You are driving down the road in Loudoun and the next thing you see is flashing lights in your rear view mirror.
Great! What joy?
At best, you are going to get a speeding ticket or some other form of traffic violation.
Worst case scenario, you are going to be charged with a crime that masquerades as a traffic ticket.
You may be asking, what kind of crime could you be charged with for just driving down the road?
Loudoun Court Tickets Lawyer VA Leesburg
Here are the possible criminal charges you could be facing:
- Reckless Driving
- Driving On Suspended License
- Aggressive Driving
So what is the big deal with any of the above tickets? After all they are just tickets right?
Wrong. The above tckts are misdemeanors.
What is a misdemeanor tckt? A misdemeanor tckt may land you in jail and cause you to lose your license.
So you now have two options if you have received a misdemeanor tckt or speeding tckt.
You can go to court without a lawyer and hope for the best or you contact the SRIS Law Group lawyers for help.
We defend clients charged with traffic tckts.
We have a client meeting location in Loudoun, Virginia. You can reach by phone at 703-278-0405 or contact us online.
Our attorneys defend Virginia uniform summons speeding tckts, reckless driving tckts, driving on suspended license and aggressive driving tckts in the following jurisdictions:
Loudoun County, Leesburg, Clarke, Warren County, Frederick, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock County, Culpeper, Fauquier, Rockingham County, Harrisonburg, Augusta, Virginia.
The following are some of the questions our clients ask us when they get a tckt in VA:
- Do I have to go to the court if I got a tckt in Loudoun?
- If I get too many tckts, will it affect my driving record in Virginia?
- How do I find a Loudoun lawyer?
- How much does it cost for me to get a lawyer to fight my VA tckts?
The following are some of the traffic laws in Virginia:
VA Code § 46.2-870. Maximum speed limits generally.
Except as otherwise provided in this article, the maximum speed limit shall be 55 miles per hour on interstate highways or other limited access highways with divided roadways, nonlimited access highways having four or more lanes, and all state primary highways.
The maximum speed limit on all other highways shall be 55 miles per hour if the vehicle is a passenger motor vehicle, bus, pickup or panel truck, or a motorcycle, but 45 miles per hour on such highways if the vehicle is a truck, tractor truck, or combination of vehicles designed to transport property, or is a motor vehicle being used to tow a vehicle designed for self-propulsion, or a house trailer.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the maximum speed limit shall be 70 miles per hour where indicated by lawfully placed signs, erected subsequent to a engineering study and analysis of available and appropriate accident and law-enforcement data, on: (i) interstate highways, (ii) multilane, divided, limited access highways, and (iii) high-occupancy vehicle lanes if such lanes are physically separated from regular travel lanes. The maximum speed limit shall be 60 miles per hour where indicated by lawfully placed signs, erected subsequent to a trfc engineering study and analysis of available and appropriate accident and law-enforcement data, on U.S. Route 29, U.S. Route 58, U.S. Route 360, U.S. Route 460, and on U.S. Route 17 between the town of Port Royal and Saluda where they are nonlimited access, multilane, divided highways.
§ 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.
The following is a illustrative case:
A jury convicted Zuhaar J. Ramadan (defendant) for feloniously driving a motor vehicle after having been adjudicated an habitual offender in violation of Code § 46.2-357(B)(2). On appeal, defendant complains (1) the trial court erroneously ruled that the Commonwealth was not collaterally estopped from prosecuting the offense, (2) the indictment did not properly allege the crime, and (3) that the evidence was insufficient to prove that defendant’s driving “endangered the life, limb, or property of another.” Finding no error, we affirm the conviction.
On April 8, 1997, Richmond Police Officer L. Clinton Jefferson first observed defendant, then an habitual offender, operating a motorcycle at a stoplight on Jefferson Davis (Davis) Highway. As Officer Jefferson followed, defendant proceeded through the intersection to the corner of Royal Avenue and Davis Highway, again stopped, and turned left onto Royal Avenue. Jefferson then “tried to pull defendant over,” and defendant “looked back,” “took off,” and “accelerated rapidly down Royal.” Over a distance of several blocks, Jefferson attempted to “catch up to defendant,” traveling “approximately 75 m.p.h.” in a 25 m.p.h. speed zone. During the pursuit, defendant “accelerated past” a group of children crossing the street “in his . . . path,” causing “some to run in each direction . . . trying to get to the sidewalk.”
The chase continued for “about another block” beyond the children, ending when defendant “lost control” and “slid into a wire fence in front of a residence.” Defendant “fell off” the motorcycle, “jumped over the . . . fence . . . ran to the side of the house through the backyard, . . . and down the alley.” He was apprehended shortly thereafter and charged with reckless driving, attempting to elude police, and feloniously driving while an habitual offender, the instant offense.
At trial on May 20, 1997 in the general district , defendant was convicted of attempting to elude police, and the felony was certified to the grand jury. However, the reckless driving charge was dismissed for reasons explained only by check marks at printed squares on the reverse side of the warrant designated, “not guilty,” and “I ORDER the charge dismissed.” The signature of the judge of the general district ct appears on the warrant.
Following indictment in the trial ct for the subject offense, defendant moved the ct to dismiss, arguing that the general district ct had previously “found the evidence . . . insufficient to support the allegation of reckless driving,” a necessary element to the felonious habitual offender offense, and, therefore, the Commonwealth was collaterally estopped from prosecuting the indictment. However, because the record failed to disclose “the reason the judge dismissed” the reckless driving charge, the ct overruled defendant’s motion. Defendant subsequently was convicted for the felonious habitual offender violation, resulting in this appeal.
