In Virginia, Reckless Driving is the most commonly charged Class I Misdemeanor, and it can carry severe (and surprising) consequences. There are many reasons an individual may be charged with Reckless Driving, including:
General Reckless Driving. Under Virginia Code 46.2-852, if a police officer believes your driving behavior represented a threat to anyone’s life, limb or property (including your own) regardless of your speed, you can be charged with this Class I Misdemeanor and be at risk for a jail sentence, license suspension or both (not to mention a fine of up to $2500).
Driving 20 mph or More Over the Speed Limit. Regardless of the speed limit, if your speed exceeds 20 mph over it, you can be charged with Reckless Driving. This means that driving 45 in a 25 mph zone or driving 75 in a 55 mph zone can carry have serious repercussions for your driving record, insurance, security clearance and/or privilege to drive in Virginia. In addition, regardless of the speed limit, driving faster than 80 mph is also considered Reckless Driving in Virginia. While it’s true that many courts will not impose jail in most Reckless Driving cases, a jail sentence is often a serious consideration for judges when a defendant exceeds 90 mph or has a significant negative driving record. In all cases of Reckless Driving, if found guilty, Virginia judges will often consider suspending your license to drive for up to 6 MONTHS!
Failure to stop for a school bus. Virginia Code 46.2-869 allows drivers who do not stop for a properly equipped school bus that is loading or unloading passengers to be charged with Reckless Driving. The same goes for ignoring emergency vehicles under Code 46.2-829. (See this article in the Washington Post for a case where Eric Clingan not only won a dismissal for his client, but his quick thinking and attention to detail resulted in the re-writing of this very law or watch THIS NBC News Video below highlighting Eric’s success in this type of case..)
Failure to provide a proper signal. In most states, failure to use your turn signal is a simple traffic violation, but in Virginia, you can be charged with Reckless Driving if you fail to signal before you turn.
Driving a car with faulty brakes. Under Virginia Code 46.2-853, if you drive your vehicle with a faulty brake system, you can be charged with Reckless Driving.
You can also be charged with Reckless Driving if you drive too fast for the current traffic conditions, race another vehicle, pass another motor vehicle at a railroad crossing, or pass two vehicles abreast. These are just some of the many different ways (23 and counting) to be charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia.
Reckless Driving is NOT “Just a traffic ticket” in Virginia. A conviction can cause your insurance rates to skyrocket, impact your employment and/or security clearances, and (in extreme cases) it can result in a jail sentence. It is critical that you obtain the guidance of an experienced attorney as soon as possible after being charged because Reckless Driving charges have the potential to significantly and negatively affect your life.
Click on the video below to view how Eric called a Virginia traffic law into question and successfully defended his client against the charge of Failure to Stop for a School Bus –
Points Against Your License
In Virginia, all drivers begin with a “0” balance on their driver’s license for demerit (moving violation) points. Each year without a moving violation will gain a driver a “+1” point up to a maximum of “+5”. Reckless Driving subtracts 6 points from your license. If you accumulate 18 points against your license (-18) in a 12 month period or 24 points (-24) in a 24 month period, your license will be suspended by the Virignia DMV. Additionally, there is only a small window of time during which you can request a hearing with the DMV to keep your license. For this reason, it is exceedingly important that you act quickly and contact a lawyer as soon as possible for help.
Paying the Ticket vs. Going to Court
Many people mistakenly assume that it is in their best interest to simply “pay the ticket” in order to avoid going to court. However, Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia, meaning it’s a CRIMINAL charge and you cannot pre-pay your fine. You MUST appear in court, unless you hire a lawyer to appear on your behalf (with the court’s permission). In some extreme cases, though, even with a lawyer on your side you may still have to appear in court.
Think about it: Hiring an experienced attorney and mounting a solid defense against these charges makes more sense than simply showing up in court all alone just to have the judge find you guilty, give you a permanent criminal record and nail you with a hefty fine.
In many cases, the officer may not have even witnessed the driving behavior that resulted in your charge of Reckless Driving. For example, in cases involving car accidents, the police officer sometimes arrives on the scene AFTER the accident and starts issuing tickets based only on what the other driver claims.
In cases involving speed determinations, Virginia’s laws are strict regarding the requirements necessary for prosecutors to prove that the officer’s radar, laser, and/or speedometer were calibrated correctly and working properly.
Because Reckless Driving cases are criminal charges, the prosecution must prove your guilt “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.” Hiring a lawyer, puts the law on your side and gives you the power to keep that from happening.
At the NoVa Law Firm, we are committed to protecting your rights under the law, and we will go the extra mile to pursue the best possible resolution in your reckless driving case. We start preparing for trial from day one in order to ensure that your defense is the strongest it can be, regardless of what avenue you choose to take. This includes evaluating the scene of the traffic stop or accident for problems with the officer’s or another witness’ version of events. We will also demand the officer turn over his calibrations and certificates related to his speed detection equipment and we’ll evaluate those documents for full compliance with Virginia law. Finally, we’ll handle all communications with the prosecutor, police officer and, ultimately, the judge in order to protect your driving privileges and obtain the best result possible in your Reckless Driving case.