What Is Reckless Driving in Virginia?

You are driving down a Virginia interstate headed to vacation in the mountains or at the beach.  The sun is out and the Virginia pine trees are beautiful.  All of a sudden, while you are taking in this sunny Virginia day you notice blue lights flashing behind you.  It’s a Virginia state trooper or some other Virginia law enforcement officer pulling you over.  “I must be going a little too fast,” you say to yourself as you pull into the right emergency shoulder.  You didn’t realize that you were going about eleven or twelve miles per hour over the speed limit, which you noticed earlier is seventy miles per hour.  The officer approaches your vehicle, explains that you were going a little too fast and heads back to his patrol car to write you a summons.  “Just my luck,” you think to yourself.  “Only I could get a speeding ticket on my way to vacation.”  While waiting for the officer to finish handling his paperwork in his car, you contemplate how much money this ticket is going to cost you, how many points you’ll receive on your driving record and, most importantly, how much your auto insurance rates are going to increase over this little mistake. 12559901_blog

But then the moment of surprise comes.  The officer approaches your vehicle again, this time with some papers in his hand.  He tells you he wrote you for going eighty-two miles per hour in a seventy mile per hour zone, and as a result he wrote you for Reckless Driving rather than simple speeding.  “Reckless Driving?  What does that mean?,” you ask the officer.  He explains to you that Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor criminal offense instead of a traffic infraction and that you must appear in Court on the appropriate date to deal with the charge.

You are shocked, to say the least.  You can’t believe it.  How could driving twelve miles per hour over the speed limit be anything but a simple speeding ticket, much less a crime?

As attorneys who handle a large number of Reckless Driving cases in central-Virginia, this scenario, and these questions, are very similar to those we confront regularly with clients and prospective clients.  Those clients and prospective clients are often surprised when we inform them that the officer was right, and that, in fact, there are several ways that a person can be charged with, and convicted of, Reckless Driving in Virginia.

Under Virginia law there are a couple common ways a person can face a charge of Reckless Driving.  By far the most common way is the situation described above.  It is often referred to as Reckless Driving by Speed.  In Virginia, anyone driving twenty miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit, or, over eighty miles per hour (regardless of the speed limit) has committed the offense of Reckless Driving.  As many judges often explain in courthouses throughout Virginia, this particular type of Reckless Driving has absolutely nothing to do with the manner of driving (such as swerving, driving aggressively or passing in an unsafe manner, etc…).  Rather, it is the speed, and speed alone, that causes one to be charged with, and ultimately convicted of, Reckless Driving.

The other common way in which people get charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia is when an accident occurs, or almost occurs.  Under Virginia law, a person who drives in a reckless manner or “in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.”  Unlike Reckless Driving by Speed this particular type of Reckless Driving has everything to do with the person’s manner of driving.  Some common examples of situations where Virginia judges find Reckless Driving is when the person is driving while playing with the radio or GPS, driving while texting or talking on the phone, or falling asleep behind the wheel due to fatigue.  Likewise, driving too fast for road conditions after it has rained or snowed, weaving or swerving in and out of traffic, or weaving excessively within one’s lane can be deemed Reckless Driving.  Although the above are examples of behavior often considered Reckless Driving it is certainly not exhaustive.  Moreover, while it is often the case that Reckless Driving is charged when these behaviors result in an accident, it is clearly not the case that an accident must occur in order to be convicted of this charge.

Finally, while all of the instances discussed above are common ways people get charged with, and convicted of, Reckless Driving in Virginia, Virginia law also provides for many other ways in which a Reckless Driving charge can be successfully prosecuted.  For a more extensive list, feel free to visit the Virginia DMV website at http://www.dmvnow.com/drivers/#points_6.asp.

It is also important to note that as stated earlier, Reckless Driving is not merely a traffic infraction like a speeding ticket.  In fact, it is a criminal offense that can carry very stiff penalties.  It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, and the maximum penalty upon being convicted of Reckless Driving is a $2500 fine, twelve month jail sentence, and a 6 month loss of your privilege to drive in Virginia.

At Weiland Upton we dedicate a great deal of our practice to handling cases for clients charged with Reckless Driving.  Although each jurisdiction and judge is different, we are often successful at getting Reckless Driving charges dismissed or reduced to more minor charges for clients.

Weiland Upton is a leading firm of Virginia reckless driving lawyers.

Call (804) 355-8037 for a free consultation

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