Appealing a Reckless Driving Case and Motions to Reconsider
In Virginia, you have the right to appeal any trial in General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. However, you must file your appeal within 10 days or lose that right. The court you appeal to is called the Virginia Circuit Court.
The appeal is an entirely new trial in front of an entirely new judge. As soon as you file your appeal the GDC or JDR court’s decision is vacated and done away with. For example, if a General District Court judge suspended your license and sentenced you to jail and you appeal the decision, as soon as you file the paperwork you will be released from custody and your license returned pending the outcome of the appeal. There is one caveat. When a defendant appeals a decision, the judge whom you are appealing may choose to require a bond before you may be released from jail pending appeal. To determine the likelihood of this happening to you, contact a Fairfax reckless driving attorney.
An appeal can be withdrawn within 10 days of your original court trial. However, the punishments you were given in GDC or JDR will become effective again immediately upon withdrawal. For example, if you choose to withdraw your appeal of a case that resulted in a jail sentence, the sheriff’s deputies will meet you at the clerk’s window to take you into custody after you have signed the form to withdraw your appeal.
All decisions that are appealed from GDC or JDR Court and not withdrawn within 10 days go to Circuit Court. Circuit Court is a completely different court and in some counties the Circuit Court is located in a different building or even a different city.
In Circuit court you have a right to a jury. Court costs are also typically higher in Circuit Court (usually about $150 more). Also, the cost of requesting a jury trial in Circuit Court is approximately $500 a day. You must pay for the jury and the court costs only if you are found guilty.
When you appeal to the Virginia Circuit Court you are essentially being granted a complete do-over. The punishment you receive in Circuit Court can be more severe than the one received in General District Court. If considering an appeal to the Circuit Court, make sure you talk to a local reckless driving attorney within 10 days of your trial.
If you want to appeal a decision of the Circuit Court, the next highest court in Virginia is the Virginia Court of Appeals. Unlike the Circuit Court, the Virginia Court of Appeals does not accept appeals automatically. A defendant must petition to be heard by the Court of Appeals. Additionally, the Court of Appeals only reviews legal decisions by Circuit Court judges if the Circuit Court judge’s interpretation of the facts was considerably misguided.
State law decisions by the Virginia Court of Appeals can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia. As with the Court of Appeals, these appeals must be requested and approved before they are even considered by the court.
Motions to Reconsider
In Virginia, a Motion to Reconsider is a request to a have a judge reconsider a previous decision. A Motion to Reconsider is different than an appeal because a Motions to Reconsider is heard by the same judge and in the same court as in the original trial. Also, Motions to Reconsider are discretionary. This means that a judge do not have to listen to a Motion to Reconsider.
Motions to Reconsider must be filed within a very limited time period (wich can vary from court to court) and must be done before filing an appeal. Waiting past the time limit or filing an appeal will destroy your right to file a motion to reconsider. If a defendant is in jail, and is then transferred to the state penitentiary or to any other jurisdiction (including ICE custody) the court will not be able to accept the Motion to Reconsider.
Motions to Reconsider for reckless driving cases are useful in two situations: 1) The defendant misses his court date and is tried without appearing (in abstenia) 2) The defendant has significant new evidence that was not available at the first trial.
If a driver misses his court date and is wondering whether to file an appeal or file a Motion to Reconsider he should talk to a local reckless driving attorney. As with appeals, there is some risk involved with a Motion to Reconsider. A judge may give a harsher punishment in response to a Motion to Reconsider. However, there is much an experienced local reckless driving attorney can do to help you avoid a harsher punishment.