Category: Questions

Is Reckless Driving a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Virginia?

Reckless driving, whether the charge is based on excessive speed or results from an accident, is a crime in Virginia.  There are numerous out of state drivers and some Virginia drivers who are shocked to learn traveling on a highway at 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone may be charged as reckless driving.  Under this specific circumstance, a person may actually be charged with reckless driving for going eleven miles over the posted speed limit.

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In Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor.  There are four classifications of criminal misdemeanors in Virginia.  Class 4 and Class 3 misdemeanors are only finable criminal offenses.  Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by confinement in jail for not more than six months and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.  In Virginia, a Class 1 misdemeanor is the misdemeanor with the most severe potential punishment.  A person convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor may be sent to jail for not more than twelve months and/or fined not more than $2,500.  Reckless driving is only one of many crimes classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia.  Examples of other crimes classified as Class 1 misdemeanors are driving under the influence of alcohol, first offense, driving under the influence of alcohol, second offense, assault and battery, trespass, and sexual battery.

It is highly unlikely a person charged with reckless driving for speeding 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone would be sentenced to an active or suspended jail sentence.  Usually, the punishment for a conviction of reckless driving at that speed is a fine.  However, persons who speed well in excess of 80 miles per hour on the highways and interstates of Virginia put themselves at increased risk for the imposition of a license suspension or a suspended or active jail sentence.  For instance, persons charged with speeding more than 90 miles per hour in Chesterfield County are normally sentenced to an active jail sentence and have their license or privilege to drive in Virginia suspended.  The maximum license suspension allowed by Virginia statute for a conviction of reckless driving is six months.

Any person charged with reckless driving in Virginia should take the charge seriously because reckless driving is a crime.  In some cases, criminal convictions may detrimentally affect a person’s ability to obtain employment or obtain a promotion in their current job.  Reckless driving is a crime in Virginia whether the person charged was speeding 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone or speeding 110 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone.  The punishment for a conviction for speeding 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone will differ greatly from the punishment for a person convicted of speeding 110 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone.  However, regardless of punishments imposed, both persons will have a criminal conviction.  That’s why it’s important to consult an attorney with experience defending person’s charged with reckless driving in Virginia.

At Weiland Upton, we understand the chaos that being charged with the crime of reckless driving can cause in your life.  That’s why we are committed to providing our clients the highest level of legal representation.  We are intimately familiar with each of the courts and judges in Richmond and dozens of surrounding counties.  Our regular practice in these courts allows us to achieve the best possible outcome for each case.  Depending on the driver’s record, we can often convince the Court to dismiss the charge or reduce it to a less-serious traffic charge, avoiding a criminal conviction.

If you have been charged with reckless driving and would like to discuss your charge with one of our experienced attorneys, please give us a call at 804-355-8037.  We will give you a free consultation and can discuss our strategy for achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

Find out more – Frequently Asked Questions About Reckless Driving

Is driving on a suspended license in Virginia a serious offense?

Yes, driving on a suspended driver’s license is a very serious offense in Virginia.  Under Virginia law, driving on a suspended driver’s license is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.  A Class 1 Misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor offense in Virginia, and is just one classification short of being a felony offense.

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Since a conviction for driving on a suspended license is a Class 1 Misdemeanor it can result in a very serious fine up to $2,500.00.  Although it is rare to receive the maximum fine, it is not uncommon for Virginia judges to issue a fine of several hundred dollars upon finding someone guilty of driving on a suspended license.  This only serves to place a person in a much more serious financial crisis considering that most people charged and convicted of driving on a suspended license are suspended due to their failure to pay fines and court costs they already owe to the courts for prior traffic or criminal convictions.

In addition, a conviction for driving on a suspended license often comes with an additional license suspension that is separate and apart from the underlying suspension that is the basis of the driving suspended charge.  Virginia law requires the judge who convicts a defendant of driving on a suspended driver’s license to suspend that person’s license for the same period of time for which the person’s license was originally suspended.  For example, if the person’s license was originally suspended for six months due to a Reckless Driving conviction, and that person is then later convicted on a driving suspended charge, the judge must resuspend the person’s license for an additional six months.  If that person’s original license suspension was for an indefinite period of time, then Virginia law allows a judge to resuspend that person’s license for up to an additional ninety days if they are convicted for driving on a suspended license.  And to make matters worse, these new and separate license suspensions do not begin to “run” until the underlying suspension is completely resolved.

