In Virginia, criminal citations for reckless driving are far more serious than a simple traffic ticket. Reckless driving, unlike other traffic violations, is a criminal offense in the state of Virginia. Individuals who are convicted of reckless driving can face jail time, steep fines, license suspension, and other consequences that impact their life, their finances, and their freedom. For this reason, more and more Virginia drivers are turning to experienced attorneys to craft a reckless driving defense strategy that reduces or dismisses the charge entirely.
As the law firm of choice among Virginia drivers, Driving Defense Law was established to protect the rights of those charged with reckless driving. If you are facing reckless driving charges, do not plead guilty! A conviction for reckless driving will stay on your criminal record for life, underscoring the importance of fighting your charges. Our team of experienced attorneys have successfully reduced and dismissed reckless driving charges for countless clients. To learn more about how we can help, consider contacting us at (757) 929-0335 today.
What Is Reckless Driving?
Generally, reckless driving is a legal term used to refer to driving that is aggressive in nature and willfully disregards the safety of others. According to Virginia Code § 46.2-852, any person who drives a vehicle recklessly or at a speed that endangers the safety or property of another person may be found guilty of reckless driving. Virginia law has several different articles related to reckless driving and categorizes a range of conduct as reckless driving under the law.
What Are the Reckless Driving Charges in Virginia?
In Virginia, reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor offense. This means that while reckless driving is considered a violation of the Code of Motor Vehicles, it is a criminal charge punishable by jail time, fines, and other penalties. Reckless driving charges are not the same as minor traffic tickets. A traffic ticket is classified as an infraction, meaning it is considered a less severe violation of the law.
Virginia’s reckless driving laws are stringent and provide for many different circumstances in which a person can be charged with this moving violation. In fact, there are over fifteen different reckless driving charges listed in Article 7 of the Virginia Code. Understanding these different charges is key to developing an effective reckless driving defense for your case. The following include the most common reckless driving charges in Virginia and examples of conduct that may land you a reckless driving charge in the state.
Exceeding the Speed Limit
Virginia is one of the few states that has established reckless driving charges for speeding. This can be confusing to many people, as drivers who are caught speeding are typically issued a mere speeding ticket. Whether a driver receives a speeding ticket or is charged with reckless driving, however, depends on the nature of the violation. Drivers going anywhere between 1 and 19 miles per hour above the speed limit will generally be issued a speeding ticket. Drivers going 20 miles an hour or more above the speed limit, on the other hand, will be charged with reckless driving.
Under § 46.2-862 of the Virginia Code, a person who drives a motor vehicle on the highway at a speed of 20 miles per hour or more in excess of the speed limit will face reckless driving charges. The same is true of any person who drives 85 miles per hour or more on any road in the state, regardless of the posted speed limit. This means that if you are driving at 85 miles per hour on a Virginia interstate – which typically has a speed limit of 70 – you will be charged with reckless driving even though you are not driving 20 miles per hour in excess of the speed limit.
Driving Too Fast for Traffic or Road Conditions
Virginia Code § 46.2-861 makes it a criminal offense to exceed a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions at a given time, regardless of the posted speed limit. This may leave you wondering what it means to exceed a “reasonable speed.” If so, this is intentional, as the law was written to be vague and open to interpretation. Essentially, drivers are expected to adapt to road conditions and drive at a safe speed for those conditions.
Weather conditions are a key factor here, as driving too fast in rain, sleet, or snow can be dangerous and lead to a reckless driving charge under this section of Virginia law. Poor weather can impact visibility and the ability to turn, maneuver, or stop your vehicle. The law expects that drivers will act prudently in these conditions and slow their speed to account for poor conditions.
Traffic and road conditions are also important considerations for drivers. While driving the speed limit is entirely reasonable when the highways are clear, it is entirely not possible to do so in high traffic. Many drivers find trouble with law enforcement when traffic is congested, but not stop-and-go. This in-between zone can lead a person to travel at speeds that may be considered “unreasonable” under the law.
Road racing is defined in Virginia Code § 46.2-865, which states that any individual who engages in a road race between two or more vehicles on any Virginia highway or public premises can be charged with reckless driving. You can also be charged with reckless driving for aiding or abetting a road race.
Road racing and reckless driving charges are taken seriously in Virginia, and those charged with road racing will have their license suspended for at least six months if convicted of this crime.The penalties of road racing become much more severe if another person was injured or killed. In these situations, the person will be charged with a felony offense punishable by up to 20 years in jail and harsh fines.
