to hear Reckless Driving Seminar
Reckless driving in Virginia is a serious criminal charge with possible ramifications to one's career, security clearance, and insurance costs. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor - in the same classification as a DWI charge.
As stated clearly in the Code of Virginia, the penalty parameters for reckless driving is up to one year in jail, and/or up to $2,500 in fines. Reckless driving also carries the possibility of a suspension of driving privileges for up to 6 months.
This is an actual question posed to the
Bose Law Firm via an email query from F.E. and shows the seriousness
of collateral issues from a naive guilty plea without competent counsel:
One should take note that jail sentences and suspensions of license are becoming commonplace due to political pressures and the frequency of fatalities from high speed accidents. Persons in northern Virginia charged with reckless driving should proceed with caution - particularly in the Alexandria District Court, Arlington GDC and Fairfax GDC.
NEWS ALERT: California auto rental company Avis is now restricting vehicle rentals for persons charged with any serious traffic infractions within five years of renting a vehicle. Such "serious traffic infractions" include reckless driving.
A conviction for reckless driving carries with it six (-6) demerit points as assessed by the DMV in Virginia. The courts in northern Virginia do not control the point issue and judges often state this at the beginning of the Court session.
If you are convicted of reckless driving and you have other convictions on your record including other reckless or speeding charges, you should seek the services of an attorney as there may be administrative action by the DMV upon your conviction. Also, a person with other traffic offenses and/or a negative point rating of the DMV record are often sentenced more harshly than persons with a positive ratings.
Judges love to see drivers with a +5 ratings and often give these drivers lower fines upon conviction of the reckless driving charge if the facts are not egregious. In Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington, however, Judges usually will not take this action without a motion from either the defendant or defense counsel.
A handful of Judges in northern Virginia will not reduce a reckless driving charge under any circumstance. In these cases, it is often intelligent to plea bargain with the prosecutor. Plea bargaining keeps the issue away from the judge and is beneficial because most Judges will not second guess the judgment of the prosecutor and will sign the order as presented. Note that in Fairfax, an unrepresented party will not be able to plea bargain with the prosecutor pursuant to policy.
Indeed, reckless driving is a serious criminal charge, but it is a catch-all offense often over-charged by police officers. Reckless driving; general rule § 46.2-852 is the most common charge for police officers. The language of the section is so broad that it can be applied under almost any circumstance. The other sections of the Code are much more specific.
In the case of general reckless driving, the government 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. Losing control of a vehicle because of an oil slick on the road, for instance, does not meet the level of proof required for this charge.
You wonder what is Virginia reckless driving?
In Virginia, reckless driving is Class One Misdemeanor Criminal Charge, punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, and a possible loss of your Virginia driving privilege for up to six months. In addition, you could be arrested and have your car impounded at the discretion of the police officer for committing this offense. To save time, most officers bind you to show in court through your signature on the "summons."
FORMS OF VIRGINIA RECKLESS DRIVING:
(1) The most common form of reckless driving is speeding 20+ over the speed limit;
§ 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, (ii) at a speed of sixty miles per hour or more where the applicable maximum speed limit is thirty-five miles per hour, (iii) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limits where the applicable maximum speed limit is forty miles per hour or more, or (iv) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit).
(2) Driving in a manner generally endangering others;
§ 46.2-852. Reckless driving;
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;
§ 46.2-859. Passing a stopped
school bus; prima facie evidence - A person is guilty of reckless driving
who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus
which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the
purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally
or physically handicapped persons, and to remain stopped until all the
persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the
bus is put in motion. The driver of a vehicle, however, need not stop when
approaching a school bus if the school bus is stopped on the other roadway
of a divided highway, on an access road, or on a driveway when the other
roadway, access road, or driveway is separated from the roadway on which
he is driving by a physical barrier or an unpaved area. The driver of a
vehicle also need not stop when approaching a school bus which is loading
or discharging passengers from or onto property immediately adjacent to
a school if the driver is directed by a law-enforcement officer or other
duly authorized uniformed school crossing guard to pass the school bus.