Code § 46.2-357(B) provides, in pertinent part, that
any person found to be an habitual offender . . ., who is thereafter convicted of driving a motor vehicle . . . while the revocation determination is in effect, shall be punished as follows:
- If such driving does not, of itself, endanger the life, limb, or property of another, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor . . . .
- If such driving of itself endangers the life, limb, or property of another . . ., such person shall be guilty of a felony . . . .
Thus, “driving of itself” which “endangers the life, limb, or property of another” is an indispensable element to a felonious violation of the statute. Code § 46.2-357(B)(2). Relying on the doctrine of collateral estoppel, defendant reasons that dismissal of the reckless driving charge by the general district ct constituted a valid, final judgment which favorably resolved the endangerment element of Code § 46.2-357(B)(2), thereby precluding further consideration of such conduct in the instant prosecution.
The doctrine of collateral estoppel arises from the Fifth Amendment protection from double jeopardy and instructs that “‘when an issue of ultimate fact has once been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot again be litigated between the same parties in any future lawsuit.'” Jones v. Commonwealth, 217 v. 231, 232, 228 S.E.2d 127, 128 (1976) (quoting Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436, 443, 25 L. Ed. 2d 469, 90 S. Ct. 1189 (1970)); Rogers v. Commonwealth, 5 v. App. 337, 341, 362 S.E.2d 752, 754 (1987). However, “the doctrine . . . does not apply if it appears that the prior judgment could have been grounded ‘upon an issue other than that which the defendant seeks to foreclose from consideration.'” Lee v. Commonwealth, 219 v. 1108, 1111, 254 S.E.2d 126, 127 (1979) (quoting Ashe, 397 U.S. at 444). “The party seeking the protection of collateral estoppel carries the burden of showing that the verdict in the prior action necessarily decided the precise issue he now seeks to preclude.” Rogers, 5 v. App. at 341, 362 S.E.2d at 754 (citation omitted). Since the principle of collateral estoppel was enunciated in Ashe, “numerous attempts to invoke the doctrine have met with little success.” Jones, 217 v. at 233, 228 S.E.2d at 128. An acquittal, “standing alone, does not permit a conclusion with respect” to a ct’s findings or rationale. Copeland v. Commonwealth, 13 v. App. 450, 453, 412 S.E.2d 468, 470 (1991). General “district cts frequently, as here, mark misdemeanor warrants ‘dismissed’ without assigning specific grounds,” acting, “sometimes . . . not upon an adjudication of substantive issues, but upon some technical procedural defect or, indeed, upon nothing more than considerations of leniency.” Lee, 219 v. at 1111, 254 S.E.2d at 128; see e.g., Clodfelter v. Commonwealth, 218 v. 98, 107-08, 235 S.E.2d 340, 345-46 (1977) (district ct may have dismissed misdemeanor believing that offense was “subsumed in . . . felony . . . certified to the grand jury”). Thus, it is “‘usually impossible to determine with any precision upon what basis the fact finder reached a verdict in a criminal case,'” leaving the defense of collateral estoppel available to an accused only in “‘a rare situation.'” Jones, 217 v. at 233, 228 S.E.2d at 128-29 (quoting United States v. Tramunti, 500 F.2d 1334, 1346, cert. denied, 419 U.S. 1079, 42 L. Ed. 2d 673, 95 S. Ct. 667 (1974)).
Here, the record does not reveal the reason for the dismissal of the reckless driving charge by the general district ct. Perhaps, the ct, as defendant suggests, found the evidence insufficient or, as likely, considered the misdemeanor subsumed in the felony or simply decided to favor defendant with leniency. However, the precise reason for the acquittal, an indispensable predicate to the defense of collateral estoppel, cannot rely upon conjecture. Thus, the doctrine did not bar relitigation of the endangerment element of the instant felony, and the ct properly overruled defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment.
Defendant next complains that the indictment failed to sufficiently allege a felonious violation of Code § 46.2-357(B)(2). However, it is well established that we will not consider an argument on appeal which was not presented to the trial ct, absent good cause shown or to attain the ends of justice. See Rule 5A:18; Snurkowski v. Commonwealth, 2 v. App. 532, 536, 348 S.E.2d 1, 3 (1986). Defendant failed to challenge the indictment before the trial ct and, finding no justification to invoke the ends of justice exception, we decline to address this issue.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
When the sufficiency of the evidence is challenged on appeal, we view the record in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, granting it all reasonable inferences fairly deducible therefrom, and the decision will not be disturbed unless plainly wrong or without evidence to support it. See Code § 8.01-680; Higginbotham v. Commonwealth, 216 v. 349, 352, 218 S.E.2d 534, 537 (1975).
Code § 46.2-357(B)(2) criminalizes as a felony driving by an habitual offender which, “of itself endangers the life, limb, or property of another.” Absent such conduct, the offense of driving by an habitual offender violates Code § 46.2-357(B)(1), a misdemeanor. Thus, “the distinction between negligent driving and reckless driving is the critical element in determining punishment under Code § 46.2-357.” Bishop, 20 v. App. at 210-11, 455 S.E.2d at 767. To convict, the Commonwealth must prove driving by an accused that, standing alone, was “‘”so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard of human life.”‘” Id. at 211, 455 S.E.2d at 767 (citations omitted).
Here, the evidence disclosed that defendant operated a motorcycle at a high rate of speed, in gross violation of posted limits, approached a group of children as they crossed the roadway, prompting several to “run in each direction . . . trying to get to the sidewalk” and, moments thereafter, lost control, crashed into a fence and fled. Such evidence clearly supports a finding that defendant’s driving endangered life, limb, or property of others in violation of Code § 46.2-357(B)(2).
Accordingly, we affirm the conviction.