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Intro to Fairfax County Traffic Court (General District Court -Traffic Division)

What to Expect and How to Navigate the Fairfax County Traffic Court.

4110 Chain Bridge Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Traffic: (703) 246-3764

Fairfax County is the largest jurisdiction in Virginia. With over one million residents its approximately 3 times larger than the next largest county. Consequently, the Fairfax County courthouse is massive and unique. Here are 15 things you should know about the Fairfax County Court system before you show up for traffic court.

The Court system is as follows: The lowest court where most traffic cases are heard is called General District Court of GDC. GDC does trials for traffic infractions, criminal misdemeanors, and does preliminary hearings for felonies. When you get a traffic ticket your case starts in General District Court.

If a driver appeals a traffic case from General District Court then the case goes to Circuit Court. In Circuit Court, the appellant gets a brand new trial in front of a brand new judge. Lawyers call this a trial de novo. If the Judge make a significant error in the Circuit Court trial the case can be appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals and then to the Virginia Supreme Court. Appeals to these two courts are very technical and not automatically allowed.

There are over 30 courtrooms in Fairfax County. 16 of those courtrooms are for General District Court cases. up to 7 of those courtrooms are used for traffic court cases. Each courtroom can hear up to 200 cases each morning and more in the afternoon. In Fairfax County General District Court (GDC), traffic cases are usually on the first floor with some overflow courtrooms on the second flow.

To find which courtroom room you are assigned before your court date find your case online less than 24 hours before your court date and the courtroom will be posted online at the Virginia Supreme Court website.

On the day of Court, your name and courtroom assignment will be listed on flat screen televisions hanging from the wall on the first floor near both entrances to the court room. Court assistants and volunteers near the Fairfax Courthouse’s main entrance can also direct you to your courtroom. Your courtroom will not be listed on your summons and will not even be assigned until about 24 hours prior to trial.

Traffic cases in Fairfax General District Court (except felonies) are usually set for 9:30am. At 9:30 am the judge will start calling the names of driver’s who do not have attorneys. Most judges will call the names by officer, starting with the officers who have the fewest cases and moving on to the officers with the most cases.

If you don’t have an attorney and you do not stand up when your name is called you will be tried in your absence or a bench warrant will be issued. If you have an attorney in Fairfax County, your name will not be called until your attorney notifies the judge that they are ready to proceed with your case.

Getting through all the traffic cases may take a judge 90 minute to 4 hours in Fairfax County traffic court. Drivers who plead “not guilty” are often passed over and their cases dealt with at the very end.

In Fairfax County, the prosecutors do not typically negotiate with non-attorneys. Plea deals and negotiations happen in side offices outside the courtroom. If you leave the courtroom to try to talk to a Fairfax prosecutor you may be tried in your absence or issued a bench warrant. Additionally, the prosecutors in Fairfax are only given information regarding represented drivers. If a lone driver tries to talk to a Fairfax prosecutor that prosecutor will not have the paperwork or information necessary to get involved.

8)Law enforcement officers in Fairfax county do not typically give recommendations to the judge and they do not prosecute cases. Unlike some other jurisdictions, the police in Fairfax are witnesses not prosecutors. Do not expect your officer to negotiate the outcome of your case or give recommendations to the judge, that is not their job.

In Fairfax County traffic court, if you have an attorney DO NOT approach the police officer or the prosecutor and DO NOT talk to them without your attorney’s specific approval. Most prosecutors and defense attorneys find this very annoying and it can sour relations quickly. In Fairfax, defendant’s are usually not allowed to be present for the negotiation process or communicate with other witnesses (e.g. officers) or the prosecutor.

If you want to pay your General District Court, traffic fines and court costs on the day of your court you can do so at the GDC clerk’s officer on the first floor of the Fairfax County Courthouse. The GDC Clerk’s officer, Traffic Division is large glass room nearest courtroom 1E. (Its the one that looks like a DMV office). To pay fines get a ticket and wait for your number to be called.

In Fairfax County GDC they take credit cards, checks, cash, money orders, and much more, but they charge a 4% service fees for credit or debit cards. In Fairfax, if you do not pay your fines and court cost within 15 days the Court will suspend your license until all the money is paid and a reinstatement fee is paid to the DMV.

12) If you need more than 15 days to pay off 100% of your fines and court cost, ask the clerk if you are eligible for a 90 days payment extension for $10 (the $10 is added to your total). You can pay the money off a little at a time or all at once as long as it is all done by the new deadline.

Appeals to Fairfax County Circuit Court, motions, continuances, and much more can be done at the Fairfax County General District Court Clerk’s Office -Traffic Court Division.

There are no cameras, camera phone, web cameras, tape recorders or recording devices allowed in the Fairfax County Court House unless you are a licensed member of the Virginia Bar. You must have your bar card. If you try to bring a cell phone or some other banned items they may be checked with security at both entrances.

Parking costs up to $8 and is found at the Fairfax Courthouse Parking Garage. If your attorney’s office is close to the courthouse, parking at their office and walking over may make more sense.

Luke J. Nichols

About Luke Nichols

Luke Nichols practices almost exclusively traffic law in Northern Virginia. His primary practice areas include reckless driving, speeding, DUI/DWI, refusal, hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license, and driving on a revoked license. Mr. Nichols has represented hundreds of Virginia drivers. You can also connect with Luke on Google+
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