This section shall apply to school buses which are equipped with warning
devices prescribed in § 46.2-1090 and are painted yellow with the
words "School Bus" in black letters at least eight inches high on the front
and rear thereof. Only school buses which are painted yellow and equipped
with the required lettering and warning devices shall be identified as
(4) Overtaking/passing an emergency vehicle;
§ 46.2-829. Approach of law-enforcement or fire-fighting vehicles, rescue vehicles, or ambulances; violation as failure to yield right-of-way - Upon the approach of any emergency vehicle as defined in § 46.2-920 giving audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle, or air horn designed to give automatically intermittent signals, and displaying a flashing, blinking, or alternating emergency light or lights as provided in §§ 46.2-1022 through 46.2-1024, the driver of every other vehicle shall, as quickly as traffic and other highway conditions permit, drive to the nearest edge of the roadway, clear of any intersection of highways, and stop and remain there, unless otherwise directed by a law-enforcement officer, until the emergency vehicle has passed. This provision shall not relieve the driver of any such vehicle to which the right-of-way is to be yielded of the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway, nor shall it protect the driver of any such vehicle from the consequences of an arbitrary exercise of such right-of-way. Violation of this section shall constitute failure to yield the right-of-way; however, any violation of this section that involves overtaking or passing a moving emergency vehicle giving an audible signal and displaying activated warning lights as provided for in this section shall constitute reckless driving, punishable as provided in § 46.2-868.
§ 46.2-865. Racing; penalty
- Any person who engages in a race between two or more motor vehicles on
the highways in the Commonwealth or on any driveway or premises of a church,
school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public
in the Commonwealth shall be guilty of reckless driving, unless authorized
by the owner of the property or his agent. When any person is convicted
of reckless driving under this section, in addition to any other penalties
provided by law the driver's license of such person shall be suspended
by the court for a period of not less than six months nor more than two
years. In case of conviction the court shall order the surrender of the
license to the court where it shall be disposed of in accordance with the
provisions of § 46.2-398.
(6) Improper brakes, or while vehicle not under proper control;
§ 46.2-853. Driving vehicle which is not under control; 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.
§ 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.
(8) Passing a vehicle at a crest or a grade;
§ 46.2-854. Passing on or at
the crest of a grade or on a curve - A person shall be guilty of reckless
driving who, while driving a vehicle, overtakes and passes another vehicle
proceeding in the same direction, on or approaching the crest of a grade
or on or approaching a curve in the highway, where the driver's view along
the highway is obstructed, except where the overtaking vehicle is being
operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for
each direction of travel or on a designated one-way roadway or highway.
(9) Overloaded vehicle such as to obstruct/interfere with driver’s control;
§ 46.2-855. Driving with driver's view obstructed or control impaired - A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat such number of persons, as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or to interfere with the driver's control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.
(10) Passing another vehicle at a railroad grade crossing;
§ 46.2-858. Passing at a railroad grade crossing - A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who overtakes or passes any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction at any railroad grade crossing or at any intersection of highways unless such vehicles are being operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for each direction of travel or unless such intersection is designated and marked as a passing zone or on a designated one-way street or highway, or while pedestrians are passing or about to pass in front of either of such vehicles, unless permitted so to do by a traffic light or law-enforcement officer.
(11) Failing to give proper signal;
§ 46.2-860. Failing to give proper signals - A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to give adequate and timely signals of intention to turn, partly turn, slow down, or stop, as required by Article 6 (§ 46.2-848 et seq.) of this chapter.
(12) Failure to yield right-of-way when merging onto highway;
§ 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.
(13) Passing two vehicles abreast;
§ 46.2-856. Passing two
vehicles abreast - A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who passes
or attempts to pass two other vehicles abreast, moving in the same direction,
except on highways having separate roadways of three or more lanes for
each direction of travel, or on designated one-way streets or highways.
This section shall not apply, however, to a motor vehicle passing two other
vehicles when one or both of such other vehicles is a bicycle, electric
personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or
moped; nor shall this section apply to a bicycle, electric personal assistive
mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped passing two
(14) Driving two abreast in a single lane;
§ 46.2-857. Driving two
abreast in a single lane - A person shall be guilty of reckless driving
who drives any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, so as to be abreast
of another vehicle in a lane designed for one vehicle, or drives any motor
vehicle, including any motorcycle, so as to travel abreast of any other
vehicle traveling in a lane designed for one vehicle. However, this section
shall not apply to any validly authorized parade, motorcade, or motorcycle
escort, nor shall it apply to a motor vehicle traveling in the same lane
of traffic as a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric
power-assisted bicycle, or moped.),
(15) Driving over 80 mph.
§ 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, (ii) at a speed of sixty miles per hour or more where the applicable maximum speed limit is thirty-five miles per hour, (iii) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limits where the applicable maximum speed limit is forty miles per hour or more, or (iv) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit).
The reckless driving offense can even occur on a “parking lot”.
§ 46.2-864. Reckless driving on parking lots, etc. - A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who operates any motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person:
1. On any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility,
or business property open to the public; or
HOW COULD A RECKLESS CONVICTION IMPACT ME?
