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Virginia Reckless Driving Charges for Out-of-State Drivers

Every out of state driver should know that speeding tickets in Virginia are extremely serious and they come with the possibility of a criminal misdemeanor conviction. It’s very possible here in Virginia for somebody who’s excessively speeding to be charged with reckless driving instead of just speeding. This is something that needs to be taken very seriously because often, it will require an out-of-state driver to have to come back to the Commonwealth to appear in person. It also can have very long-term consequences if a conviction results, because it’s a permanent criminal conviction with the possibility of jail time.

Impact of Virginia Reckless Driving Charges on Out-of-State Drivers

If you are an out-of-state driver who is convicted of reckless driving in Virginia and you are from a state that is part of the Interstate Compact on Driver’s Licenses, which 46 of the states are, Virginia would communicate with the state where you are licensed and tell your home state electronically that you were convicted of reckless driving in Virginia. You would have to look at the law in your home state to determine what, if any, effect it is going to have on your driver’s license.

If you are a Virginia driver and you receive a conviction for a moving violation from another state, Virginia will assess demerit points for that conviction, but that is not true in every state. The idea is that the home state where the driver got their license dictates essentially what will happen if they are convicted of reckless driving in Virginia.

Virginia Courts

An out-of-state driver accused of reckless driving does have to come to the jurisdiction where the charge originated. They have to answer to the charge in person. That actually happens quite often, especially in this area where there is a lot of interstate travel on Interstate 95 and people passing through the state do not realize that the speed limit has changed from 75 to 55, so they get pulled over and they are charged with reckless driving. They may have no ties to Virginia whatsoever, but they will be charged with reckless driving and are required to come back to Virginia to answer the charge. If they do not, then it is possible that the court will issue a bench warrant for their failure to appear.

Inability to Attend a Court Date

Many out-of-state clients are unable to attend a court date. It is important to have an attorney because if the home state, meaning the state in which the person is licensed, is part of the interstate compact on driver licenses, which all but four states are, then the reckless driving conviction in Virginia will be communicated to their home state, and the home state could either asses demerit points to their record, or could suspend their driver’s license. Also, if they do not show up to court and blow it off because they cannot prepay, for example, a bench warrant for their arrest could be issued. Generally, that does not happen and they would just be tried in their absence, but the court could impose a $2,500 dollar fine.

If they do not pay the fine and they have an outstanding fine in Virginia, their privilege to drive in Virginia will be suspended, even if they are not licensed there. Their home state will find out about it, which can cause problems down the road when they try to renew their license or if they go to another state and try to get a license. It can have a snowball effect. It is important to hire an attorney if you are charged with reckless driving in Virginia even if you are out-of-state because there are a lot of unknown consequences that could affect you.

How Virginia Treats Speeding

Virginia treats speeding differently from many other jurisdictions. They are very strict when it comes to speeding, and any person driving 20 mph or more over the speed limit may be charged with a misdemeanor reckless driving offense. This means that somebody driving at a speed in Virginia that in any other state would be considered a traffic infraction, will actually amount to a criminal misdemeanor here in Virginia. This is very serious because that kind of behavior can result in active jail time, which, for out-of-state drivers in particular, is a very difficult and inconvenient penalty.

Reckless Driving Charges for Out-of-State Drivers

An out-of-state driver who’s charged with reckless driving should contact a Virginia reckless driving attorney as soon as possible. Whether they need to appear in court really depends on how fast they were going. Some judges in Virginia will excuse an out-of-state driver charged with reckless driving from appearing in court if the speed is close to the line between speeding and reckless. The best thing to do is to contact a reckless driving defense lawyer to see if it’s possible for you to waive your appearance or not.

Checking the Ticket Issued

An out-of-state driver who has been ticketed for speeding in Virginia should make sure that what they’re being summoned for is actually a speeding ticket and not reckless driving. They should look very carefully at the document that was issued to them by the police officer to know for sure what the charge is.

On the document, it’ll state whether they’re charged with reckless driving or speeding. The difference is that if they’re charged with reckless driving, they will be required to return to Virginia in person, regardless of whether they have a lawyer, to answer to the charge in court. For speeding, it’s possible to get an attorney to appear on your behalf or, in the alternate, you can plead guilty by prepaying the fine online.

The ticket is very vague. There won’t be clear cut instructions for out-of-state drivers, but it will specify that if you’re charged with reckless driving, you don’t have the option to waive your appearance in court.

For a speeding ticket, which is simply a traffic infraction instead of a criminal misdemeanor, you do have the option and on the ticket it will clearly say that the driver is excused from having to appear in court if you so choose to do so, and will also provide information on how to plead guilty and pre-pay the ticket.

How a Virginia Reckless Driving Attorney Can Help

An out-of-state driver who’s charged with reckless driving should contact a Virginia reckless driving attorney as soon as possible. Whether they need to appear in court really depends on how fast they were going. Some judges in Virginia will excuse an out-of-state driver charged with reckless driving from appearing in court if the speed is close to the line between speeding and reckless. The best thing to do is to contact a reckless driving lawyer to see if it’s possible for you to waive your appearance or not.

If you want to fight the charge, a Virginia reckless driving lawyer can help by potentially appearing in court on your behalf. This is not always possible with reckless driving. It really depends on the situation, especially if it’s by speed. For speed-related reckless driving, it’s going to depend on how fast you are going and the state of your driving record. It requires that the judge agree to waive the defendant’s appearance, and a lawyer can help determine whether that’s a possibility.

Going to Court on Your Behalf

Whether the lawyer can go to court on your behalf is going to depend on whether the judge approves the decision to have the appearance waived. Generally, it depends on how fast the person was going. If they were going at a truly excessive speed like 90 miles per hour or more or 30 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, generally judges will not allow defendants to waive their appearance and the lawyer won’t be able to appear for them.

Being unaware of Virginia’s traffic laws is not a defense. Anybody who is driving on Virginia’s highways is subject to Virginia law, and whether they have taken the time to make themselves familiar is irrelevant.

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