Changing Your Court Date

 

Can I change my court date?

 

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, you or your attorney can request a change in your traffic court date via a “motion to continue” (also known as a “continuance”). The traffic court will only change your date to another date on which your officer is scheduled to appear. All officers and state troopers are assigned certain days each month to come to traffic court to prosecute their traffic tickets. Consequently, a traffic ticket must be assigned toa day upon which the respective officer is already scheduled to appear in traffic court.

 

The procedure for issuing continuances prior to trial varies among jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions you can call or go to the clerk’s office in person and receive one automatic continuance for a traffic ticket without having to appear before a judge. After you have used that automatic continuance, additional continuances must go through a judge who may or may not grant your request. More difficult procedures exist in some jurisdictions. In most jurisdictions across the state of Virginia, you may ask for a continuance on your trial day when you appear in front of the judge to enter your plea.

 

Warning: If you have an attorney it is not wise to change your court date without talking to your lawyer first! The outcome of your case can be affected by continuances and continuances can be granted only a limited number of times. Always consult your attorney before requesting a continuance.

 

How do I change my court date?

 

Although the rules vary for each jurisdiction, there are several general rules that apply to most traffic courts in Virginia.

 

1)      You may continue a case a limited number of times. Because of this you should use your continuances sparingly. You may need them later.

 

2)      You can only rescheduleyour casefor a day upon which the respective officer is scheduled to appear.

 

3)      To get a continuance prior to the day of your trial, contact your local court clerk and find out the specific procedure for that jurisdiction.

 

4)      To request a continuance on the day of trial, ask the judge for one when your case is called.

 

5)      If you want to change the court date to a time more than one or two months in the future, be prepared to explain to the judge why you deserve such a continuance.

 

How many times can I change my court date?

 

Typically you can continue a case only once, maybe twice, unless you have a compelling reason, so use your continuances sparingly. Unexpected scheduling conflicts frequently arise and you may need a continuance if you encounter a work conflict or an emergency, or if the attorney you want to hire is unavailable on your court date).

 

Can I choose my court date?

 

You are only allowed to continue a court case to one of your officer’s pre-assigned traffic court dates. Most officers only have two or three court dates to choose from.

 

Are there any advantages or disadvantages to changing my court date?

 

Filing for a continuance can affect the outcome of your case and your attorney’s ability to prepare for trial. In Virginia traffic court, the prosecution is notautomatically required to disclose its evidence against you prior to the trial date. Frequently, defense attorneys are ambushed with new evidence and information minutes before trial. Your attorney may request a continuance in order to prepare a defense against new information. Be careful not to use your continuances for frivolous reasons. Your attorney may need one later.

 

Getting a continuance can also affect which attorney you are able to hire. If your first choice of attorney has a schedule conflict on the date of your trial, that attorney may get a continuance in order to represent you. However, if you’ve already used all of your continuances this will not be possible.

 

What if the officer does not show up?

 

It is unlikely that your officer will not show at court. Virginia’s traffic courts assign each officer only a few days a month to appear in court so if an officer does not show up an entire month’s worth of traffic cases will be lost. As a result, there is a lot of pressure on officers to not miss their assigned court dates.

 

If an officer does not appear at court because of health, accidents, or some other legitimate excuse, the judge may decide to either dismiss the traffic ticket or to grant the government a continuance. The severity of the ticket, the legitimacy of the excuse, and the number of prior continuances all can affect a judge’s decision to dismiss or continue a traffic case.