As popular as police procedural novels and television series are, they don’t go into all the details of how defendants are obligated if they receive a summons, a traffic citation or are detained or arrested by law enforcement officers.
The potential for confusion only increases when those legal obligations cross state lines. If you’re in Kansas, are you subject to traffic laws in Virginia? If you got a ticket in Virginia, do you still have to answer it? After all, you’re not in Virginia. You might not even live there!
The truth of the matter is relatively simple, and it is to the benefit of anyone involved they take care of matters like traffic tickets right away lest they become bigger problems than necessary.
What is a Traffic Ticket Exactly?
When a driver is stopped for a traffic violation, the officer writes the details of the incident on a citation along with the traffic code violation they believe took place. The driver is then asked to sign the citation, which is nothing more than a legal promise to appear in court to answer the “charge,” which is written on the ticket itself.
All the signature means is the driver has promised to appear in court. It doesn’t mean they are entering a plea or doing anything that would have any effect on the original traffic violation case. Most of this information is usually printed on the ticket itself.
And If The Driver Doesn’t Show?
Breaking the promise to appear in court gives rise to a second separate legal issue, which in most states, including Virginia, is a “failure to appear.” Unless the ticket was taken care of by paying a fine, posting and forfeiting bail, and so forth, the driver is required by law to answer the citation in court. Failing to do so is illegal.
If the driver leaves the state, there is also the possibility the court may interpret the driver’s departure as “fleeing the jurisdiction” which can give rise to all manner of possible additional charges.
But I’m Not In Virginia!
The problem with leaving a state with tickets or other charges pending is those tickets and charges almost never go away. Any statute of limitations will be put on hold, what may start as a very simple matter may rapidly become a medium-sized nightmare, and if the driver ever finds themselves in or near Virginia again, they may find themselves in a world of trouble.
If you are cited for a traffic violation in Virginia or any other state, and you find you can’t take care of the matter personally and immediately, your best option is to contact a Caroline, VA traffic attorney to look at your legal options. The sooner you do this, the better off you’ll be in the long run.