- What should I do if I am charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia?
- What can affect the type of sentence I receive if I am found guilty?
- Reckless Driving charges in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Prince William County.
- May I appeal if I am found guilty of Reckless Driving?
The most common Reckless Driving ticket issued is for speeding 20+ mph over the speed limit or allegations that you drove more than 80 miles per hour. In Northern Virginia or on I-95, many people find it easy to be caught up in the flow of traffic. If you were unfortunate enough be accused of traveling at those speeds, your ticket was probably issued under Virginia Code Section 46.2-862.
Virginia Code Section 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit – A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit where the applicable speed limit is thirty miles per hour or less, or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.
Virginia Code Section 46.2-852 is another type of Reckless Driving charge often used by police officers. The language of the section is very broad and it can be applied in very different circumstances. The other sections of the Virginia Code are more specific. In cases of general reckless driving under Section 46.2-852, the Commonwealth’s Attorney must prove that the driver (1) drove at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger life, limb, or property of another; or (2) that the driver disregarded the consequences of his actions and displayed an indifference to the safety of life, limb, or property. The action must be intentional on the part of the driver.
So what do you do if you are one of the hundreds of people every year who get charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia?
First, do not plead guilty to a Reckless Driving charge without the advice of counsel. As indicated above, there are serious consequences and you should have an criminal and traffic law attorney counsel you concerning all possible defenses to a Reckless Driving ticket. There are times when people are charged with reckless driving, an attorney can convince the judge or the prosecutor that you driving behavior was only ” improper driving” – a non-criminal traffic offense. If you are found guilty of “improper driving”, it is NOT a misdemeanor and the maximum punishment for the charge is a potential $500 fine, and 3 demerit points assessed on your Virginia DMV record.
Sentencing occurs after one is convicted of the charge of reckless driving after a trial or if one pleads guilty to the charge without a trial. Judges often take into account many factors during the sentencing phase of a trial. These factors include:
- The speed you were traveling or the dangerousness of the driving behavior;
- Other contemporaneous charges with the reckless driving charge;
- DMV record and point rating (previous convictions);
- Whether there were any injuries to third parties caused by the reckless driving;
- Your demeanor in court; and
- Whether you were belligerent with the police officer at the scene of the stop.
Of course the demeanor and attitude of the judge or prosecutor may affect the sentence you receive. Different judges have different perspectives towards certain types of Reckless Driving cases and these unknowable factors could increase or decrease your punishment if convicted.
If you are accused of Reckless Driving by speeding more than 90 miles per hour in the above counties, there is a rule of thumb held by many judges to assign 1 day in jail or more for each mile per hour above 90 mph. This also applies for Manassas, Leesburg, Fairfax, and Arlington if you exceed 35 mph above the speed limit in lower speed zones. For instance, in front of some judges, a Reckless Driving conviction for 94 mph in a 55 mph will result in a 4 day jail sentence. If you have a bad driving record, the likelihood of even more jail time is increased.
You should expect your attorney to have experience in representing people who have been accused of speeding at these high speeds. Your attorney should be prepared to present mitigating evidence to the Commonwealth’s Attorney or the court in order to try to lessen the risk of a lengthy jail sentence.
In a word, Yes. You have 10 days to file an appeal from the date you were found guilty by a General District Court judge. The appeal can have serious consequences because it is a trial de novo. That means the results of your first trial are erased and you start over fresh in Circuit Court. The prosecutor may or may not be the same one who prosecuted you in General District Court. You will have a different judge. You or the Commonwealth’s Attorney may request a jury trial.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney must (again) attempt to present a case to a judge or a jury that you were Reckless Driving. The evidence and testimony may or may not change, but the prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. You must also know the sentence also may change for the better or for the worse. Your attorney can explain the risks and/or benefits of a jury trial.
The lawyers of The Gordon Law Firm have represented more than 600 people charged with Reckless Driving and other traffic related misdemeanors in Northern Virginia. If you have any questions about Reckless Driving, call our law firm for a free initial consultation at 866.591.6682 or 703.218.8416 or e-mail us.