A reckless driving charge is more serious than a typical traffic offense. Regular speeding tickets are only considered infractions and do not carry the possibility of jail time. However, reckless driving charges are Class 1 misdemeanors with a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Virginia courts consider reckless driving to be extremely dangerous and pose some kind of risk or endangerment to property or another person.
If you have been charged with reckless driving, you should seek the services of an experienced attorney. A Fairfax reckless driving lawyer could fight for you and help you avoid the serious penalties that come with a conviction.
Reckless driving is defined under Virginia Code § 46.2-852 as any kind of driving that can endanger the life, limb, or property of another person. Not every accident that requires a police response is charged as reckless driving. When there is a motor vehicle accident, the police will perform a preliminary investigation. They will analyze witness statements, the damage to the cars, and the placement of the damage to determine who they think was responsible for the accident.
If the witness statements indicate that one person was driving erratically and caused the accident, then that person is likely to get the ticket for reckless driving. If a driver has been injured, it is possible that even the injured driver could get a ticket for reckless driving if all of the indications point to that individual being the cause of the accident.
Reckless driving is far more serious than a speeding ticket and should not be treated lightly. If the defendant does not show up to court, a bench warrant can be put on them. It is wise to work with a local reckless driving attorney to ensure that all court dates are met.
Many actions that constitute reckless driving per se are separate offenses in and of themselves. For example, a person who drives more than 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit would still be guilty of speeding, even though their offense would typically be classified as reckless driving. However, there is no double jeopardy rule when it comes to moving violations that qualify as reckless driving. In other words, a police officer could criminally charge someone with reckless driving and give them a speeding ticket at the same time for the same action.
Certain offenses might be used by police officers to justify reckless driving charges even when the defendant’s actions do not warrant such a charge under the strict letter of the law. For instance, even though texting while driving is not expressly defined as a form of reckless driving, it is still illegal. A police officer could decide that this moving violation constitutes reckless driving in a particular situation.
Under most circumstances, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense in Fairfax, which means it is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Courts may pursue penalties closer to those maximums for what they consider to be more egregious reckless driving offenses—someone driving at over 100 miles per hour.
There are two circumstances under which reckless driving may be prosecuted as a felony offense rather than a misdemeanor. If an act of reckless driving directly caused someone else’s death, or if someone is charged with reckless driving during a license suspension or revocation period mandated by a prior traffic offense, their ensuing criminal charge would be categorized as a Class 6 felony.
Class 6 felonies—known colloquially as “wobblers”—give courts some leeway with regard to how harshly they are prosecuted. If the court chooses to treat this kind of offense as a felony, they may sentence a defendant to between one and five years in prison upon conviction. Alternatively, the court could treat this offense like a Class 1 misdemeanor, in which case the maximum penalties would be the same as those associated with a typical reckless driving charge. A lawyer who works with Fairfax reckless driving cases could fight to ensure a defendant does not get erroneously charged with a Class 6 felony.
Reckless driving by accident is considered by law enforcement to be more than just careless driving. The driver is usually either driving erratically, aggressively, or changing lanes too often. When a driver is charged with endangering other people, and if they did actually harm another person, then there is more of a risk for a conviction and higher penalties.
Defending reckless driving by accident charges can be easier than fighting reckless speeding charges because there could be valid reasons for doing so. For example, if a person is on their way to the hospital because their wife is in labor and they happened to be driving more aggressively and changing lanes often, then that could be an acceptable defense for reckless driving. It was a product of their specific situation and is not something they would be doing under normal circumstances.
In these cases, the court looks to see if this behavior is something the driver would normally do. Courts can recognize if there is an emergency or when something out of the ordinary was happening, and assess the charge accordingly.
If an individual was charged with reckless driving and they were not at fault for the accident, then they should reach out to a dedicated Fairfax reckless driving attorney to build a strong defense to fight the accusations.
