VA - Appeal "Guilty in Absentia" Speeding Ticket Conviction

This is a discussion on VA - Appeal "Guilty in Absentia" Speeding Ticket Conviction within the Traffic & Speeding Tickets forum, part of the CRIMINAL LAW, ARRESTS, TRAFFIC TICKETS category; My court date was 20 Jan 11 - either go to court or pre-pay. I was ticketed for speeding 44/25. ...

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Old Jan 21st, 2011, 11:40 PM   #1
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Confused VA - Appeal "Guilty in Absentia" Speeding Ticket Conviction

My court date was 20 Jan 11 - either go to court or pre-pay. I was ticketed for speeding 44/25. I called the General District Court Office Clerk the morning of 20 Jan 11 and asked what they could do for me. I'm a single mom and my daughter had four teeth pulled earlier this week (I hadn't been to my office all week and I have documentation to show she was at the dentist and what for and pictures that show all of the blood on her bed that morning). The clerk said I could have a continuance because I had not had one yet and said he was going to pull my summons and put me on hold. When he got back on the phone, he said the judge already had the summons and he couldn't pull it now and asked me to call back at 9:15 to get my new court date. He said he doesn't see why the judge wouldn't give me a continuance if I'm not there and that it happens all the time. I called back at 9:15 and he said the docket had not been returned and I would have to wait to see how the court handles my summons. What? Now he's telling me that I may be tried in absentia and found guilty? What about the continuance?

I haven't had a speeding ticket in at least 16 years. I am angry that the Clerk told me (after it was too late to scramble to arrange care and try to get to court on time) that I may be tried in absentia, be found guilty, and have even more fines to pay. That's not what he told me when I first talked to him. So I just sat and waited until that afternoon to find out what the judge did with my case.

I honestly didn't know the speed limit was 25. I live about 10 or 15 minutes from the area I was in (I live in Fairfax County), but I was using my GPS because I never drive in that area (and that is what I told the officer that stopped me). I was trying to figure out where I was and where I was going. I had taken vacation time off work to try to do some Christmas shopping for my daughter.

So I called back that afternoon and got a different clerk. She told me that I had been tried in absentia and that the fine is no longer $175, it is now $246!! What?! Are you kidding me? I told her about that morning's phone calls and why I couldn't come in and why I didn't know I would need a continuance until that morning. She didn't care... either appeal to Circuit Court or pay it and get the points on my zero point driving record.

How do I appeal? Can I explain during the appeal why I wasn't at my first hearing? Take the dental paperwork and photos as proof? Can I request less fines or to go to driving school to erase the points that would be assessed?
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Old Jan 22nd, 2011, 12:04 PM   #2
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Default Re: VA - Appeal "Guilty in Absentia" Speeding Ticket Conviction

Any advice? I've haven't had a speeding ticket in a loooonnnggg time and have never used the appellate process. I would really appreciate any insight or advice people here may have to offer.

1. I was told I have 10 days to appeal and that I have to go to court to do that. My original date was 20 Jan so I assume I have until 30 Jan to file an appeal (10 calendar days). I was told I have to visit the clerk's office of the General District Court that convicted me in my absence and request an appeal to the higher, Circuit Court. Is this correct? What documents, if any, do I need to take with me to the courthouse? We may get bad weather next week so I am going to the courthouse this Monday to file the appeal?

2. How soon after I file my appeal will the case be heard?

3. Should I hire an attorney? I only spoke to one and they quoted me $600 to take this case (included them filing the appeal, but I am doing that myself on Monday).

4. At the appeal, I'd like to testify, but only as to why I didn't show up on my original date. Will the court allow that? The officer was polite and professional and making him look like a buffoon was never my reasoning for wanting to contest the ticket.

5. The officer told me the speed limit was 25. I did not know why he stopped me, what the speed limit was, or my speed at the time. At the time I was stopped, I stated the same to him. I was lost and concentrating on trying to find where I was going using my GPS. He looked in my car and saw that my GPS was indeed on. I was in the left lane when he pulled out on his motorcycle with his lights on. Before I could get in the right lane to pull over, two cars passed us in the right lane. Should I ask him about the other traffic on the road? What lane I was in at first contact? How I pulled over? (I made a right hand turn onto a side street).

6. Can I simply testify and explain why I did not appear at the initial hearing, ask for leniency as this is my first speeding ticket in at least 16 years, request no demerit points (maybe in exchange for driving school), and request the additional fees that were added when I didn't appear in court be removed from the fine total?

7. Should I present documentation of my daughter having four teeth pulled on 17 Jan and the photos I took of the blood all over her bed that morning? Yes, I took pictures before I washed them... only because I had the pending court case... and since I'm the only adult that lives here, I needed something to show I was telling the truth and not phoning the clerk with some made-up story.

8. Should I discuss any of the phone conversations I had with clerks or mention that I tried to get a continuance as soon as I knew I was going to need one and as soon as their office opened?

Thank you, in advance, for any advice and for offering this forum as a means to find help / get answers.
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