Finally, a conviction for driving on a suspended license often results in an active jail sentence.  In fact, Virginia judges are required by law to sentence individuals convicted of a third or subsequent offense of driving on a suspended license to a mandatory minimum ten day active jail sentence.  Many Virginia judges give significantly more jail time in cases involving a fourth or subsequent offense.  And by virtue of being a Class 1 Misdemeanor a judge can sentence a person convicted of driving on a suspended driver’s license up to twelve months in jail.

As you can see, a conviction for driving on a suspended driver’s license in Virginia is a very serious matter.  If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being charged with this offense you should contact an attorney who handles a large volume of traffic matters and regularly appears in the court your case is scheduled to be heard.  A good traffic attorney can provide you with very sound advice on how to put yourself in a position to achieve the best possible result for your case.

Weiland Upton is a leading firm of Virginia reckless driving lawyers

Call (804) 355-8037 for a free consultation

Can out of state traffic violations hurt your Virginia driving record?

As Virginia traffic lawyers we are often asked by clients and prospective clients who hold a Virginia driver’s license whether a speeding ticket or other traffic violation received in another state can hurt their Virginia driving record.  The answer is yes.

Virginia-Traffic-Violations.jpgSince at least the late 1990s, many states’ motor vehicle authorities (DMVs) have participated in an information sharing network with one another.  Although a new network called the Driver’s License Agreement is expected to become the predominate information sharing hub for most states’ DMVs, the two major networks that many states currently use are the Driver’s License Compact and the Non-resident Violator Compact.  Essentially, the way all of these compacts work is that the states that participate in them have agreed to share information with one another concerning traffic convictions (speeding, reckless driving, failure to yield, failure to obey a traffic sign or DUI/DWI, etc…) that have occurred in their state.  In particular, these convictions are sent from the convicting state to the state where that person is licensed (often referred to as the “home state”), ultimately ensuring that the person’s driving record is negatively impacted as a result of a traffic infraction regardless of where the infraction occurs.

Perhaps the essence of these compacts is easiest to understand with an example.  Assume you live in and are licensed in Virginia, and you decide to take your family on a vacation to Florida.  Due to a traffic jam in North Carolina you decide to make up some time by exceeding the speed limit in South Carolina.  This plan to make up time is working out well until a police officer pulls you over and writes you a ticket for speeding.  Thinking this ticket will not affect your Virginia driving record since it happened in South Carolina you decide to simply prepay the ticket.  While that decision may save you some time by not traveling to South Carolina to defend the ticket and some money by not hiring an attorney to assist you with the ticket, the South Carolina DMV will very likely report the speeding conviction to the Virginia DMV.  As a result, what you previously believed was a harmless speeding ticket will very likely appear on your Virginia driving record and cost you precious Virginia demerit points.

Although our example involves a speeding ticket, the same concept is true for all different kinds of traffic infractions.  And to compound the problem, some people chose not to pay the fine and court costs for a ticket that is issued to them in a state different from where they are licensed.  They falsely assume that state’s DMV cannot do anything to harm them or their license status in their home state.  Unfortunately for them, their belief is wrong.  When the person chooses not to pay the fine and/or court costs that state then suspends that person’s privilege to drive in their state, and then notifies the person’s home state of the suspension.  Oftentimes the home state will then not renew that person’s license when the existing license expires due to the suspension pending in the other state.

As a result, it is critically important for people who are charged with speeding, reckless driving, or any other traffic infraction to consider hiring an attorney who can try to get the charge dismissed or reduced to a less serious traffic infraction that results in fewer demerit points, or none at all. Failure to do so will likely have a significant impact on their driving record, even if the ticket is issued in a state other than their home state.

