Understanding Virginia’s point-based penalty system for drivers

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

When issued a traffic citation, many drivers decide to simply pay the fine, even when they do not believe they were in the wrong. Unfortunately, police officers and the equipment they use are not infallible, and an erroneous ticket could lead to costs that go beyond a one-time monetary penalty.

As in many other states, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles uses a point-based system to track driver violations. With each traffic citation, the DMV subtracts a certain number of points from the driver’s record. Receiving enough demerit points within a 12- or 24-month period may lead to license suspension and increasingly stiff fines as well as higher insurance rates.

How Virginia assigns points

In Virginia, every driver begins with a neutral point score of zero. For each calendar year that passes without any traffic violations, the individual receives one safe driving point, with a maximum cap of five points. On the other hand, each traffic conviction carries a certain number of demerit points based on the severity and type of violation involved. Examples of types of citations and their negative point values include:

  • Three points: driving 1-9 mph over the posted limit, illegal U-turn, improper passing, driving through a safety zone
  • Four points: driving 10-19 mph over the posted limit, unsafe passing, failure to yield to a police or emergency vehicle, improper signaling, aggressive driving
  • Six points: speeding 20 mph or more over the posted limit, passing a stopped school bus, driving under the influence, driving with a suspended or revoked license

Assigned points remain on a driver’s DMV record for two years. However, depending on the type of conviction, the violation itself may stay on an individual’s record for three to 11 years.

While paying the occasional fine may seem manageable, Virginia motorists should know that doing so may have a lasting impact on both their driving record and their insurance premiums. When a traffic citation is unfair, challenging a charge may help to prevent a potentially costly conviction.