Virginia Criminal Attorney is a law firm with over two decades of experience handling criminal cases. Our office is located in Fairfax, VA, and our firm attends to clients in Northern Virginia. Our practice areas include driving offenses, drug crimes, property crimes, violent crimes, and weapon crimes. You can also seek legal representation on “reckless driving” charges from ourfirm.
What is “Reckless Driving” Under Virginia Law?
The Virginia Motor Vehicle Code outlines the laws and regulations governing your car and your driving privileges. The code comprises statutory rules that apply to motorists and motor vehicles across Virginia. Amendments to these laws usually protect Drivers' rights and safety. The Virginia General Assembly acts as the legislative body that updates the Vehicle Codes.
Sections 46.2-852, 46.2-853 and 46.2-862 of the Virginia Motor Vehicle Code lay out the general rules for reckless driving. Virginia Code 46.2-852 stipulates that it’s a crime to drive a vehicle in a manner that puts others at danger. VA Code 46.2-853 also asserts that failing to maintain the control of the car or its parts can be regarded as reckless driving. You may also be charged with reckless driving under VA Code 46.2-862 if your vehicle is moving at a speed of 20mph over its speed limit or above a speed of 80mph.
Virginia judges rely on these laws to punish instances of reckless driving. Examples of such cases include drag racing and drowsy driving. The Virginia Motor Vehicle Code considers reckless driving acts as Class 1 misdemeanor offenses. The punitive measures for such a crime are as intense as those for impersonating a police officer or assaulting an individual.
What Role Does the DMV in a “Reckless Driving” Case?
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) facilitates all activities related to getting a driver’s license. The DMV also awards merit and demerit points on the licenses depending on your general driving conduct. Being convicted for reckless driving can have your points lowered. You also need to regularly renew your license with the DMV to risk facing penalties.
The DMV operates under the Virginia Motor Vehicle Code. Other roles played by the DMV include titling and registering motor vehicle dealers and motor vehicles. The DMV also handles hearings regarding license suspensions and particular instances of driving crimes. The DMV’s regulations and the VA Motor Vehicle Code both come handy when facing “reckless driving” charges.
Will You Get a Ticket for Reckless Driving?
Law enforcement officers use roadblocks to identify and charge motorists who are driving recklessly. A traffic officer may give you a ticket for reckless driving or speeding at the traffic stop. A speeding ticket highlights the speed your car was moving at the time you were stopped. Consequently, a reckless driving ticket quotes one of the sections of VA Codes 46.2-852 to 46.2-869 to describe your charges.
You have to appear in court if the officer issued you a ticket for reckless driving. The ticket will have the exact court date printed on the side. If this date is a couple of weeks away, expect to attend an arraignment. The judge will inform you about your trial date and speak to you about your constitutional rights. Consider hiring an experienced criminal attorney before the date of your trial reaches.
Expect to have your trial at the General District Court of the county or city you were charged. You're entitled to the right to enter a plea of no contest, guilty or not guilty at the trial. The judge will explain to you the potential consequences of the pleas before you take any of them. Your criminal attorney can also enter the plea on your behalf.
What Factors are Used to Determine “Reckless Driving” Charges?
Police officers use speed testing devices to measure the speed of moving cars. They must prove that the measurements were accurate in a court of law. During the criminal proceedings, the judge will weigh the officer’s results against your defenses. Note that the words you uttered to the officer at the roadblock can be used by the prosecutor to incriminate you further.
Failure to make a court appearance is considered as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. You risk facing the same punitive measures as reckless driving when convicted of this crime. The court can also charge you for two crimes: reckless driving and failing to appear in court. You may end up facing another one year in jail or paying an additional fine not exceeding $2,500.
Prosecutors might use speeding or improper driving to build your case on reckless driving. Improper driving and speeding are considered as traffic infractions, which have lower punitive measures. You may pay up to $250 for speeding and $500 for improper driving. The DMV may also apply 3 to 6 demerit points to your driver’s license for speeding and 3 points on your license for improper driving.
