Reckless Driving Virginia
Virginia drivers who have never had any prior reckless driving convictions are often surprised to find themselves in court on a reckless driving charge. That’s because Virginia has some of the harshest reckless driving laws in the country.
In the Commonwealth, a driver can be charged with reckless driving if they drive at a speed over 80 miles per hour or exceed the posted speed limit by 20 miles per hour or more. In addition, a Virginia driver can be charged with reckless driving if they are driving in a way that police determine may endanger any person’s life, limb, or property, regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.
Charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia?
Because of the seriousness of Virginia traffic laws, drivers charged with reckless driving should speak with a Virginia traffic attorney who has experience defending traffic offenses. A lawyer can advise you of any defenses you may have to the charge and help you avoid having a reckless driving conviction on your record.
To learn more about reckless driving laws in Virginia, read on or contact criminal defense attorney Gretchen T. Pousson at 703-546-9898 today.
What is Considered Reckless Driving in Virginia?
Virginia considers several infractions of reckless driving. Some violations are more evident than others. More common VA reckless driving charges include speeding over 80 mph, speeding 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, street racing, and driving too fast for the current highway and traffic conditions.
That last violation seems like it would be a little arbitrary, and it is. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-852, reckless driving is defined as:
“irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.”
The wording of this statute allows for a catch-all; If your driving does not fit into a specified category, law enforcement officers can still arrest you or give you a reckless driving ticket if they think it was warranted. In many situations, whether you are charged or given a Virginia reckless driving ticket depends on the specific law enforcement officer who pulled you over.
Other behaviors that are considered reckless driving in Virginia include:
- Driving a motor vehicle with faulty or improperly adjusted brakes.
- Unlawfully passing a stopped school bus.
- Failing to give adequate and timely signals when turning, slowing down, or stopping.
- Passing or attempting to pass two vehicles abreast.
- Overtaking or passing any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction at any highways or railroad crossing intersection.
- Aggressive driving.
For a complete list of what might be considered Virginia reckless driving, visit the Virginia DMV’s website or reach out to an attorney.
What Is Aggressive Driving?
Aggressive driving is a little different than plain old reckless driving. Reckless driving deals with how you drive; Aggressive driving deals with your intent when you drive.
Essentially, if you drive the way a cop thinks you intended to harass, injure, obstruct, intimidate, or interfere with other drivers, not just the way you were driving, you can be charged with aggressive driving.
Suppose you’re pulled over for aggressive driving. In that case, the officer will look at factors like your speed, weaving, tailgating, passing illegally or without enough room between vehicles, driving outside your designated lanes of travel, failing to yield right of way, and making rude hand gestures or using your vehicle as a weapon.
In most cases, law enforcement will give more leeway to drivers who display aggressive behavior when it is an accident, such as not yielding to other cars in a crowded parking lot and causing a collision.
However, if you were acting intentionally, an experienced attorney can help you fight the charge.
Virginia Reckless Driving Ticket
Most people speed — it’s just something that happens in life. While frowned upon, speeding in Virginia is simply a traffic infraction that typically results in nothing worse than a moving violation ticket. However, speeding becomes less of an accident at a certain point and can turn into reckless driving. For example, driving 20 mph or more over the posted speed limit or over 85 mph, regardless of how far over the maximum speed limit you were driving, can result in being charged with a reckless driving offense based on the speed alone.
In Virginia, reckless driving tickets are considered a criminal offense, and the potential punishment could be a lot worse than a regular speeding ticket.
If you just received a reckless driving ticket, DO NOT just show up to court and plead guilty, hoping to pay a fine. The punishments for reckless driving in VA could be much more severe. Even if you were just fined, the other subsequent penalties could stay with you on your criminal record for years, not to mention other potential impacts on your life, like increased insurance rates.
It is within your best interest to hire an attorney who knows how to fight for your rights in Virginia courts. An experienced attorney working on your behalf could have your charges reduced or dismissed outright.
How Do I Get a Reckless Driving Ticket Reduced in Virginia?
There are many ways that the charges on your reckless driving ticket may be reduced or possibly dismissed. Having an attorney is often beneficial because they will be well-versed in the laws of Virginia.
If pleading guilty or no contest is your only option; you can request to take a driving safety course. If you complete this course, your charge will be reduced to improper driving.
You may also request that your reckless driving ticket be non-recorded, which means that it won’t show up on your criminal record. However, this is only possible in certain circumstances and may not be available to you if you have many traffic infractions.
Without proper representation, reckless driving citations could be costly. The fines will continue to build up with each additional infraction. You may also have points added to your driver’s license and could lose your driving privileges.
What Is the Penalty for Reckless Driving in Virginia?
Reckless driving is not only a traffic infraction — under the Code of Virginia § 46.2-868, but it is also a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, this does not mean that Virginia’s reckless driving is not a serious charge. This means that if you are convicted of reckless driving in Virginia, you will have a criminal record, and you may face hefty fines and jail time.
A Class 1 misdemeanor is the most severe misdemeanor charge in Virginia, and a conviction can have lasting impacts on your future. Additionally, because reckless driving is a criminal charge and will appear on your criminal record, a conviction could impact your ability to get certain jobs or rent in certain places.
If someone is killed due to your reckless driving, you could be charged with a Class 6 felony. A conviction could result in imprisonment for up to 20 years, in addition to your suspended license for up to 3 years. If your license was suspended or revoked when you were caught driving recklessly, you could also be charged with a Class 6 felony.
