Never speed in Virginia: Lessons from my three days in jail


You never really get a good night’s sleep in jail. In the middle of my second night inside, I woke up on the uncomfortable plastic mat in my cell, my neck and back aching. I looked down at my orange jail scrubs and up at the buzzing fluorescent light and thought, “I am here because I drove too fast in a Camaro ZL1.”

Three days in jail for speeding? Yikes. That’s harsh. I’ve driven my motorcycle on some of the Shenandoah Valley roads the writer describes and I know I was speeding for at least some of the time (OK…most of the time). I guess I got lucky but warning issued – don’t speed in Virginia.

  • fuchsdh

    I think the most interesting thing to me are the comments from people to the tune of “I’d never move to Virginia then”. As a native Virginian I find this hilarious—your perceived right to break the law is more important to you than anything else?

    Driven in this state for more than a decade and have gotten along just fine with no tickets. Virginia might not be the best place to live in the Union, but I really don’t think “how aggressively they charge reckless drivers” is a major factor in it being worse.

    • “the most interesting thing to me are the comments from people…”

      Oh, I never read the comments section of a web site. Therein lies madness…



      • fuchsdh

        I think they’re always illuminating. The key of course is to not stare too long (the abyss, yadda yadda.)

        Plus if you’re expecting dreck finding cogent and thought-provoking comments here and there almost make it worthwhile.

    • As to “…Virginia might not be the best place to live in the Union…”, I don’t know about living there but I really enjoyed riding my motorcycle through the state – the Shenandoah Valley was spectacular.

      • Oklahoma is a worse place to live. It does have some interesting drives and spots (Route 66, Talimena Drive, Red Rock Canyon, Black Mesa), but personally I find the frequency with how often people get stopped, fined, and jailed to be the least of many factors. (I came here to live cheaply near family while I recovered from a business going under. I’ve been ready to leave for several years, but it’s a big sucking black hole. 🙂 )

    • CapnVan

      I don’t think anyone is questioning the right of Virginia to set its own laws. I think the question is, does it make much sense for someone who commits a non-violent motoring violation to be sentenced to jail time?

      But then, you could probably ask the same question about a heroin addict being jailed for being an addict.

      I’d be curious to know if these harsh penalties have had any significant deterring effect on speeding in VA.

      • Lukas

        Studies typically indicate that the probability (or expected probability) of getting caught is a huge factor, while the sentence itself does not have a big effect, if any at all. Thus, if you want people to stop speeding, it’s much more important to have more speed traps than to increase the sentence.

    • JohnDoey

      It’s not about a right to break the law. It’s about how absurd it is to put speeders and jaywalkers and pot smokers in jail. Jail and prison are much more serious than that. You give a ticket to the speeder and you leave the jaywalkers and pot smokers alone.

      Virginia is no worse than most other states in this regard. It is a US problem. The cops and prosecutors are totally out of control in the entire US. Go and visit Toronto, Canada for a week and you might not even see a cop the whole time. And if you do, he will look like a postal worker to your eyes — as opposed to a soldier. And if you talk to him, he will sound like he works for you, not the other way around. They are not out actively targeting civilians like in the US.

      • Lukas

        Although nobody ever killed another person with his joint. Same can’t be said for his car.

      • this is true. the US has para-militarized its police force. and it aint working.

    • it isnt that they want the right to break the law. it’s that they dont feel the form of punishment VA issues is worthy of the crime. it’s OK to dislike or even hate a place for that.

  • Colin Jensen

    93 in a 55 zone with curves? That’s just moronic.

    • alextheukrainian

      I got a ticket there for 91 in 55 in VA. Nothing moronic about it – the road was a 2-lane each way highway with a huge median with grass in-between. There were no other cars (I slow down near cars). They put 55 as the limit precisely to generate tickets – there was nothing unsafe about letting people go 70-75 on that road, at least. Also car makes a difference – 90 in 55 in my car is about the same as 55 in 55 in most cars as far as braking distance. You can’t compare, say, a Lamborghini to a truck – one is way safer than the other at the same speed. Yes, plenty of morons out there, but not everyone speeding is a moron, and just because the government says ’55’ doesn’t mean it’s actually the max safe limit for the road – don’t be naive.

      But the idea is that law is too strict. Yes, I sped – big deal. Everyone speeds, hello. But in CA I get reckless driving for 5 years and it can be expunged. In VA I get reckless for 11 (!!) years and it cannot be expunged. Seriously?? Hell, we might as well start throwing people in jail for years for smoking weed! Oh wait..

      • fuchsdh

        I’d say it’s more like “guy waving around a gun carelessly”, which is a crime in Virginia and other states. There you are also being penalized “before you’ve done something” according to your metric.

      • Colin Jensen

        If you’ve been nailed for Reckless Speeding twice in your life, perhaps you are not a good judge of what constitutes “safe”.

  • In many states if you go 25 mph over the speed limit you’re arrested and spend a night in jail if you can’t pay bail + ticket fine upon processing. I’ve never seen anyone spend 3 nights. That’s harsh.

  • zenwaves

    Jim, what kind of bike do you ride? Google was no help on this 😉

    • Jim isn’t man enough to ride a motorcycle. 🙂

      • zenwaves

        d’oh how didn’t I see notice the author?! Sorry Shawn – loved your bike-unboxing video!

        Jon 2013 Victory Vegas 8Ball

        • Glad you liked it! That was a long time ago.

  • JohnDoey

    This is not a lesson about speeding, or about Virginia. It’s about problems with law enforcement and mass incarceration in the United States. Don’t even enter the US if you can help it. But if you do — or if you live here — then keep your head down and avoid the cops and legal system at all costs. Never mind speeding — don’t do anything to call cop attention to yourself.

    We have the most people in jail, we arrest the most people (whether they go to jail or not,) we have the most cops, we have the most militarized cops, and the majority of our cops get their funding from confiscating cash and property from people they stop — whether they arrest them or not. And in many states the jails and prisons are private and owned by relatives or friends of judges and Governors and they are looking to fill those cells and build more private prisons and brag about how tough on crime they are next re-election cycle.

    Plus, in addition to all that, you have to avoid George Zimmerman -type wannabe cops who are armed to the teeth, stupid as fuck, and are just looking for an excuse.

    I mean — don’t even raise your voice in the US these days. Make sure your tail lights are right. Get a hair cut before visiting. Don’t carry cash or the cops will take it. Stay out of the south especially if you can help it. People get arrested for jaywalking now and when they say WTF!? the cops tack on resisting arrest.

    • fuchsdh

      Citations for “most militarized cops”? For “majority of cops get funding from confiscated property”? For “many prisons are owned by family of judges and governors”?

    • i live in the deep south and nobody enforces jaywalking.

  • Common Senz

    Virginia and far too many Virginians are control freak religious assholes. Do ministers who rob widows of their retirement and relatives of their inheritance by promising salvation and avoiding hell go to jail there? No. What do you expect from a state of antipleasure fundamentalist christians that has produced such famous multimillionaire professional liars as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell?