What is the punishment for Reckless Driving in Virginia?
Reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor which carries a punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. If convicted, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will also add points to your license, which can increase the cost of your vehicle insurance. The court can impose additional penalties depending on the circumstances, such as probation and a license loss. There's also the hidden cost of being subject to a possible investigation and having to appear in court. Some clients experience tough questions when applying for new jobs because these reckless driving charges appear on a criminal background check. If you're charged with a reckless driving offense, it can have a substantial impact on your life. Call today to speak with an experienced Traffic Defense Lawyer.
What is Reckless Driving?
There are over a dozen ways in which a person can be charged with reckless driving in Virginia. This is codified in Va. Code § 46.2-852 through Va. Code § 46.2-869. Let's start with the basic offense, referred to as the general rule:
“Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.”
This is often charged in traffic accidents. You can see by the first line, “irrespective of the maximum speeds,” that the purpose of this law is to charge based on driving behavior. A law school example of this would be driving the wrong way on the road. But it can also be charged in cases where a combination of traffic violations shows behavior that “endanger[s] the life, limb, or property of any person.” This charge, like all other versions of reckless driving, is punishable by 12 months in jail or a $2,500 fine.
There are many defenses available in reckless driving cases. The police can't charge you just because you were in a crash. That alone is not enough to sustain a conviction. Yet, it happens frequently in Virginia. Sometime police can overcharge a crash as well. Running a stop sign is a lesser infraction, but it can be charged as reckless driving if the officer is overzealous. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla, an experienced Traffic Defense Attorney, to learn about your defenses.
What are the other common types of Reckless Driving?
Va. Code § 46.2-853 – Faulty Brakes
“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control or which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes on any highway in the Commonwealth.”
This is often charged when someone is tailgating and causes a rear-end collision.
Va. Code § 46.2-859 – Passing a Stopped School Bus
“A person driving a motor vehicle shall stop such vehicle when approaching, from any direction, any school bus which is stopped…”
Va. Code § 46.2-861 – Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions
“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.”
This is typically charged if someone is driving too fast in the rain or snow or in heavy traffic. You do not need to cause a crash to be charged with this.
Va. Code § 46.2-863 – Failure to yield right-of-way
“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to bring his vehicle to a stop immediately before entering a highway from a side road when there is traffic approaching on such highway within 500 feet of such point of entrance, unless (i) a “Yield Right-of-Way” sign is posted or (ii) where such sign is posted, fails, upon entering such highway, to yield the right-of-way to the driver of a vehicle approaching on such highway from either direction.”
In Virginia, any reckless driving charge can be reduced to improper driving when the “degree of culpability is slight.” This reduces the charge from a class 1 misdemeanor to a traffic infraction. A traffic infraction does not carry jail time. Remember that Virginia treats DUIs, Assault and Battery, and other much more serious offenses as class 1 misdemeanors. You want to avoid having a criminal record. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla to speak with an experienced Traffic Defense Lawyer today.
Reckless Driving with Injury or Death:
Some states have laws that make reckless driving resulting in an injury or death a felony. Virginia does not have those laws, and often serious traffic cases are charged as reckless driving because that's the only option for the Commonwealth. While the law doesn't mandate increased penalties in these situations, the courts and prosecutors often ask for jail time or harsher punishment if someone was injured or killed. Mr. Tyler Bezilla used to be the prosecutor assigned to making charging decisions for these types of cases. He understands the nuances of these cases and defenses available to you. Set up a free consultation and speak with a skilled Traffic Crash Defense Lawyer today.
Mitigating Punishment in Reckless Driving Cases:
Often, there are ways to mitigate the punishment a court will give you. These include doing things like driver improvement courses, showing the court your good driver's license record, doing community service, and showing proof that insurance has paid for damages. These things are just as important as defending yourself because a skilled traffic defense lawyer can take those positive things you've done and present them in a convincing manner to the court and the Commonwealth. Sometimes the difference between a conviction for a reckless driving charge and a lesser offense is a good defense attorney showing the human side of your case to the government. Everyone has days where they're late to work, got bad news, or got distracted by something going on in life. These common troubles can cause us to press the gas pedal a bit too hard and lead to criminal charges. Your life shouldn't be irrevocably altered because you had a difficult moment. A former prosecutor, like Mr. Bezilla, knows what arguments hold weight with the Commonwealth and the courts. Call him today for a free consultation with a seasoned Traffic Defense Lawyer.