This is why you must consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you face reckless driving charges in Virginia.
Virginia Reckless Driving Fines
If you are found guilty of reckless driving in Virginia, you may face up to 12 months of jail time and a fine of up to $2,500. But, if you were convicted of felony reckless driving, you could spend up to five years in prison and pay a fine of up to $2,500.
Virginia Reckless Driving Fine
Depending on the circumstances of your case, these penalties may not be the end of your worries.
Bear in mind that if someone is killed because of a drag race, the individual guilty of reckless driving could face serious consequences. Virginia law mandates that in this case, a penalty can rise up to 20 years in prison, while a mandatory minimum is one year served. The convicted driver can also face a suspended license for one to three years.
Reaching out to a trusted criminal defense attorney can help mitigate these potential impacts.
VA Reckless Driving Conviction and Your Driver’s License
In addition to criminal penalties, a Virginia reckless driving conviction may result in punishments by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
A conviction will result in 6 demerit points being placed on your license. Depending on where you stand regarding demerit points on your license, a Virginia reckless driving conviction could result in your license being suspended for six months or more. Your conviction will stay on your driving record for 11 years.
If you are facing a license suspension, however, you may have the option of receiving a restricted license. Also known as a work license or a hardship license, this type of driver’s license permits you to drive under specific restrictions. The DMV in Virginia generally provides it.
With a restricted license, you can drive to certain essential locations such as school, work, and even church, depending on the judge’s discretion managing your case. To obtain a restricted license, you will need to petition the court with the help of your attorney. A skilled reckless driving VA attorney can examine the facts in your case, determine whether to pursue a limited driving license and guide you through the process.
Those who hold a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, may face additional and harsher penalties. There are federal repercussions that result from “serious driving violations” convictions, reckless driving included, and punishments from the State of Virginia.
In this case, the punishments are the same. If you are convicted of a serious driving violation twice in three years, your CDL could be suspended for 60 days. If you are convicted of a severe third driving violation in those three years, your CDL could be suspended for 120 days.
Losing your CDL could severely impact your job and your life. If you hold a CDL and face a serious moving violation charge, like reckless driving in Virginia, be sure to get in touch with an attorney immediately.
Virginia Reckless Driving First Offense
Although reckless driving charges are always taken seriously in Virginia, first-time reckless driving offenders in Virginia often get special consideration due to their lack of previous offenses. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that previous speeding tickets and driving infractions, even those not considered criminal offenses, may be taken into account by prosecutors to raise your charges.
Some additional factors that could impact the outcome of your first offense reckless driving case include:
- Where the offense occurred
- How fast you were going
- The circumstances behind your reckless driving violation
A second or third reckless driving charge may also lead to stiffer penalties, so it’s always best to prevent having that first one on your record.
Consulting a lawyer about your specific case elements can help you better determine what to expect when facing reckless driving charges and lower your charges to the fullest extent possible.
Virginia Reckless Driving Charge as an Out-Of-State Driver
A reckless driving violation can happen anywhere, but drivers are most at risk of receiving a reckless driving ticket on major highways. I-95, I-81, I-66, Dulles Airport Toll Road, and Dulles Greenway each tend to produce a larger number of reckless driving charges by speed. This is a significant reason why Virginia’s out-of-state drivers are more prone to reckless driving charges.
If you face Virginia reckless driving charges as a resident of another state, the process for fighting your charges will be different than that of a Virginia resident. Because reckless driving is a criminal misdemeanor, not a traffic violation, an appearance in court is required; this is not a charge that can just be dealt with through the mail.
For many people, traveling back to a Virginia courthouse may be incredibly difficult for whatever reason. On your behalf, a Virginia reckless driving attorney could petition to appear for you in court, saving you time and money on traveling expenses.
The criminal penalties do not change based on where you are from. However, the Virginia DMV cannot suspend your out-of-state license, nor can they put any demerit points on it. The DMV will instead report your conviction to your home state DMV. Your home state DMV will then apply any penalties to your driving record that would have resulted had your reckless driving conviction occurred in your state.
Contact a Virginia Reckless Driving Lawyer Today
An experienced traffic lawyer can often get a Virginia reckless driving charge reduced to a traffic infraction that does not constitute a criminal conviction while appearing on your driving record.
With the help of a skilled attorney, a reckless driving charge could be reduced to “improper driving,” a speeding or other moving violation, or in some cases, a simple equipment violation. Besides not showing up on your criminal record, these violations come with less severe penalties.
Negotiating a favorable deal with the prosecutor is usually the first line of defense in reckless driving cases. Failing that, trying the case, or convincing the judge to reduce the charge is a defendant’s last hope. Having an experienced attorney who knows how to lobby on your behalf effectively could be the difference between a criminal conviction and a finable traffic infraction.
Factors that could convince a prosecutor or judge to reduce a charge include a clean driving record or a driver education course. Again, discussing these options with an experienced attorney is your best protection.
Like any criminal charge, a reckless driving charge should be taken more seriously than a run-of-the-mill speeding ticket.
To best protect yourself from severe punishment, having an experienced attorney on your side is a must. Gretchen T. Pousson of Scrofano Law has over a decade of experience defending clients in Virginia courts and has successfully handled hundreds of reckless driving charges.
Jay has built a relationship with the prosecutors and judges of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax counties and will tailor the best defense for you in any given situation. If you are worried about your court date, do not hesitate to contact Attorney Pousson immediately.
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