In Virginia, receiving a traffic ticket usually means getting points on your DMV driving record.
These are often referred to as “DMV demerit points,” and if you get too many in a short time you could lose your license.
In this article, we’ll go over how Virginia’s DMV demerit point system works.
We’ll also talk about what options you have for improving your DMV driving record.
What is the Virginia DMV Demerit Point System?
Every driver in Virginia has a driving record with the DMV.
Each year, the DMV will add one positive point, called a “safe driving point,” to this record, provided you haven’t received any tickets or had any other encounters with the law.
You can have a maximum of five positive points on your DMV driving record at any one time.
However, most of the time, “getting points on your license” refers to DMV demerit points.
These are negative points assigned by the Virginia DMV after you have been convicted of, or have plead guilty to, a traffic infraction.
This includes paying speeding tickets.
If you receive too many negative points on your DMV driving record, you will face several unpleasant consequences, up to and including license suspension.
You should also note that many insurance companies rate their drivers on a similar, though unrelated, points system.
For this reason, points on your DMV record will usually correlate with increased insurance premiums as well.
What Infractions Will Put Points on My License?
In Virginia, every traffic infraction or traffic-related misdemeanor comes with a penalty of three, four, or six DMV demerit points.
Note that, unlike most legal penalties, a judge cannot choose to give you a lower number of points.
That’s because the Virginia DMV, not the court, actually assigns the demerit points.
The Virginia DMV maintains a complete list of traffic violations and how many points you will receive for them. Some of the most common are:
- Speeding, which can be worth three or four points depending on how fast you were going
- Reckless driving (6 points)
- Improper passing or turning (3 points)
- Unsafe passing and failure to yield right of way (4 points)
- DUI or driving on a suspended license (6 points)
Keep in mind that you will only receive points after a traffic-related conviction.
This includes cases where you plead guilty, such as when you pay for a speeding ticket online instead of coming to court.
However, if you are found not guilty, or your charges are dropped, you will not receive any points.
What happens if I get too many DMV demerit points?
If you receive too many points too quickly you could face several consequences:
- 12 DMV demerit points in one year, or 18 over two years — At this level, the Virginia DMV will require you to attend a driver improvement clinic. If you fail to do so, they will suspend your license.
- 18 DMV demerit points in one year, or 24 over two years — At this level the Virginia DMV will suspend your license for 90 days. Then, you will have to take a driver improvement course. The DMV will only reinstate your license after you successfully complete this course.
If you’re unsure of how close you are to these point thresholds, you can check your current DMV driving record online on the Virginia DMV website.
What happens if I’m charged with multiple offenses?
If you’ve been charged with several offenses as a result of the same incident, you will only receive DMV demerit points for the most severe offense.
For example, let’s say you are pulled over for a basic speeding infraction (three points), but the police officer at the scene finds out that you were actually also driving on a suspended license (six points).
In this hypothetical situation, the DMV would likely assign six points to your license, since the “driving without a license” charge would be the most severe offense.
What Can I Do About My Virginia DMV Demerit Points?
If you are approaching one of the point thresholds above, you have several options.
In most cases, you can take an online defensive driving course to gain positive points on your DMV driving record.
However, you may also end up having to fight any future tickets in court.
Take a Virginia Defensive Driving Class
Normally, your DMV driving record improves by one “positive” point each year.
However, if you are worried about receiving too many points on your license, you can take a defensive driving class approved by the Virginia DMV.
By doing so, you will receive five positive points on your DMV driving record.
These points can then work against the negative points brought about by traffic convictions or guilty please.
Put another way, taking a defensive driving class may help you avoid license suspension.
However, keep in mind that you can only take a defensive driving class in this way once every two years.
Similarly, you can only have a maximum of five safe driving points on your record at any one time.
As such, the annual safe driving points do not stack with the five points you can gain from a driver improvement clinic.
Fight Your Ticket
Other than taking a defensive driving class and waiting, there is no way to improve your Virginia driving record.
If you are at an important DMV demerit point threshold, you should strongly consider fighting any traffic infraction that you are charged with.
Doing so is easier said than done, but you may be successful with the help of an experienced Virginia traffic lawyer.
At this point, you should not rely on representing yourself, or simply hope that the court will drop the charges.
It’s important to take your Virginia DMV driving record seriously.
Virginia judges have no control over how many DMV demerit points you receive for an offense.
For this reason, it’s very important to avoid pleading guilty or paying tickets if you are close to a DMV demerit point cutoff.
Instead, consult an experienced Virginia traffic lawyer.
By working alongside a good lawyer, you can develop a plan to fight your ticket and avoid having your license suspended.