An Investigation of the Effectiveness of the Virginia Habitual Offender Act: A Study Conducted by the Virginia Transportation Research Council for the Advisory Committee to the Commission on VASAP: Final Report

Report No: 94-R11

Published in 1993

About the report:

In 1968, Virginia passed the Habitual Offender Act (the Act), one of the first laws in the United States directed at motorists who repeatedly violate traffic laws. Persons adjudicated as habitual offenders are subject to long-term license revocation, and those who violate this revocation may be incarcerated. This study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the Act in enhancing traffic safety in Virginia. A sizable number of individuals whose driving records include a sufficient number of convictions to allow DMV to certify them as habitual offenders are never brought before the courts on the charge. The existence of such a group of certified yet non-adjudicated habitual offenders is an indication that the procedures implementing the Act need to be changed to promote a more global implementation. However, the existence of this group allowed the researchers to compare a sample of certified habitual offenders to a group of adjudicated habitual offenders. In general, the adjudicated group had more prior DUI convictions and the certified group had more convictions for operating under a suspended operator's license and more convictions for minor offenses as defined under the Act. However, the adjudicated group had fewer subsequent traffic convictions and crashes and were conviction free and crash free for a longer period of time. These data indicate that adjudication under the Act may enhance traffic safety. Since adjudicated habitual offenders may be incarcerated for not less than 12 months for violating the habitual offender revocation, the researchers also examined the population of incarcerated habitual offenders. The investigation showed that as of September 1, 1991, between 864 and 1,219 habitual offenders had been incarcerated under the provisions of the Act. Only an additional 385 non-habitual offenders had been incarcerated as of that date for other traffic convictions. The researchers recommend several changes in the procedures and record keeping implemented under the Act. Further, they recommend a number of enhancements to the habitual offender program.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Jack D. Jernigan, Patricia Froning, Anthony J. Norris, Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: December 23, 2023

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