This page is intended to give information on criminal and traffic cases in Madison County, including reckless driving cases and speeding cases.
This site will help you understand the nature of the charge against you, how these cases are handled in the local court system, defenses that may be available to you, and how to find an attorney for your case.
2 Main Street (General District)
P. O. Box 470
Madison, VA 22727-0470
Phone: (540) 948-4657
Most traffic and criminal cases are heard on Thursdays and Fridays.
Be sure to check your summons or arrest warrant for the most accurate information regarding your court date. You can look up your case at the Virginia Court System Website here (click on general district court case information).
For cases involving traffic infractions the clerk will grant a 1st continuance to the officer's next court date. In criminal misdemeanor cases continuances are discretionary with the Judge. Please see the Virginia Judicial System website here or contact the clerks office for the most accurate information for your case.
Types of Cases
The Madison General District Court hears both criminal/traffic and civil matters. The judge in the general district court does not try felony cases, but most felony cases will have a preliminary hearing in front of the general district court judge. Preliminary hearings are not trials, but rather are a determination as to whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant did commit the crime. If the judge finds the Commonwealth has established probable cause the case will be sent to the grand jury.
Misdemeanor trials are held in general district court. Misdemeanor cases involve crimes that are punishable by up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines. Some traffic cases such as DUI, reckless driving, and driving with a suspended license involve criminal charges. Most traffic cases heard in these cases are traffic infractions which are not crimes, but may result in fines and demerit points assessed against the driver's driving record.
The court has jurisdiction to hear civil suits involving claims up to $25,000 (with exceptions).
It is recommended to appear at court at least 15 minutes early. It is not uncommon for your case to be called prior to the time stated on your summons or arrest warrant. Failure to attend your court date may result in a warrant issued for your arrest.
The Madison General District Court has jurisdiction over offenses that were committed within the county of Madison. Pursuant to § 19.2-249 the court has jurisdiction to try offenses that were committed within 300 yards of the boundary of Madison.
Types of Charges
In misdemeanor cases either a warrant or summons is issued. Your summons or arrest warrant will indicate the time of your first court appearance. All warrants or summons must state with reasonable certainty the offense for which you have been charged and it must give notice of the nature and character of the offense. The summons or warrant must include the name of the defendant or describe him with reasonable certainty.
The summons will include your name (the accused in the case), a description of the offense, a court date, and will be signed by the accused. This signature indicates a promise to appear at the specified time and place listed on the summons. In most misdemeanor cases the officer is supposed to release the defendant with a summons instead of an arrest warrant. There are numerous exceptions to this requirement, which can be found in Code § 19.2-74 or 19.2-82.
If you appear in court without an attorney for your arraignment (first appearance) and you have been charged with a crime for which you may receive jail time the court will give you the opportunity to retain counsel. If you unable to retain counsel and qualify for court appointed counsel, the judge will appoint an attorney for you. In order to qualify for court appointed counsel you will be required to complete a written financial statement under oath. It is also possible to waive your right to counsel, but such a waiver must be done so intelligently and voluntarily.
Traffic Infractions in Madison General District Court
Traffic infractions convictions result in fines, which cannot exceed $250. However, there are some exceptions for infractions which are considered more serious. These infractions may result in a fine up to $500. If you fail to appear for your court date, and the offense is one where the judge will try the case in your absence, a $35 fee will be added.
Most traffic infractions are pre-payable with the court. However, criminal traffic charges such as reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, or driving without being licensed to drive are not pre-payable by statute.
The defendant has an absolute right to appeal any conviction within 10 calendar days of the order. Your case will subsequently be tried in the Madison Circuit Court. If you wish to appeal your conviction, contact the clerk's office.
A ticket for reckless driving in Madison County, VA can have serious consequences. I am located in the Central Virginia area and regularly represent clients in Madison traffic court.
Reckless Driving Charges Specifically
Determine Your Specific Charge
The first step when facing a reckless driving charge is to determine which type you have been charged with. Sometimes, like in speeding cases, this will be obvious but it is not always so clear.
Take a look at your summons, the piece of paper the officer handed you, and look to the Law Section. If it says 46.2-862, you were charged with reckless driving by speed.
Another commonly charged reckless driving statute is 46.2-852, or 46.2-853. Officers will often cite drivers for this violation in traffic accident cases where the officer believes the driver was driving in a manner to endanger other drivers, pedestrians, or other property.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Madison County, VA
Reckless driving in Virginia does carry serious maximum penalties, although the maximum penalties are rarely ever applied. What penalty you actually receive will depend on the specific circumstances of your case and your driving history.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2500 fine. DUI's and Assault and Battery charges are also classified as class 1 misdemeanors. Again, these penalties are rarely applied.
Almost every driver convicted of reckless driving in Madison will receive a fine and additional court costs. How much the specific fine is in your case will vary. Cases in the 80-90mph range will often be assessed $6 for every mph over the limit, but the judge will not always follow this formula. Cases over 90mph may be assessed much greater fines. Court cost in Madison for reckless driving are typically $96, but this may vary.
A suspended license is another possible consequence of reckless driving in Madison. A license suspension is more likely to occur if you were driving over 90mph or were involved in a serious car accident. 30-90 day license suspensions are most common, but will vary depending on the facts of your case.
Restricted License: The judge normally does allow the issuance of a restricted license where a license has been suspended. This will allow you to drive to work, church, medical appointments, and child visitations.
Insurance Premium Increases
One of the most common issues I am asked about is insurance premium increases. Unfortunately it is always difficult to state exactly what sort of premium increase to expect. Drivers with worse driving records can expect to incur worse rate increases generally.
Permanent Criminal Record
If you are convicted of reckless driving you will have a criminal record, as reckless driving is a crime. Crimes in Virginia may not be expunged.
Driving Record Impact
A conviction for reckless driving results in 6 demerit points on the driver's driving record. It will stay on the record for 11 years.
Defending Reckless Driving Cases in Madison, VA
In every reckless driving case in Virginia there are a number of things the officer must show the court.
You must have been driving in the County of Madison.
2) Public Road
You must have been driving on a public road. This is not typically an issue in these cases; however if you were pulled over in a closed community this may be an issue to look into.
3) You must have been driving
This is not typically an issue. However, in cases involving accidents it is not always clear who the driver was. Witnesses can confuse a passenger for a driver.
4) Exceeding the Speed Limit
In speeding cases the officer must show that the driver was exceeding a specific speed limit. Some clients who call my office believe that the officer must bring in proof of the speed limit where he was cited. The officer's testimony is usually sufficient for the judge; however, occasionally, officers will get confused about the speed limit in a certain area, where a new speed limit was recently introduced, or in areas where the speed limit changes at different times of the day.
5) Calibration Issues
The Officer's Calibration
There are certain evidentiary requirements the officer must comply with.
- The officer is supposed to test his radar device before and after shift. He does this with tuning forks. The officer normally will testify to this in court.
- The tuning forks also have to be calibrated. They are supposed to be calibrated every 6 months. The officer will have a book with the documentation to support this.
- It is important to ask the officer prior to court about his calibrations.
- He will have a calibration certificate indicating that the tuning forks have been calibrated within the appropriate time frame.
- The certificate itself does need to meet certain evidentiary requirements as well.
The Driver's Speedometer Calibration
One common way to have the Judge reduce the speed you have been charged with is to submit a speedometer calibration certificate.
- The certificate must indicate that the speed reading on your speedometer was slower than the actual speed of your vehicle.
- If you told the officer you didn't know how fast you were going, this will undermine your argument in court.
- You can have your speedometer calibrated by taking your car to a mechanic that performs these calibrations. The mechanic will give you a notarized calibration certificate indicating the results of the test.
