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Virginia Reckless Driving Lawyer
Facing criminal charges and the consequences of conviction is daunting for someone with no experience in the criminal justice system. This can be especially true if the crime you are accused of committing is as difficult to understand as reckless driving. Reckless driving charges are particularly difficult to grasp because they are open to a great deal of interpretation on behalf of the officer who stops you and, ultimately, the court. In general, reckless driving is defined as any person who drives a vehicle in a manner or speed that endangers the lives and property of others. That can include driving that endangers the health or property of any other people on any church, school, recreational facility, business or government property, driveways, or parking lots or structures, or on Virginia highways. Given the broad scope of activities that can be included in this charge, it is essential that you hire a well-qualified and experienced Virginia reckless driving lawyer to handle your case. Your attorney can answer all of your specific questions and help you craft the strongest possible defense. In the meantime, however, you can refer to the following page as a general guide on the topic of reckless driving in Virginia. You may also visit this page for more information on the reckless driving laws and charges in the Commonwealth.
What is Reckless Driving in Virginia?
Reckless driving charges may stem from a variety of traffic offenses. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that reckless driving is not a simple infraction. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and if you are convicted of the offense you will incur a criminal record. See Virginia Code Section 46.2-852.
In general terms, a number of moving violations can rise to the level of a reckless driving charges. Generally speaking, traffic violations that are charged as reckless driving are deemed more dangerous or serious than other traffic infractions or moving violations. For example, speeding five or 10 miles above the limit will likely result in a traffic ticket. These are costly, and can play havoc with your insurance premiums. However, if your speed was excessive, either 20 mph over the limit or deemed far to fast for road and/or weather conditions, a criminal reckless driving charge may be levied against you. Many other types of seemingly straightforward moving violations can be used as grounds for a reckless driving charge:
- Driving in excess of 20mph above the posted speed limit
- Driving at any speed over 80 mph, regardless of the posted limit
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
- Failure to signal
- Aggressive driving, such as weaving in and out of traffic
- Passing a vehicle on a curve
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Driving with faulty brakes
Virginia Reckless Driving Penalties
The Commonwealth of Virginia views reckless driving as a serious criminal charge. As such, the courts have the ability to hand out steep penalties even in cases involving a first conviction. The maximum sentence for a first reckless driving conviction is up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. You may also incur six demerit points against your driver’s license, which could severely impact your driving privileges depending on whether you have amassed other points against your license, or if you incur points in the future. Drivers who incur 12 points in a single calendar year must attend a driver improvement course and face other DMV penalties. Accrual of 18 demerit points within a single year will result in a suspension of your license for at least 90 days.
Penalties can increase in certain circumstances. If, for example, a person is convicted of reckless driving while driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license and the reckless driving led to the death or another person the charge becomes a Class 6 felony. Such felony crimes can result in one to five years in prison. A reckless driving attorney can petition the court to consider lesser penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. Those found using a handheld device will face a mandatory minimum $250 fine in addition to the penalty of the Class 1 misdemeanor. See Virginia Code Section 46.2-1078.1.
A reckless driving conviction will remain on your record for 11 years, meaning that it may be more difficult to pass background checks for certain jobs or qualify for car insurance coverage. It is also possible that you could see your auto insurance premiums spike as a result of the conviction. This means that the financial implications of a reckless driving conviction could follow you around years after your arrest.
Are Reckless Driving Charges Location Specific?
Reckless driving charges are state charges, and as such the law applies to all counties and cities within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Local jurisdictions, however, may be more or less inclined to impose the harshest sentencing terms. This is why it’s always a good idea to retain an attorney who is locally-based and who has handled reckless driving charges in the jurisdiction where you were charged. These locations can include: