When you're facing serious charges and have a lot on the line, you can never ask too many questions. Darwyn is always happy to answer any questions you may have, but these are some of the questions he hears the most.
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Can volunteering to participate in a driver safety course help my defense? If so, what can I expect?
When you’re charged with a traffic violation, depending on the severity of the charge, you could face a variety of penalties. Whether you’re guilty or not, if the court finds your defense lacking, it can penalize you for your violation by ordering that you:
- Pay expensive fines
- Have points added to your license
- Perform community service
- Attend recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous
However, with the advice and guidance of Darwyn Easley, you may be able to lessen the burden with one simple action: Volunteering to take a driver safety course.
Driver Benefits of Completing a Safety Program
Driver safety programs are basically refresher courses to remind you of the necessary actions to take in order to drive safely. Although you may have learned this in driver training, the fact that you were charged with a traffic offense suggests that you may have forgotten the finer points. However, by showing the court that you’re willing to improve your driving with a program, you not only convey responsibility but also show your willingness to cooperate, which can go a long way in lessening punishments.
Here are a few additional ways that completing a safety program may be a wise decision in helping your defense:
- Satisfies court-ordered requirements. As part of your penalty for a traffic violation, the court may require you to complete a driver safety course in order to make sure you’re reacquainted with proper driving etiquette and laws.
- Reduces fines and court fees. By volunteering to take (and pay for) a safety course, you’ll show maturity which can have a big impact on the court. As such, taking accountability and attempting to improve your driving may cause the court to be lenient with sentencing.
- Removes points off of your license for past violations. When you complete a driver safety program, you can submit your certificate of completion in order to remove points from your license. Likewise, if you currently do not have any points on your license, completion of the course can provide a cushion of up to five safe driving points to counteract any future violations
Can I be charged for manslaughter or fetal homicide if I cause a traffic accident that results in a miscarriage?
When you’re accused of causing a traffic accident, no matter how minor or severe, the advice of an experienced traffic defense lawyer can go a long way. However, the importance of representation becomes essential when the charge involves injuries or death. When your negligent or reckless driving causes a fatal accident, you could be charged with not only reckless endangerment, but also vehicular manslaughter.
Although these charges may seem justifiable, you may not know that you could also be charged with wrongful death if your negligence causes a pregnant woman to miscarry.
Wrongful Fetal Death in Virginia
In 2012, Virginia enacted an expansion of its cause of action for wrongful death to include wrongful fetal death. In essence, this expansion recognized unborn babies as protectable beings by law. In other words, fetuses were granted legal “personhood” and are protected by the same laws that protect all people. What this means to the at-fault driver in a crash that kills an unborn baby is that he will be held accountable for the death just as he would be if any other occupant of the car was killed. The accident could cause the mother to miscarry or could lead to a stillborn baby weeks later—either way, the at-fault driver can be charged with wrongful death. As an unborn baby is extremely vulnerable when riding in a car, you could find yourself facing very serious charges for what you may think is a minor car accident.
Therefore, the next time you decide that the consequences of checking your phone, running a stop sign, or drinking and driving is worth the risk, think about the defense you’ll need if your actions result in the death of an innocent person—unborn or otherwise.
Can I be held liable for a traffic accident if my child was the one who was driving?
Every teenager counts down the days until he can get his license and drive on his own. However, every parent dreads the day that his child is legally able to drive. The overwhelming fear that he could get hurt or hurt someone else is almost too much to handle. However, just as your parents and your parents’ parents got over it, you must as well. After all, he’s growing up and you have to teach him to be responsible for his actions.
Unfortunately, although that sounds all well and good and may help you sleep at night, when it comes to teenage drivers, responsibility may still fall on your shoulders. In fact, your child’s mistake could land you in prison, trying to defend a crime you didn’t commit.
Vicarious Liability and What it Means for Your Family
Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that was initially created to hold parents responsible for their underage children’s actions. Since children under the age of 18 weren’t considered legally competent, the consequences and financial responsibilities of their traffic tickets fell to their guardians. Today, as competency laws are becoming more and more lax, vicarious liability has also become less strict. However, there are still cases where teenage accidents can still be blamed on parents. This is why it is extremely important for you and your child to understand when, where, and how vicarious liability is determined.
The three different cases for traffic accident and violation liability are as follows:
- The teenage driver is liable. In most cases, when a teenager breaks the law or causes an accident, he will be ticketed or charged for his own actions (as long as he has a license and is deemed physically and mentally competent to be driving). In these cases, the teenager is responsible for any ramifications, including fines, lawsuits, etc.
- Parental liability. If the implicated teenager has had previous incidents of erratic, dangerous, or improper driving behavior (of which his parents are fully aware) and is allowed to drive by his parents anyway, they could be considered liable for his actions. Since they knew or should have known the child had a propensity for the behavior that caused the accident, then they are responsible for his actions as well. In addition, parents may be liable for other teenagers’ actions if they allowed drinking and driving on their property.
- The Family Purpose Doctrine. This doctrine states that the registered owner of a vehicle is liable for any damage that a family member causes when using his vehicle. Therefore, if you give your consent for a family member to use your vehicle and then he causes an accident, you’re liable for any and all damages
If you find yourself being charged or sued because of vicarious liability laws, contact us today at 703-865-6610 for the advice you need to set up a defense.
If I get into an accident with a vehicle driven by a teenager, will I be blamed because I’m a more experienced driver?
When you’re involved in a traffic accident, no matter how big or small, a police officer is going to take statements and assign blame. In some cases, liability is clear cut, but when it comes to teenage drivers, police have been known to take it easy on the “new drivers” and point the finger at the more senior driver. After all, you have more experience and control so you should have been able to prevent the accident.
Although you concede that you have more driving experience, does that also mean you should concede to take the blame?
What if you see a teenager barreling toward you at high speeds? Do you let your family get hit, or take evasive action, even if it means breaking the law? Who is actually liable in situations like that, and how can you prove that inexperience is what caused the incident?
Teenage Driving Stats Can Help Prove Your Innocence
According to a recent study conducted by the American Auto Association (AAA), teenagers have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. As a result of inexperience, decreased attention spans, and their susceptibility to distractions, teenage drivers account for over 900,000 accidents every year. Although this statistic in itself is terrifying, it can be used to your advantage when defending your case.
The AAA study discovered that teenagers regularly cause accidents as a result of inattention and distraction. The stats show that:
- 15% of teenage accidents result from the driver interacting with one or more passengers.
- 12% can be blamed on cell phone use.
- 10% are caused by the driver looking at something in the vehicle, while 9% are caused by looking at something outside the vehicle.
- 8% are caused by singing, moving, or dancing to music.
- 6% can be blamed on drivers grooming themselves.
- 6% result from drivers taking their hands off the wheel to reach for an object.
Any one of these distractions could have caused your accident, especially since there is documented proof that these types of accidents occur all the time with teenagers. Therefore, you can use this data to highlight teenage liability, as opposed to taking the blame because you’re an adult.
If you believe you have been charged or ticketed for an accident caused by a teenager, contact us today at 703-865-6610 to set up an appointment. Don’t allow age bias to jeopardize your driving record, or cost you hard-earned money. Contact us today and see how I can help secure justice for you and your family.
How can I secure police documents for my defense, under the Freedom of Information Act?
When pursuing a traffic violation defense the more evidence and documentation you have of the incident, the stronger your case will be. Unfortunately, securing such documentation can be time consuming and difficult. After all, the arresting officer thinks you deserve the charge, why would he help you prove otherwise?
Luckily, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted for exactly these types of situations. According to the FOIA, you’re guaranteed the following rights:
- Right to request, inspect, and receive copies of any and all public records.
- Right to request that any charges pertaining to these records be clarified in advance. This allows you to know exactly what you are charged with and exactly what documentation you will need to request.
- Right to file a petition in district or circuit court if you feel your FOIA rights have been violated.
Therefore, although the arresting officer and the police may not be happy about it, by law they must provide you with the opportunity to get your hands on public records associated with the incident in which you’re being charged.
Acquiring Police Reports and Individual Traffic Violation Reports
The majority of criminal reports dealing with traffic violations are made public. This means that the entirety of the police report, as well as witness statements ascertained by the police, and police car video footage are all covered under the Freedom of Information Act. When building your defense you can use these reports to illustrate the scene and prove your claim and innocence. However, the request process can be a little intimidating.
Requesting FOIA Records
- Make your request. Unlike many government plans, the FOIA doesn’t require a written request for records. This means that you can request records by U.S. mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone. However, written requests are not only helpful in keeping your own paper trail, but can also speed things up on the other end as they have verifiable proof of the request. It also gives the department a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so that there are no misunderstandings.
- Send your FOIA requests and questions to:
Virginia State Police
Public Relations Office
P. O. Box 27472
Richmond, VA 23261-7472
- Provide identification. You must provide your name and legal address in your request.
- Specify the need for records. When making the request you need to be as specific as possible on what records, reports, and items you need. Otherwise, the department may be unable to locate them in a timely fashion.
- Stick to documents. Your request must ask for copiable records or documents. The FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy public records. However, it does not allow you to request private information, opinion, or speculation about incidents or records.
- Cooperate with the department. If the department has questions about your request, try to be as understanding and cooperative as possible with the staff. Making a FOIA request should not turn into a fight, nor should it be combative. Although questions do periodically arise about requests, it does not mean that anyone is trying to deny you your rights. Try to stay calm, and if you seem to have persistent issues obtaining the requested records, contact an experienced lawyer to get the ball rolling.
You can also fill out our contact form, or call us directly at 703-865-6610 to get the help you need to secure evidence for your defense. Darwyn Easley will not only facilitate a quick and smooth transfer, but with his experience he can also make sure that all needed documents are ascertained and accounted for. Don’t waste time on unnecessary correspondence and potential miscommunication. Let Easley secure your documents, your defense, and your future. Call now!
What questions do police have the right to ask when they pull me over for a traffic violation?
If you’re lucky, you’ve never experienced the anxiety of being pulled over by a policeman. Regrettably, if you’re reading this, you’re most likely aware of this feeling. Every day, thousands of drivers across the United States are pulled over for traffic violations and misunderstandings. Although many of them are guilty of some sort of infraction—countless others are dragged, coerced, or confused into accepting guilt without having done anything wrong.
Knowing Your Driving Rights May Help Avoid Unlawful Questioning and Accusations
Every driver, no matter how he drives, is guaranteed specific rights by the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment guarantees that drivers (and passengers) are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by the police, while also protecting their right to privacy. This means that officers are limited in what they can do and say to a “suspect” once they have pulled him over. However, many drivers are unaware of these limitations and proceed to incriminate themselves by answering questions that the police do not have the right to ask.
It is important for your future to not only follow the rules of the road, but to also know how to avoid self-incrimination or miscommunication by knowing what officers can and can’t ask of you.
Lawful Virginia Traffic Inquiries
- Ascertain identity and ask for proof of identification.
- Verify legal ability to drive (ask for a license).
- Question whether the driver has the right to drive the vehicle that he is in.
- Request proof of insurance (ask for vehicle registration).
Although they may discover something in your records that may give them probable cause to question you further, without evidence they can’t pursue any more questions. Therefore, you do not have to (nor should you) answer any questions concerning
- Where you have been.
- Where you were going.
- What you have been doing.
- Why he pulled you over.
...or anything else. You should politely refuse to answer, stating that you’re uncomfortable with the question.
Although police are limited to the types of questions they can ask, and you have the right to refuse to answer unlawful questions, you still have a responsibility to be cooperative and polite. Otherwise, disregard for etiquette could create an excuse for the officer to fine, arrest, or charge you with a variety of violations. This disregard can then be used to lawfully instill a reason for interrogations and searches. Don’t give them what they need to bypass their limitations—stay calm and polite, but also assertive when it comes to answering questions that you’re not comfortable with.
If you believe you or a loved one was unlawfully questioned or coerced into answering unlawful questions which led to his arrest, contact us today at 703-865-6610 to set up an appointment and to see how Easley can help secure justice for you and your family.
What counts as drag racing in Virginia and what charges will I face if I get arrested for racing?
In Virginia, racing is covered by VA Code Section 46.2-865: Any person who engages in a race between two or more motor vehicles on the highways in the Commonwealth or on any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public in the Commonwealth shall be guilty of reckless driving, unless authorized by the owner of the property or his agent.
The Penalties in Virginia for Misdemeanor Racing
In Virginia, “drag racing” or “racing” is considered a class one misdemeanor reckless driving charge. The law states: When any person is convicted of reckless driving under this section, in addition to any other penalties provided by law, the driver’s license of such person shall be suspended by the court for a period of not less than six months nor more than two years.
In addition, you could be sentenced to jail time, have to pay court fees and will receive six demerit points which will remain on your record for 11 years.
When Drag Racing Is a Felony
The above outlines the penalties associated with a misdemeanor charge. However, there are times with racing charges are considered a felony. If anyone is hurt or killed during the course of the drag race, Class 6 felony charges may be applied. If convicted, the driver could be sent to prison for one to five years, though the sentence could be less if the judge or jury decides the sentence should be lighter.
If someone is killed during an accident where drag racing was a factor, the sentence is between one to 20 years; with a one year mandatory minimum jail time.
A felony conviction for drag racing in Virginia also means a mandatory driver’s license suspension of between one and three years. On top of this, the car used for the race can be taken by police and sold.
