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What Everyone Should (and Should Not) Bring to Traffic Court

If you are making an appearance in traffic court here are some things you should, or should not, bring.

1) A copy of your summons. That yellow piece of paper that you received on the side of the road is important, bring it with you. If you lost it, go to the court clerk’s office several days before your court date and request a new copy.

2) A copy of your DMV record. Some officer’s will get a copy of your Virginia DMV record prior to trial, but if you are from out-of-state you’ll need to get your own copy. Get a copy of your DMV record from every state you had a license from in the last 5 years. You can go back even further than that if you have a really long history of great driving. The DMV record does not need to be a certified copy. If your record is so terrible that you are embarrassed to show it to a judge then you should definitely talk to an attorney. You may be facing a license suspension from the DMV.

3) Don’t bring your cell phone or a camera or a recording device. Some courts even ban electronics of any kind. Call the court clerk’s office before hand if you need to bring in any electronics as part of your evidence. Each court has its own rules.

4) Money. You will be expected to pay for your fines and court costs that same day. The Virginia traffic court and general district courts generally now all charge 3-4% extra for using debit or credit cards so personal check or cash is preferable. If you cannot pay for your fines and court costs all up front, then contact the clerk’s office before trial to discuss arranging a payment plan or deadline extension. Fines can be paid online through the Virginia Supreme Court website as well.

5) Attire. Most traffic court Defendants are dressed casually but wearing a suit and tie or at least business casual can make a difference when you get up to the podium and claim that you are a responsible driver. Try to cover tattoos and remove excessive piercings. If you are sloppy with your dress, its hard for judges to not believe you are not sloppy with your driving.

6) Come prepared. Before the judge calls your name know how you will plead, understand court procedure, understand the elements of your offense, understand the maximum and minimum punishments, understand the DMV consequence and make sure you have a clear understanding of what the judge has the authority to do and what the judge cannot do. Many driver’s come to Virginia or to a specific jurisdiction and try to ask judges to do things that are common in their home jurisdiction but not allowed in their current jurisdiction. For example, Fairfax county does not have any driver improvement programs that you can take in exchange for a dismissal. Virgina judges cannot decide the number of demerit points you will be assigned. Virginia judges do not do “PBJs”.

7) Always talk to a local attorney before deciding to plead guilty, prepay a fine and before defending yourself. You really need to understand what you are getting yourself into and what options are available before your name is called in court. And because these consultations are free, there is no reason not too.


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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