PrepayIn Virginia, you may not prepay a reckless driving ticket. Actually, calling that yellow carbon paper form you received a “driving ticket” understates the matter. The Virginia Uniform Summons form is what law enforcement agencies use to charge drivers with traffic ticket infractions and other more serious driving violation charges.  This includes criminal misdemeanor charges.

When the officer has you sign a summons at the time of your traffic stop, you are actually promising that you will show up to court at the specified date and time for your trial. (I wrote about what happens if you don’t show up to court here.) Signing a summons is basically a bail bond. If you refuse to sign the summons, law enforcement can take you to jail and make you appear before a magistrate. Signing a summons is just a promise to appear in court. It is not an admission of guilt.

For any criminal misdemeanor charge such as reckless driving, driving on a suspended license, or driving without a license, you will be required to appear in court. Only for smaller traffic infractions, such as following too closely, failure to yield, or simple speeding might there be a checked box which states:  “YOU MAY AVOID COMING TO COURT ONLY IF THIS BOX IS CHECKED AND ALL INSTRUCTIONS ON THE DEFENDANT’S COPY ARE FOLLOWED.”

Because reckless driving is a serious charge, you will need to show up to court. (Note: It may be possible to hire an attorney to have the case tried in your absence.  This is especially attractive for out of state residents.) Virginia’s laws are strange in that driving 81 in a 70 could land you a reckless driving charge, but speeding at 19 over the speed limit would give you a speeding charge, allowing a driver to avoid going to court. Be it as it is, the Commonwealth of Virginia has some of the toughest traffic laws in the nation. If you are facing a reckless driving charge, get an attorney to defend you in court. Being charged with a criminal misdemeanor charge is no laughing matter.

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