In a reckless driving case, there are many different types of evidence that has to be presented. For a speeding charge, the officer will usually testify that they were tracking the driver by radar, lidar, or by pacing to determine that the defendant was going over the limit. For a case not involving speed, they must show a different set of evidence. The evidence must show that the individual was reckless by the manner in which they were driving, which is not always easy to determine.
Sometimes the manner of driving does not seem reckless to the driver but it may be considered reckless by the officer. This is why it is critical for defendants to seek the services of a skilled attorney who has experience handling these types of cases.
While reckless driving can be a serious criminal charge, and is among the most severely punished traffic violations defined under state law, a single conviction generally will not result in extreme administrative consequences with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). With only a couple of exceptions, a conviction for reckless driving is a six-point offense in the eyes of the DMV, and the first stage of DMV disciplinary proceedings does not kick in until a driver accumulates 12 points within a year-long span of time.
If a driver ends up having 12 points assessed on their license, they will be compelled to attend a driving education course, which, upon completion, can result in five points being removed from that driver’s license. Anyone who accumulates 18 points within 12 months or 24 points within 24 months will automatically have their license suspended. This would occur separately from any license suspension ordered by a court following a reckless driving conviction.
Furthermore, individuals accused of reckless driving are often charged with other traffic violations at the same time, meaning that a single incident could lead to much more than six points on a driver’s license if they are convicted on every charge they face. Assistance from a skilled reckless driving lawyer in the area is often essential to contesting these kinds of charges effectively, and minimizing the long-term effect that this violation could have on a defendant’s right to drive moving forward.
License suspensions and criminal sanctions are not the limit in terms of consequences that could result from a reckless driving conviction. Even if a defendant secures a favorable resolution in court and avoids jail time, having a reckless driving conviction on their record will almost certainly make their car insurance coverage—which state law requires all drivers to maintain—much more expensive.
The prices at which insurance companies choose to offer coverage to drivers in Fairfax can vary depending on each individual driver’s history of moving violations, accidents, and driving-related criminal charges. Depending on the circumstances, a reckless driving conviction may result in an insurance company charging the convicted party much more for coverage, or even dropping the insured from coverage altogether. Getting help from legal counsel when dealing with a reckless driving charge could be the only effective way to avoid secondary consequences and penalties in the future.
A reckless driving charge can also have a significant impact on someone’s commercial driver’s license. In some cases, such as reckless driving by speed, the court can suspend someone’s license. That includes a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in addition to a personal license. CDL drivers not only face possible court issues with driving offenses, but they might also run into employment issues.
In many instances, the driver has to inform their employer when they get a ticket or some kind of speeding violation on the road while they are in the scope of their employment duties, or when they are driving a company vehicle. The driver’s employer, even without a court’s input, can take action against their employees based on the ticket they received.
A CDL driver should inform their employer immediately if they are charged with reckless driving while on the job. The letter from their employer could simply state that this worker had a good driving record, they have been employed with the company for a substantive amount of time, and they could still maintain their employment if their license was not suspended. This could be used as helpful testimony in court.
A reckless driving conviction can also impact an individual’s job prospects. For instance, if they apply for a job and are asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime, they must answer yes, even though it may seem like a simple traffic offense. Therefore, it may be in the person’s best interest to reach out to a nearby reckless driving lawyer.
An experienced lawyer could be familiar with the state laws and know the unique nuances of each courthouse and judge. An attorney could also look into all important aspects of the case, such as the initial investigation, potential property damage, whether the individual is facing any insurance claims, or the injuries any party might have sustained in the accident.
The lawyer could then take the preliminary information that the defendant gave them and use it to look into further areas of interest to bolster their case. That includes speaking with the prosecutor assigned to the case, who might reveal whether there were body-worn cameras from the officers present, or other types of photographic evidence. This kind of evidence might not be uncovered by a defendant who chooses not to have a legal professional on their side.
After assembling all of the evidence and analyzing your case, an attorney could explain how best to defend against the charges leveled against you. If you are in dire need of legal counsel, reach out to a dedicated Fairfax reckless driving lawyer today. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better your odds are of assembling a strong defense.
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