Weiland Upton is a leading Virginia Traffic Law Firm

Call (804) 355-8037 for a free consultation

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How to Obtain Your Virginia Driving Record

The old adage, “The advice you receive is only as good as the accuracy of the information you provide,” is very applicable when consulting an attorney in a traffic case.  It’s important for the attorney to know as much of the prospective client’s driving record as possible during an initial consultation.  A current driver history or driving record is the best way to provide an attorney with that information.

VA-DMV-Driving-RecordEach state maintains a driving record for drivers licensed to drive in those states.  It’s important to consult the procedures for obtaining driving records applicable to the state in which a person is licensed to drive.  The type of records available to drivers varies greatly from state to state.  For instance, drivers licensed in North Carolina may obtain a three year or seven year driving record.  On the other hand, Virginia licensed drivers are only able to obtain an eleven year driver history from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.  Please keep in mind even former Virginia licensed drivers may have a Virginia driving history.  So, a person currently licensed in Maryland who had a Virginia driver’s license five years ago, should obtain a Maryland and a Virginia driving record.

How to Request Your Virginia Driving Record

There are three ways to obtain a Virginia driving history.

  1. The first and most convenient is to use the Internet.  Simply go to www.dmv.virginia.gov and apply for a MyDMV Account.  Once a MyDMV Account is established, two types of records may be obtained; a Record at a Glance and an Official Record.  The Record at a Glance is provided free of charge.  It provides the current driving status (licensed, not licensed suspended, or revoked), point balance, driving restrictions, organ donor status, and expiration date.  However, an attorney is going to need more information than is contained the Record at a Glance.  The type of record is the full record.  This is way more useful to an attorney because this record includes the types and number of convictions on your record as well as the years those convictions occurred.  The cost for obtaining a full driving record online is $7.00.  Please keep in mind it may take up to fifteen days for you to receive your driving record in the mail.  However, a person may view their full driving record online for five days from the date of purchase.
  2. The second method of obtaining a driving record is to go to the nearest Virginia DMV Service Center.  It costs $8.00 to obtain a driving record at a Virginia DMV Service Center.
  3. The third way to obtain a driving record is to request one by mail.  The mailing address is:

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Attention: Vehicle (Driver) Records Work Center
P. O. Box 27412, Richmond, VA 23269

Make sure to enclose a personal check, money order, or certified check for $8.00 along with your name, address, social security number, and the reason for your record request.

It’s wise to obtain a current driving record before contacting a traffic attorney regarding your case.  Providing the attorney with the most up to date driver history permits the attorney to provide you with the best advice possible.  An experienced attorney will be able to combine his or her knowledge of a specific jurisdiction with the driving record information to formulate an effective representation strategy.

Weiland Upton is a leading Virginia Traffic Law Firm

Call (804) 355-8037 for a free consultation

How long will demerit points remain on my record

How Long Do Demerit Points Stay on Your Driving Record in Virginia?

As Virginia traffic attorneys, we are often asked by clients and prospective clients how long points resulting from a moving violation such as speeding or reckless driving will remain on their driving record.

How long will demerit points remain on my recordUnfortunately, the answer to that simple question is not always so easy to answer because it depends on the state in which the client or prospective client holds a driver’s license.  Each state has its own set of rules concerning the number of demerit points any given traffic infraction will result in and for the length of time those points will remain that person’s driving record.

In Virginia, for instance, our Department of Motor Vehicles (often referred to as “DMV”) is responsible for maintaining the driving records for individuals who hold a Virginia driver’s license.  When someone is convicted of a moving violation the convicting court sends a notice of conviction and all information concerning the conviction to the DMV.  The DMV then notes the violation on the person’s driving record along with the number of demerit points to be assessed, the date the offense occurred and the date of conviction.

For a person licensed in Virginia the demerit points for any given offense only remains on their driving record for two years.  After two years, the offense may remain on the person’s record for a longer period of time, and in some instances for ten years or more, depending on the infraction (speeding, reckless driving, driving under the influence, etc…) but the demerit points themselves will only remain on the driving record for two years.

Again, however, each state’s laws are different.  While two years is the rule for those who hold a license in Virginia, individuals who hold a license in a different state may want to review their state’s DMV website or contact an attorney who handles traffic matters and who is licensed in their state.