Then judge may convict you of improper driving as a way of lowering the “reckless driving” penalties. Consequently, you can plead guilty to driving improperly to get lower penalties and avoid serious criminal charges. Either way, you need to talk to a proficient lawyer for the best outcomes.
What are the Penalties for Reckless Driving in Virginia?
“Reckless driving” charges are punishable by fines, possible jail time or demerit points on the driver’s license. You may pay the penalty ranging from $350 to $500 depending on how fast your car was moving. The DMV can also put up to 6 demerit points on your driver’s license when convicted of reckless driving. Note that it takes two years for your license points to get back to normal.
The DMV may suspend or revoke your driver’s license if you get several demerit points within a short timeframe. Reinstating your license can be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. You can also have your license suspended by the judge if you repeatedly commit “reckless driving” offenses.
A “reckless driving” conviction can attract up to 1-year jail time in addition to paying fines and having demerit points on your license. You can choose to perform community service as a first-time offender instead of going to jail. Your jail sentence will also depend on the type of impression you make on the judge. You can make a good impression by completing treatment programs on dangerous driving or taking driving classes before appearing in court.
The judge will revisit your prior convictions to decide on the appropriate penalties. Note that a “reckless driving” conviction affects your criminal record your entire lifetime. Virginia courts are also very strict when handling driving crimes.
Are There Any Collateral Consequences for Reckless Driving?
Jail time and fines are considered as direct consequences of criminal charges in Virginia. Collateral consequences affect aspects of your life including education, employment, and citizenship. Examples include increased insurance premiums, losing certain government benefits and inability to qualify for public housing.
Can Out-of-State Drivers be Charged for Reckless Driving in Virginia?
The Virginia Motor Vehicle Code mandates both out-of-state and in-state motorists to appear in court when charged with any criminal offense. A Virginia court may charge you for failing to show up in court as requested regardless of your state. The DMV from your state may also place demerit points on your driver’s license that are different from the one assigned in Virginia.
The Interstate Driver’s License Compact stipulates that a state can pursue a criminal traffic crime on an out-of-state offender as if it happened in their state. This law is only applicable to states that subscribe to it. When appropriate, you’ll be prosecuted by your home state based on its laws on reckless driving, not Virginia’s.
How Can You Appeal a “Reckless Driving” Conviction in Virginia?
The Virginia Motor Vehicle Code allows defendants who are unpleased with the trial results to appeal to a Circuit Court. You can have your attorney file an appeal at your local Circuit Court. However, you’ll only have ten days (after the initial trial) to appeal. Your lawyer will also advise you on whether the appeal is worth undertaking.
The Circuit Court denies appeal requests for defendants who pleaded guilty to their charges. Most courts usually set an appropriate date for the hearing a few days after you apply for the appeal. In Virginia, the local Circuit Courts try appeals as “de novo” cases. “De novo” implies that your initial charges won’t affect your appeal case.
Your appeal case will take a new form since new facts, evidence and arguments will be presented in court. Your attorney needs proper defenses to make the appeal case strong. Both parties including the judge shouldn’t make any references to your original conviction.
Should You Request a Jury Trial When Appealing the Case?
You have the right to choose to have a jury or judge to handle your case when you appeal. Most defendants prefer having a judge rule over their claims for fair outcomes. Both judges and juries can entirely dismiss your charges or give you certain penalties.
Judges assign offenders penalties such as community service or payment of fines. Juries, on the other hand, assign offenders harsher penalties including a fine of up to $2,500 or a one-year prison sentence. Juries don’t convict “reckless driving” defendants with lesser charges such as improper driving.
Legal Defenses for “Reckless Driving” Charges in Virginia
Your lawyer can come up with several legal defenses to prove your innocence. The arguments can also help get the case dismissed by the court. Highlighted below are some of the legal defenses that can guarantee a fair verdict.
- You Drove Recklessly Out of Necessity
As a legal defense, necessity can lay a foundation for arguing your case in a Virginia court. Your lawyer can prove that you drove recklessly to cater for an emergency. Claiming that you didn’t create any danger or that you didn’t have any legal alternative for your actions can also help. However, these arguments need reliable evidence to prove your condition at the time you were on the road.