Reckless driving can have a significant impact in several aspects of your life. It can and usually does impact your insurance premiums – either by increasing your rates or having the insurance company dropping you altogether. On May 21, 2005, the Bose Law firm received a call from a Florida resident who was found guilty of RD in Virginia six months prior. This potential client was sufferring from a 400% increase ($2000 premiums for 6 months) in insurance premiums due to a guilty plea to Virginia reckless driving (driving 84 mph in a 65 mph zone (a clean record otherwise)). This gentleman wanted an "appeal" after six months due to his misunderstanding of the collateral effects of a conviction - a costly error in risk/benefit analysis.
If you have a security clearance, or if you are the process of trying to obtain one, depending on the level of clearance and facts of the case tending to prove lack of good judgment / irresponsibility, a reckless driving conviction can hinder the process. If you are a police officer or in the process of applying for a position as a police officer / LEO (law enforcement officer), most law enforcement agencies will not consider one for a position as an LEO if one holds a conviction for reckless driving.
If you are in the process of trying to become a United States citizen, it could have a negative impact on that process by elongating the time for the government to conduct your background check. Since the reckless driving charge is a criminal offense, you must divulge this conviction on the proper forms for immigration purposes - particularly if there was an arrest.
A reckless driving can impact your privilege to drive altogether in Virginia as the Virginia DMV can suspend your Virginia driving privileges because of too many points/tickets. This is in addition, and independent of, any suspensions ordered by the Judge in court.
If you have a commercial driver’s license, you could have it disqualified for a period of time.
Va.Code Ann. § 46.2-341.20 (2004). The Department of Motor Vehicles will disqualify for the below-listed period of time:
1. A sixty-day disqualification period for any person convicted of two
serious traffic violations within three years; or
All disqualifications run consecutively, and not concurrently. Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-341.20 (2004).
WHAT DO I DO?
So what do you do if you are one of the hundreds of people every year who get charged with reckless driving all over Virginia?
First, do not plead guilty without the advice of counsel. Why?
It is possible to have a defense to this charge. Sometimes you are
charged with reckless driving, but the charge may more properly be the
lower offense of “improper driving” – a non-criminal traffic offense.
An improper driving charge carries with it up to a $500 fine, and a negative
three-point violation on your Virginia DMV record.
VIRGINIA RECKLESS DRIVING DEFENSES
A properly prepared attorney can help you prepare for court as well.
Sometimes there are mitigating issues that may help in getting the charge
reduced. These defenses, and mitigating factors include:
One or more of these defenses may be applicable to your case. Different jurisdictions view these defenses, and mitigating factors differently, so make sure you have an attorney who is familiar with your charging court, and with whom you are comfortable.
Things that an attorney may have you do before court would include:
(1) getting your speedometer
Keep in mind, if you are ever one of those unfortunate persons who find
themselves in such a predicament, consult an experienced attorney before
you go to court. It may make all the difference.
Sentencing occurs after one is convicted of the charge of reckless driving or if one pleads guilty to the charge without a trial. Factors judges often take into account during the sentencing phase include the defendant's
(1) Other contemporaneous
charges with the reckless driving charge,
Judges have a great deal of latitude in sentencing an individual for reckless driving; the range of punishment is quite wide. In the county of Fairfax, if the reckless driving via speed is between 85 and 89 in a 55 mph zone with no other aggressive/reckless factors such as weaving, one has a very high probability of suspension of license and a fine as forms of sentence. If speeds are in excess of 30 mph above the speed limit, above 90 mph regardless of speed limit, or if there was an accident resulting in injuries to third parties from the reckless driving, there is a high probability of jail time, suspension of license and fine. For cases involving motorcycles and sports cars exceeding 100 mph, it is imperative to obtain competent counsel for Court.
In all cases of reckless driving involving speed as a factor, a key defense issue is how the speed was assessed. If the speed was assessed by pace, there must be an adequate period of steady pace and a foundation of police training in conducting speed assessment via pace. If the case is based on radar or laser, there must be calibrations of those devices.
Often, the issue
in radar and laser cases will revolve around the calibration certificates.
Key issues include whether the calibration certificates are notarized,
whether the calibrations are older than six months, and whether there is
any distinction between the date of notarization and date of testing.
In attacking the certificates, one is basically lodging a evidentiary objection
to the introduction of the certificates into evidence via lack of authentication
the evidence, lack or reliability of the testing, or breach of Code sections
regarding such devices.
It is important to
remember that calibrations are equally important for the defendant charged
with a speeding offense. If one obtains a notarized calibration
from an automotive establishment, the Court must take into account this
evidence as mandated by Code in both the determination of guilt and in
sentencing. For newer vehicles, conducting a calibration is often
not beneficial; however, for older vehicles, calibrations are often worth
the effort. If the reckless driving by speed is 75-79 mph in a 55
mph zone and there is a calibration indicating a faulty speedometer, one
may move the Court to amend the charge to defective equipment (non-moving
violation) or improper driving (-3 points) instead of reckless driving.