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Changing My Traffic Court Date

Traffic Court Continuances in Virginia

In Virginia, either the defendant or his attorney can ask the traffic court to change the court date by filing a "motion to continue" (also known as a "continuance"). You can make a motion to move your traffic court date to an earlier or later date; however, if your case is in General District Court or Juvenile or Domestic Relations Court, the court can only move your date to one of the officer's official court dates.

Do Not Waste a Traffic Court Continuance

Warning: Do not change your traffic court date without talking to your attorney first! Changing your court date can have major effects on the outcome of your case and can be done only a limited number of times. If you are going to hire an attorney, talk to your attorney before changing the court date.

How Can I Change My Traffic Court Trial Date in Virginia?

Each jurisdiction has different rules for changing your court date, but here are some generalities that apply to most jurisdictions in Virginia:

  • You can continue a case only once or twice unless you have a very good reason, so use your continuances sparingly. You may need them later.
  • Court dates are selected based on when the officer is assigned to come to court (generally once or twice a month). You cannot set a court date for a day other than the officer's traffic court date.
  • To find out the specific procedure for changing your traffic court date prior to the day of trial, contact your local court clerk.
  • To change the court date on the day of trial, simply ask the judge for a continuance when your case is called.
  • If you want a second continuance or if you want to change the court date to a time more than one or two months in the future, you may need to explain your reasons to the judge. Generally, good reasons include getting a lawyer, hospitalization, military service, or getting witnesses to court.

How Many Times Can I Change My Traffic Court Trial Date in Virginia?

Typically, you can only continue a case once or twice unless you have a very good reason, so use your continuances sparingly. You may need them later. If you've already used a continuance, you may not be able to get a second one in the case that the attorney you want to hire is unavailable on your court date, or the prosecution ambushes your attorney at trial, or you have an emergency.

Can I Pick Which Trial Date I Want to Appear in Traffic Court?

The court date you are assigned is chosen based on which officer you have. Each officer is assigned a day or two each month to appear in court to prosecute traffic tickets. If you want to choose a traffic court date you have to pick one of your officer's court dates.

Advantages or Disadvantages to Changing My Court Date

Continuances can affect your ability to prepare for trial. There is no automatic discovery in Virginia traffic court. This means that the prosecution does not have to tell you or your attorney about the evidence against you prior to the trial date. Most jurisdictions in Virginia do not allow an attorney to negotiate with the prosecution prior to the trial date. Frequently, the evidence against the defendant is shared only moments prior to trial. If your attorney is ambushed with new information, your traffic attorney may be allowed to get a continuance to allow more time to prepare for trial. If you use up all of your continuances for frivolous reasons, your lawyer may not be able to get a continuance when it matters most.

Getting a Continuance Can Effect Which Traffic Attorney You Can Hire

Getting a continuance can also affect which traffic attorney you can hire. If you want to hire an attorney who has a schedule conflict on your trial date, that attorney may get a continuance in order to represent you. However, if you have already received a continuance this increases the odds that your attorney will not be able to reschedule the court date and you may have to hire a different traffic attorney. Get a local traffic attorney as soon as possible and always consult with your traffic attorney before getting a continuance.

What if My Officer Does Not Show Up to Traffic Court?

In Virginia it is rare for an officer to not show up. Because the officer appears in court only once or twice a month, that means that all of the officer's traffic tickets for the month depend on the officer showing up in court. Not showing could have repercussions for the officer's job.

If the officer does not appear in traffic court, some traffic court judges may choose to grant the government a continuance rather than dismiss the traffic ticket. If the charges against you are serious or if you have already been given a continuance, many traffic court judges will grant the government a continuance and you may be required to return to court because the officer is missing.