- You Didn’t Drive Recklessly
The prosecutor should prove that you were more than irresponsible or negligent at the time you were charged. The judge can’t rely on arguments highlighting gross negligence to convict you of reckless driving. Your attorney can argue that you considered the safety of others and property while operating the vehicle. If the prosecution team fails to present sufficient evidence to support the charge, your attorney can use such a defense to get you acquitted of the charges.
- You Didn’t Drive the Car at the Time of the Incident
You must have driven a particular vehicle to be convicted for reckless driving. The prosecution team may find it hard to build your case if the police didn’t catch you committing this offense. Your criminal defense attorney may argue that it was a case of mistaken identity. This defense can only work if you didn’t get a ticket for reckless driving.
- Argue for Lesser Charges
Your lawyer can ask the court to convict you for lesser charges if the case is difficult to dismiss. A lesser charge, in this case, would be improper driving. If the court is convinced, you won’t have to face any jail time. Furthermore, improper driving is considered a non-criminal offense (an offense that doesn’t affect your criminal record).
- Argue for Dismissal
The judge can grant your lawyer the request for dismissing your case only on two conditions. The first condition is that you were driving at a safe speed while the second one is that you weren’t driving on the day of the crime. Your charges may also be dismissed if the prosecution team fails to provide evidence to support their allegations against you.
The Virginia General Assembly enacts laws that govern activities taking place in the state. Traffic laws, which are regularly updated, are among these laws. They define some of the crimes one can commit when driving. Offenses related to “reckless driving” charges are as follows:
- Refusing a DUI Test (HB 2327)
HB 2327 mandates all motorists to submit to a blood/breath test when stopped by the police. The test is used to establish blood alcohol content (BAC). One can commit a “reckless driving” crime when driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol.
- Driving a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated (VA Code 18.2-366)
VA Code 18.2-366 asserts that it’s illegal to operate or drive any motor-powered device with a BAC of 0.08% or more. The results of the breath test should be over 0.08 grams per 210 liters of breath for you to be guilty of this offense. VA Code 18.2-366 also highlights that narcotics and alcohol are examples of substances that lead to intoxication.
- Driving With a Suspended License (HB 2467)
Virginia courts could prosecute you under HB 2467 if you operated a vehicle with a suspended license. You may also have your driver’s license suspended for failing to pay fines related to driving offenses. You risk having two license suspensions when found guilty of driving with the suspended license.
- Driving in the Wrong Traffic Lanes (HB 2201)
HB 2201 highlights that it’s a crime to drive on the wrong traffic lane. You may end up paying a fine of up to $100 when convicted of such an offense.
- Ignoring the Signals by the Traffic Lights (VA Code 46.2-833)
Under VA Code 46.2-833, failing to observe the signals given by the traffic lights is an unlawful act. Motorists are required by this law to proceed through intersections depending on the colors indicated on the traffic lights. They can only ignore the lights if they’re off due to power outages. This traffic infraction attracts a fine of up to $350.
- Exceeding the Maximum Speed Limits (VA Code 46.2-870)
The maximum speed limit for motor vehicles is 55 miles per hour as stated in VA Code 46.2-870. Trucks are supposed to move with a speed of 45 miles per hour on limited access highways. The 55mph limit applies to passenger motor vehicles, motorcycles, pickup trucks and buses on such roads.
- Failing to Wear Safety Lap Belts and Shoulder Harnesses (VA Code 46.2-1094)
VA Code 46.2-1094 considers shoulder harnesses and lap belts as parts of a safety belt system. Passengers (who are at least 18 years old) can occupy the front seat with the safety belts wrapped around them. Penalties for violating this ordinance include fine of up to $25.
Find Legal Help on “Reckless Driving” Charges Near Me
Virginia courts give harsh treatments to driving crimes such as reckless driving. The most common reason for getting such charges is speeding. Remember that such a conviction can affect your criminal record forever.
At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we help clients as you get through this trying time legally and safely. Our law firm boasts of the best legal representation services across Fairfax, VA, and other surrounding areas. Give our Fairfax criminal lawyer a call 703-718-5533 today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you.