The offense of Following Too Closely is a traffic infraction charged under Virginia Code §46.2-816. It is not a misdemeanor or criminal offense. The maximum punishment that may be imposed is a $250 fine and court costs of approximately $67.
Following Too Closely is a four point demerit point violation with the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A conviction stays on the driving record for three years. The DMV points stay on the license for two years. The charge is pre-payable with a fine of $30. Attorney Yeargan regularly defends these cases and seeks to obtain dismissal or reduction of the charge to a lesser offense.
Persons with Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) need to be aware that Following Too Closely is considered to be a "Serious Violation" under the rules for Virginia CDL Disqualification. Two or more Serious Violation convictions within 3 years results in a 60 day Disqualification. It does not matter if the person was driving a personal or commercial motor vehicle at the time of the offense. Three or more Serious Violation convictions in a three year period mandates a 120 day Disqualification. Please see the CDL Disqualification Page at the DMV website.
If you have a CDL or drive for work, contact an experienced lawyer to protect your livelihood. Attorney Yeargan can help you get the charges dismissed or reduced to a non-moving violation that carries no points. This will also help you with insurance rates.
What Evidence Does the Police Officer Need to Prove Following Too Closely (§46.2-816)?
The statute states that "a driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to the speed of both vehicles and the traffic on, and conditions of, the highway at the time." The police and prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The offense may be charged whether or not there is an accident between vehicles. The statute contains broad language that allows for a conviction under many situations.
A typical example of Following Too Closely is when a driver is directly behind someone's bumper during a commute (commonly called tailgating), and there is heavy rain or wind that impacts traffic. Officers may cite this as Following Too Closely because the driver is not paying attention to the conditions of the road and the demands of traffic. Due to the narrow space between vehicles, the driver does not have adequate time to react to an abrupt stop of the vehicle ahead. Drivers are required to provide a reasonable amount of space between their cars and the vehicle ahead to allow time for braking.
Attorney Yeargan challenges the evidence presented by the officer and tries to get the charge dismissed in court. The officer in accident cases often writes the ticket without observing the driving behavior. He may have no personal knowledge of how the events happened, particularly when there is a collision. Witnesses will need to be called to testify about the events of the stop, where the vehicles were positioned, and any statements made at the scene. If witnesses are unavailable or the officer fails to subpoena them to court, charges may be dropped or nolle prosequi. If one of the witnesses lives out of state (such as in Maryland or the District of Columbia), it may be difficult for any evidence to be presented by the prosecution in court.
It is often important to gather any video evidence collected from the police vehicle or other cars that were in the location of the police stop or accident. This can be helpful when preparing the case for trial. Attorney Yeargan works with the police officer and any witnesses to obtain this evidence. He also obtains the Accident Crash Report from the DMV.
In Fairfax and Prince William counties, as in most courts of the state, witnesses in accident cases are not called to court for the first hearing date. The court will wait to see if the traffic ticket is prepaid. If it is not prepaid and the person shows up to court to enter a plea of not guilty and contest the charge, the judge will continue the matter for trial. At this point, the officer will issue a subpoena to any witnesses at the scene of the accident to come to court. In other words, the witnesses will not be present at the first court hearing.
Traffic Accident Charges and Liability for Civil Damages
This offense is often charged when there is a traffic accident between two or more vehicles. In most cases the damage is minor, such as routine fender benders. However, the law office is consulted in some cases that result in serious property damage and personal injury. How this traffic offense is handled may impact the driver's civil liability for personal injury arising from the accident.
The traffic ticket may be prepaid. However, this is treated as a plea of guilty and an admission of poor driving conduct that may be used in later civil lawsuits for personal injury and property damage. This is why Attorney Yeargan advises clients to be careful about how they handle this ticket. In these circumstances, it is wise to go to court and try to get the charges dismissed or resolved through an agreement that does not result in a plea of guilty to the offense. This will leave the issue of civil liability open to be litigated at a later date. The client's financial interests are protected by this approach.
Most auto accidents are resolved by the insurance companies. Sometimes the damages from the accident are so high that the claim may exceed the driver's insurance coverage limits. If the driver is later sued for civil damages due to accident injuries, the plea of guilty to the traffic offense may be used against him or her in a civil claim. This can leave the driver exposed to a large civil judgment for monetary damages that is not covered by insurance! Protect yourself when you are charged in a traffic accident that may have resulted in injuries to other drivers or passengers. Get a consultation with an experienced traffic attorney who regularly defends these types of cases.
Contact the Law Office of Wilfred W. Yeargan for Assistance with Your Traffic Ticket - Experienced Counsel for Your Pending Case in Fairfax County or Prince William County
If you have been charged with Following Too Closely in Fairfax County, Prince William County (including Woodbridge, Haymarket, Manassas and Manassas Park), Stafford County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Fredericksburg, Arlington County, Loudoun County, the City of Fairfax, the Town of Vienna, Town of Herndon, or any other location in Virginia, contact the law office for assistance today. Attorney Yeargan has 22 years of experience in traffic court and can help you get the charges dismissed or reduced to an offense that carries no points and is a non-moving violation. His law office can appear in court on your behalf so that you do not need to take time off work to come to court. His office also offers a free, initial consultation.