Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer
Standing Up to Reckless Driving Charges
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 the 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
What Not to Do After Getting a Reckless Driving Ticket in Virginia
A reckless driving ticket should never be taken lightly. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face numerous penalties including fines, points assessed against your driving record — even jail time. If you or a loved one receives a reckless driving ticket, seek professional legal guidance from a skilled Virginia Reckless Driving Defense Attorney.
Here are a few things you should never do after police ticket you for reckless driving in Virginia:
Pay the ticket — Pleading guilty and mailing in your ticket is not allowed for reckless driving charges. This is because reckless driving is considered a class 1 misdemeanor and carries stiff penalties, including a criminal record. The court will REQUIRE that you appear since the possibility of a criminal conviction requires the court to ensure you are apprised of your Constitutional rights. Other penalties include losing 6 points on your license, up to six months of license suspension, and up to 1 year in jail.
Represent yourself — Reckless driving is not the same as speeding. Unless you have a background in criminal law, this is not a situation where you will want to represent yourself. Many pitfalls lie between you and a fair conclusion of your case. Without knowledge of how to sidestep these legal perils, you jeopardize your driving privilege, your record, and even your freedom. Not only that but different judges approach reckless driving cases different ways. Having an attorney with 20 years of experience, who knows the various approaches of the local judges to these types of cases will likely help you avoid making a serious error in front of the “wrong” judge. With the help of an experienced Virginia criminal law attorney, you greatly increase your chances of having the charges against you reduced, or eliminated altogether.
Do nothing — Reckless driving is a criminal offense and if you fail to appear on your court date, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
Hire the wrong attorney to represent you in court — All lawyers are not the same. You would not want a podiatrist operating on your heart, would you? The same concept applies to the field of law. While you may be tempted to ask a lawyer friend or relative for counsel, unless they focus on handling criminal defense cases, they will be of little use to you. To successfully navigate Virginia’s criminal justice system, you must hire a lawyer who focuses on handling criminal law matters and traffic violations.
For most people, traffic tickets are just a part of life. However, a reckless driving ticket could have serious repercussions on your future, your job, and/or your security clearance. The right lawyer can help you build a strategic defense that protects your rights as well as your reputation.
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.
Potential Charges and Penalties You May Face for Reckless Driving in Virginia
In Virginia, Reckless Driving is a crime that covers OVER 20 different driving behaviors!
Depending on the nature of the alleged offense and the circumstances of your case, you could face a wide range of penalties, from fines and suspended driving privileges to jail time.
The most common type of reckless driving is traveling at excessive speeds. In Virginia, that normally means exceeding 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, or exceeding 81 miles per hour or more on a highway.
However, reckless driving could be considered just about any kind of particularly negligent driving behavior that is likely to cause an accident—although you do not need to have caused an accident to be charged with this crime. For example, changing lanes without signaling? That CAN be charged as Reckless Driving. Passing a school bus loading children? That CAN be charged as Reckless Driving. Bad brakes? You guessed it, POSSIBLY Reckless Driving!
More examples of behaviors that could be classified as reckless driving in Virginia include the following:
- Driving an overloaded vehicle that has obstructed views or controls
- Driving alongside another vehicle on a one-lane road
- Failure to use proper signals while driving
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Racing or spinning wheels
- Illegally passing another driver in a variety of situations, such as at a railroad crossing, in front of a stopped bus, when approaching a curve or at a highway intersection.
What penalties could I face for reckless driving?
Reckless driving is considered a Class I misdemeanor. Therefore, you could face the following penalties if convicted:
- Six points off your driver’s license
- Fines up to $2,500
- Potential jail time up to one year
- Six-month suspension of your driver’s license
- A misdemeanor on your criminal record
There are also some other consequences of reckless driving that go along with these criminal penalties and sentences. For example, you will likely see increased auto insurance rates or an inability to rent vehicles. Convictions could also affect people applying for jobs or anyone seeking certain levels of clearance in the workplace or in the military.
Any conviction could also play a role in later sentencing if you are convicted of another offense. Judges always evaluate past convictions as part of the decision-making process in determining sentences. To that end, if you already have a record of driving-related crimes, you are likely to face stiffer penalties the next time you are charged with an offense—especially if it’s driving under the influence.
Reckless driving charges that arise from racing (or attempted racing) carry harsher penalties than other forms of reckless driving. In these situations, your license could be suspended for up to two years and you could permanently lose your vehicle.
Finally, some aggravating factors may lead to your case being elevated to a felony. These factors most commonly are when reckless driving leads to serious injuries or death.
Contact the NoVa Law Firm Today
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.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free consultation to discuss your rights and legal options against Reckless Driving charges under Virginia law. Call Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer Eric Clingan today at (703) 352-9347.