Juvenile Traffic Violations: Who is considered a “minor”?

In Virginia, minors are persons under the age of 18 years old.

Is a minor treated differently than an adult if he/she gets a traffic ticket?

Yes.  Since minors in Virginia initially possess provisional driver’s licenses, there are additional punishments that may be imposed by the court if the minor is found guilty of a traffic violation.  There are also additional punishments for violation of the restrictions specifically applicable to a provisional license.

How long do the provisional license restrictions last?

Restrictions on a minor’s license extend until his/her 18th birthday.

What are the provisional license restrictions?

For minors with provisional licenses, no more than one passenger under the age of 21 years old is permitted to accompany the minor in the vehicle unless a parent/guardian is present.  There is an exception to this prohibition in that more than one family member under the age of 21 years old is allowed in the vehicle with the holder of a provisional license.  Further, the holder of a provisional license is not permitted to drive between the hours of midnight and 4:00 a.m. except for a few narrow circumstances, which the court must approve.  Finally, minors are prohibited from driving while using any cellular phone or wireless communication device, even if the device is hands-free.

What is the punishment for violating a provisional license restriction?

Punishment for violating a provisional license restriction varies depending on whether prior violations exist, but can range from the completion of a driver improvement program, to suspension of driving privileges for up to six months.

What are the punishments for violating other traffic laws?

In Virginia, there are certain traffic offenses that are considered “infractions” that do not require a court appearance and usually involve a fee-based punishment.  Typically, these violations can be pre-paid, but a minor must be aware that pre-payment in these situations is the same as admitting guilt and serves as a waiver of the right to trial.  Further, fees may not be the only punishment involved; demerit points (if applicable) may be assessed on the minor’s license, which could result in a loss of driving privileges if accrual of demerit points exceeds the statutory maximum.

For serious traffic violations, a minor must appear in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  Also, for certain offenses, punishment for a minor is likely to be more severe than for an adult that commits the same offense.  For instance, for a minor to be convicted of a DUI, the Commonwealth will only have to prove that the minor’s BAC was 0.02 or above, which is, understandably, well below the adult BAC maximum of 0.08.