What You Should Do If You’ve Been Accused of Drag Racing in Virginia
It is important to note that in Virginia, drag racing is defined as having a pre-defined start point and pre-defined end point. So technically, two cars speeding next to one another, whether it’s a test of speed or not, is not considered drag racing in Virginia. These cases often rely on witness testimony, as the arresting officer usually won’t have heard the drivers having a discussion before they took off. Because of this it’s very important that you hire a lawyer who’s experienced in reckless driving cases. Call 888-386-3898 right now.
Why am I at risk of penalties if I leave the scene of an accident after a crash?
If you are involved in a car accident, you may face penalties if you leave the scene without first exchanging important information with the other parties involved in the crash or waiting for law enforcement to arrive. There are important reasons behind this rule that every driver should be familiar with. It is important to note, however, that if you are charged, possible defenses to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident may apply. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities in these cases.
3 Reasons You Are Required to Remain at the Scene of an Accident
Why are drivers generally required to remain at the accident scene after a crash? The following is an overview:
- To offer help to drivers, passengers, or nearby pedestrians who may be suffering from an injury as a result of the accident.
- To provide an opportunity for the parties involved in the accident to exchange relevant identification and insurance information. This may include your name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, insurance carrier, and policy number.
- To prevent a party from avoiding criminal or civil liability that might arise from the accident by fleeing the scene. For example, a party in the crash who was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not permitted to simply leave the scene in order to avoid detection.
If you are charged with fleeing the scene of an accident, all hope is not lost. We encourage you to contact us today for help at 888-386-3898.
If the zipper merge works so well, why does it make so many drivers angry?
Merging is a constant frustration for drivers. It doesn’t matter if you’re just learning how to drive, or if you’ve been driving for 30 years, successfully merging into a lane of traffic doesn’t just depend on skill—it often depends on the mood of other drivers. Although some drivers will merge without the slightest concern for others, proper merging is a delicate balance of timing, consideration, and the ability to gauge other drivers’ moods.
Since merging onto busy highways or through construction zones is a major cause of traffic congestion, the Department of Transportation suggests that late merging, also known as zipper merging, could actually help decrease bottlenecks and improve the flow of traffic when merges are required. Unfortunately, the zipper merge is controversial and can actually cause more harm than good.
Risks of the Zipper Merge
Although the zipper merge makes sense in theory—motorists utilize both lanes until the on-ramp or lane ends, where they then take turns—in practice, taking turns isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. If you’ve been inching along in the open lane for a long time and the car next to you stayed in the closing lane to bypass traffic, why should you let him in? This resentment often results in a complete lack of cooperation at the merge point, causing further back-ups and the potential for collisions. Increased understanding of the benefits of the zipper merge and further cooperation among drivers could go a long way towards easing the frustrating, time-consuming, and energy-wasting effects of major traffic back-ups.
For more information on zipper merging, traffic accidents, and driving rights and responsibilities, feel free to browse our site for more articles, or contact us directly for a free consultation. We’re here to answer your questions and help you make sense of the law. Call now!
How long will my license be suspended after a hit and run accident in Virginia?
If you are facing the loss of your driver’s license after a hit-and-run crash, you should know that there is a difference between license suspension and revocation. Suspension means that your license will be given back to you after a period of time; revocation will mean that you must apply for a new license when your sentence is over.
Here are a few factors that can affect the length of time you are unable to drive:
- Property damage only. If you struck a vehicle resulting in property damage of over $500, but did not cause injuries, your driver's license can be suspended for up to six months. This is true if you were the driver or a passenger in the vehicle during the hit and run crash.
- Driver causing injury. If you were a driver who left the scene of an accident that caused injury or death, your driver's license will be suspended for one year.
- Repeat offenses. If you have been convicted four or more times for street racing or for hit-and-run offenses as a driver or passenger, your license will be revoked (not suspended) for five years.
What If I Drive While My License Is Still Suspended?
Under Virginia law, driving on a suspended driver’s license is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which can carry a fine up to $2,500. In addition, Virginia law requires that a judge who convicts an offender for driving on a suspended license must suspend the offender’s license for the same period of time as the original suspension. For instance, if your license is suspended for one year after a hit-and-run conviction and you are found driving, your license must be re-suspended for at least one additional year.
Many people don’t think clearly after causing an accident, and panic can quickly turn a misunderstanding into a serious crime. Our legal team can help you build a defense after a hit-and-run charge and fight for minimal sentencing in your case. Call the Easley Law Firm today at (888) 386-3898, or learn more about your options in our free guide, The Criminal Legal Process In Virginia.