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Virginia Traffic Court – It pays to double check

Ever seen a typpo? Yeah they happen all the time in most Virginia traffic courts.

It begins with a ticket. The officer writes (by hand) a ticket on the side of the road. You get a carbon copy, the officer gets a copy and the clerk of the court gets a carbon copy. Usually, dropped off in bulk by an officer.

The clerks attempts to read the officer’s hand writing and then enters the data from the summons into the court system by hand. Then the judge rules on your case. He scribbles something in the margins of your summons and then drops it on the clerks desk.

The clerk then carries the file back to the clerks office where you pay your fines and court costs. Your payment is entered by hand into the computer. Then notification is sent to the Virginia DMV. If you have an out of state license then the Virginia DMV sends notice to your home state where it is then entered into their system.

If you haven’t guessed already, crazy stuff happens. The judge says one thing and then writes another. The clerk enters the information from another person’s case into your file. A clerk hits the wrong key on the key board. A clerk looks at the judge’s hand writting and sees a 9 instead of 7. You name it and it has happened.

This is what you should do to make sure a typo doesn’t happen to you. When you get a summons go to the Virginia Supreme Court website prior to trial and look up your case online. Make sure the offense, the offense code section and the trial date are correct. If that information is incorrect, consult an attorney.

If your name or address is misspelled, correct it by contacting the court clerk’s officer prior to your court date. Important court information sent by mail will not reach you if the address on the summons is entered incorrectly and finding your file can be tricky if your name is misspelled.

When you go to court, pay close attention to what the judge rules. Immediately go to the clerk’s office to discuss fines and court costs and ask the clerk to confirm that the correct sentence was entered. Do this immediately, because if the judge wrote it wrong or wrote the sentence illegibly you better hope the judge remembers what the sentence was suppose to be. If you wait until the next day to check, no one will remember you or your sentence and you’ll likely be stuck.

24 hours after your case, go back to the Virginia Supreme Court website and confirm that your sentence matches what the judge said and what the clerk confirmed. Now you know it got entered correctly.

And finally, get a copy of your DMV record 30 days after the case is over and confirm that the information on the DMV record is correct. If there is an error contact the DMV then the court to find out where the error lies and who needs to fix it. This is a time consuming process that gets more difficult the more time passes so don’t put off confirming your DMV record.

Luke J. Nichols

Nichols & Green pllc

(703) 383-9222

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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