There are several different reckless driving defense strategies that can be used in road racing cases. Typically, officers must infer that a driver is engaging in a race based on their conduct. This leaves the opportunity to argue that you were not racing but instead driving at excessive speed or another similar charge. Proving that a driver was road racing is not straightforward, which is beneficial to crafting an effective defense.
Failing to Give a Proper Signal
According to Virginia Code § 46.2-860, drivers who fail to give a proper signal before turning, slowing down, or stopping may be charged with reckless driving. Failing to give a proper signal may seem like a minor violation, but the Virginia courts take this offense seriously. Simply forgetting to give a signal in a timely manner due to other considerations on the road or unknowingly driving a vehicle with a damaged or burned-out bulb can both lead to reckless driving charges. Unfortunately, many Virginia drivers are not aware of the severity of this offense until it is too late.
Illegal Passing or Overtaking
Virginia’s reckless driving laws establish several different articles about illegal passing or overtaking on the roadways. For instance, Virginia Code § 46.2-854 makes it a crime to overtake another vehicle on a curve or at the crest of a grade – which refers to the steepest part of an inclined road. Likewise, § 46.2-856 makes it illegal to pass two vehicles abreast, moving in the same direction.
Under § 46.2-858, drivers cannot pass another vehicle at a railroad crossing or at the intersection of highways, unless the road has two or more designated lanes for each direction of travel. Finally, Virginia Code § 46.2-859 criminalizes passing a school bus that has stopped to load or unload children or adults.
For more insight on examples of reckless driving examples in Virginia, consider speaking with an experienced attorney at Driving Defense Law. If you have been charged with reckless driving, it is essential to understand your charges, the penalties of reckless driving in the state, and all potential reckless driving defense strategies available in your case.
What Are the Consequences of Reckless Driving in Virginia?
Reckless driving charges and penalties in Virginia are severe, and the consequences of being convicted of reckless driving can be long-lasting. As mentioned, reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor offense, carrying much harsher penalties than a simple speeding ticket or traffic violation. If you are charged with reckless driving in Virginia, you may face the following penalties:
- Up to one year in jail
- $2,500 in fines
- License suspension or revocation
- 6 demerit points on your driving record
The consequences of a reckless driving conviction extend far beyond these legal penalties, however. In addition to jail time, steep fines, license suspension, and points on your license, those convicted of reckless driving in Virginia will have a criminal record that may make it difficult to secure employment, take out a loan, or find housing. Regardless of whether you have only been convicted of a first-time offense, your criminal record will stay with you forever.
Being charged with reckless driving may also face long-term financial consequences. If you are convicted of reckless driving, you will accrue 6 demerit points on your license. These points will remain on your driving record for 11 years. Insurance companies will look at your driving record to determine your insurance rates, and a reckless driving conviction can greatly increase the amount you pay per month for car insurance.
I Have Been Charged with Reckless Driving. What Are My Next Steps?
If you have been charged with reckless driving, do not plead guilty to your charges. When you plead guilty to charges without defending your case in court, you are not only immediately accepting all the consequences, but you are forgoing your Constitutional right to present a complete reckless driving defense. In many cases, reckless driving charges can be reduced or dismissed altogether when you present an effective defense in court. Pleading guilty to your charges means you are waiving this opportunity.
After being charged with reckless driving, there are several steps that you can take to maximize the likelihood of having your charges reduced or dropped. While our team believes that a tailored, personalized plan is the most effective way out of reckless driving charges, all cases follow the same broad framework. When you are charged with reckless driving, the following four steps may be crucial to ensuring a favorable outcome for your case.
Step 1: Review the Charges
You may be surprised to learn how many people do not fully understand their charges. It is not uncommon for Virginia drivers to assume that all traffic violations result in simple tickets that can be paid and forgotten about. Too many drivers do not understand the full implications of their charges. The first step to protecting your rights is to understand why you were charged with reckless driving.
Your reckless driving charge will look like a typical traffic citation at first. On this citation, the police officer will list the law section and describe the charges that have been brought against you by the state. In the law section, the officer will list “46.2-862,” which refers to reckless driving by speed code section. Alternatively, look for the words reckless driving or its abbreviation “RD.”
Then, check the officer’s description of your charge. The officer may list the specific offense that you have been accused of, such as excessive speed, road racing, or failing to give a proper signal, or they may cite reckless driving in general. Regardless, once you are sure that you have been charged with reckless driving and fully understand these charges, you may proceed to the next step. If you have been issued a traffic ticket instead, consider reviewing our comprehensive traffic ticket defense guide for further insight into your next steps.