6) Accident cases
In accident cases the officer must show that the driver was driving in a manner or speed to endanger life, limb or property. Often in these cases the officer is not present to observe how the accident occurred, but will attempt to show the judge what happened based on the statements the driver made to the officer after the accident. These statements are admissible in court.
7) Ineffective Reckless Driving Defenses in Madison
- You were not familiar with the car. If you were driving a rental car, or your parents car do not expect Judge Stokes to reduce your ticket because of this.
- You speedometer was stuck or jumping around. Not having a properly working speedometer (aside from the calibration issued mentioned above) is illegal.
- You were driving down a long hill.
- It was raining or the weather was not good.
- You are from out of the area.
- You may lose your job.
- You needed to go to the bathroom
- If none of these defenses apply to you, then please call so that we can discuss your case at 434-979-0308. There are numerous specific issues that arise that can serve as effective defenses in these cases.
Your Court Date
Your court date is listed on your summons, which is the piece of paper the officer gave you when you were pulled over. Not every court date is a trial date. Some court dates are set for an arraignment. If you court date was set for a 8:30 or 9:00 AM time, your case is likely set for an arraignment. If it is set for later in the morning or in the afternoon it is likely a trial date. Speak with the local clerks office to be sure of this.
If you were driving 90mph or over or were involved in a serious accident the officer may have written your case for an arraignment.
The purpose of this court date is so that the judge can advise you of your right to counsel and to then set the trial date. This is constitutionally required where there is a realistic possibility of at least suspended jail time.
At the first appearance the judge will ask if you will hire your own attorney, or if you would like to see if you qualify for court appointed counsel. Alternatively, you may waive your right to counsel. For more information on this process please contact me at 434-979-0308.
Do you need to come to court?
Reckless driving is not an offense that can be pre-paid ahead of court. Generally speaking you do need to come to court for your reckless driving case in Madison. However, I do often appear in court without my clients being present. This issue will depend on the circumstances of your case.
The Madison County General District Court Judge is Judge Carter.
Reckless Driving Trials in Madison
The judge typically will have one officer come before the court and will call all of his cases, normally alphabetically.
The judge will want to know what your plea is. You can tell him that you are pleading not guilty, guilty, no contest, or not entering a plea. For how to plead in your specific case please contact me at 434-979-0308.
Not Guilty Plea
If you enter a not guilty plea the court will ask the officer what occurred that day. After the officer answers the judge's questions, you will have the opportunity to ask the officer questions as well.
You may then testify about what occurred that day if you wish.
After the court hears all of the evidence in the case he will decide whether you are guilty or reckless driving at the speed you were cited. He will then state what the punishment in your case is.
Fines, License Suspensions, and Jail
By statute you have 30 days to pay any fines assessed by the court. Judge Carter normally asks whether you want to pay today at the clerks office or need more time. There is also an option to get on a payment plan. These costs may be paid at the clerk's office which is located outside the courtroom.
If your license was suspended, and are a Virginia resident you will have to turn your license in to the clerks after your case. If your license was suspended for more than 30 days you will have to pick your license up at the DMV. If it was suspended for more than 30 days you can pick it up at the clerk's office. The court is not permitted to take an out of state driver's license, but he will suspend your privilege to drive in the state.
If you do receive jail time, you normally will be able to report at a later date.
You have a right to an appeal. The appeal must be filed within 10 days after the court enters its order. You ma do this at the clerks office right after your case if you wish.
Your case will be sent over to the circuit court. Your first court date is not a trial
If you appeal your case to the Circuit Court it is important to understand that your first court date is not your trial date, it is a docket call date where you will set the actual trial date. At docket call you will have the option of choosing a jury trial or a bench trial. If you choose to have a jury trial you will have to pay the costs for the jury if convicted.
Withdrawing Your Appeal
You are allowed to withdraw your appeal. It is not uncommon at docket call for drivers to withdraw their appeal. This will often involve paying additional court costs.