to the Fairfax County Circuit Court. This results in a new trial (called “de novo”) and essentially wipes out anything that happened in the lower court. You will get a new Judge or Jury to decide your case. Sometimes appeals are worthwhile simply because you now have more time to perform additional mitigation for court.
To note your appeal for a traffic ticket in Fairfax County, you will need to appear in Room 106 of the Fairfax County General District Court. This office is called the Traffic Division and is where you will appear before a clerk to note your appeal. You will have the option to have a Judge hear your case (called a bench trial) or have a Jury decide your case (called a jury trial). Most cases are simply set for a bench trial and a Circuit Court Judge decides the traffic case on appeal. Your appeal will be heard on the 4th or 5th floor of the Fairfax County Courthouse. In most cases we receive a better result on appeal than in the General District Court but not all traffic cases are appropriate for appeal and an attorney should be consulted first. This is because it is still possible to receive a worse result in Circuit Court on appeal so the case result in the General District Court should be considered first. Most of the time we can assess this fairly quickly and help you make the right decision.
we offer a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION
We recommend taking advantage of our expertise and giving us a call to discuss your case. Most calls only take about 15 minutes since we have done thousands of traffic cases over the years and know these cases. We will discuss the facts of the case, whether we think you should hire a traffic ticket attorney, including the costs and benefits, and how to get you the best result possible. Sometimes people call us and decide to simply prepay their ticket which is fine too because at least now they're informed. Being informed is the name of the game.