Step 2: Find Effective Legal Representation for Your Case
If you have been charged with reckless driving, you may be required to attend a court hearing to review your charges. By default, you will be required to appear in court because reckless driving is a misdemeanor charge. In some situations, a hearing (called an arraignment) is held. During this hearing, a judge will explain that you are facing criminal charges and have the right to an attorney. On the other hand, if your case is not set for arraignment, the case will be immediately scheduled for trial instead.
It is important to note that if you fail to appear in court, you may face further criminal charges. In some cases, the judge may even issue a show cause warrant for your arrest. When a warrant is issued, the police are permitted to arrest you at any time. As such, it is important to find effective legal representation as quickly as possible after being charged with reckless driving. Your attorney will be able to represent you at all court proceedings and protect your rights at every step of the process.
Choosing to represent yourself can have serious long-term consequences and negatively impact the outcome of your case. With effective legal representation by your side, you can ensure that measures have been taken to control the narrative of your case. Your attorney will painstakingly review the details of your case to craft a defense strategy rooted in experience and expertise.
When selecting a lawyer to represent your case, it can be helpful to consider their record of success, the mission of the law firm, and how comfortable you feel with the attorney. How will the lawyer communicate with you about your case? Do they have experience handling cases similar to yours? What potential solutions do they have to reduce or dismiss your charges? Does the attorney listen to your needs and understand the seriousness of your situation?
Step 3: Empower Yourself with an Effective Reckless Driving Defense
Once you have identified effective legal representation for your case, it is time to get to work. The only way to have your charges reduced or dismissed in court is with a well-crafted legal defense. At Driving Defense Law, we will tailor a plan that suits the unique circumstances of your case. Some of the strategies that have proven successful in reducing and dismissing reckless driving charges for our clients include:
- Negotiating the charges down to improper/careless driving. One of the most effective defense strategies is negotiating a reckless driving misdemeanor charge down to a careless driving infraction. Reckless driving charges can be reduced to careless driving by the court at any time, as long as your attorney understands how to navigate this process.
- Asserting that the police officer’s radar or lidar gun reading was inaccurate. Law enforcement is legally required to recalibrate their radar and lidar guns every six months. Police officers must also receive adequate training to use these tools to accurately detect speed. If the device that was used to capture your speed was not calibrated or if the police officer did not receive proper training, your attorney can use this to your advantage.
- Leveraging your history of safe driving. If you have no prior traffic violations on your record, your attorney can use this to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Moreover, it is often possible to reach an agreement with the court that your charges will be dropped upon completion of driver’s safety school or community service. To successfully leverage this strategy, your attorney must be a zealous negotiator and well-connected in the Virginia courts. Fortunately, this is a common tactic we successfully use at Driving Defense Law.
- Claiming that you were not the driver of the vehicle. The foundation of this defense is simple: if there is no definitive proof that you committed a crime, then it could be possible that the officer targeted the incorrect vehicle. In some situations, your attorney may argue that you were not the driver of the vehicle and therefore not guilty of reckless driving.
- Showing that there is not enough evidence to convict you of reckless driving. Proving that the case lacks sufficient evidence can be particularly effective in reckless driving cases. You cannot be convicted of a crime if there is no definitive evidence that proves your behavior rose to the level of reckless. Furthermore, it is also possible to challenge the credibility of the evidence presented by the prosecution. Your attorney may be able to pull dash cam footage, street surveillance camera footage, or other evidentiary sources to support your case.
Ultimately, your attorney can provide a clearer understanding of how these defense strategies can work to your advantage depending on the facts of your case. Above all, the defense strategy that you employ for your case will depend entirely on the unique circumstances of your case. With the right strategy, it is entirely possible to challenge your reckless driving charges and win your case.
Step 4: Win Your Case
Perhaps the most satisfying part of beating a reckless driving charge is the sense of relief you will feel when the charges have been reduced or dropped. At Driving Defense Law, winning your case is our favorite part of the process. If our team is successful in having your charges reduced or dismissed, you will avoid jail time and the creation of a criminal record. In some cases, you can avoid accruing demerit points on your driving record altogether, thus ensuring that your insurance rates are not impacted.
Beat Your Reckless Driving Charge with Our Team of Experienced Reckless Driving Defense Lawyers
Reckless driving is a serious criminal offense in Virginia, and being convicted of this crime can have life-altering consequences. If you are facing reckless driving charges, you are also facing potential jail time, a criminal record, and points on your license that last for over a decade. With so much at stake, defending your rights in court is essential.
At Driving Defense Law, we work closely with Virginia drivers who have been charged with reckless driving. Leveraging our unique approach and years of experience navigating the local Virginia courts, we have successfully crafted reckless driving defense strategies to reduce and dismiss our clients’ charges. To get started, consider booking your free consultation with our team at (757) 929-0335 today.