Many people view traffic violations as so insignificant that they don’t need an attorney. However, this is simply not the case. Even “minor” traffic infractions can impact your life and your personal record for years to come. This is especially true for reckless driving charges in Virginia. If you receive a conviction, you might be penalized with a fine of over $1,000, see your insurance premiums drastically increase, and even serve jail time in some cases.
At the Manassas Law Group, we’re here to explain what constitutes reckless driving in Virginia, why you might need a reckless driving attorney, and why you should take these violations extremely seriously. To speak with a Manassas motor vehicle attorney from our firm, give us a call at (703) 361-8246 or reach out to us online today.
What is the law for reckless driving in VA?
According to Virginia law (Code of Virginia § 46.2-852), a person commits the offense of reckless driving when he or she drives a motor 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.”
It is not necessary that someone surpasses the speed limit to drive recklessly. Reckless driving, while it does involve speeding, also includes other specific actions. It is considered a criminal offense, unlike normal speeding, which is a traffic infraction. Speeding in excess of 20 mph over the maximum speed limit or over 85 mph is reckless driving, not just speeding.
Examples of Reckless Driving
There are a number of different scenarios in which a person might be charged with reckless driving. If law enforcement officers observe you performing any of the following actions, they have the right to arrest you for reckless driving:
- Driving a car with faulty or poorly-adjusted brakes
- Driving next to another vehicle while on a one-lane road
- Failing to yield
- Racing another vehicle
- Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions
- Driving a vehicle which is overloaded to the point of view obstruction
- Failing to signal
- Speeding 20 mph over the posted speed limit, or driving faster than 85 mph regardless of the posted speed limit
- Spinning out your wheels
- Endangering people or property in areas open to the public
- Illegally passing in any of the following ways:
- On a hill or slope
- Two vehicles at once
- At an intersection
- A stopped school bus
- While approaching or in a curve
- At a railroad-grade crossing
- While pedestrians are around
Is reckless driving a misdemeanor?
In most cases, a Virginia reckless driving conviction is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for misdemeanor reckless driving include 6 points on your driving record, up to 1 year in jail, a criminal record, up to $2,500 in fines, and up to 6 months of suspended driving privileges. In addition, you may also face increased car insurance rates and no longer be eligible to rent a car. Convictions also affect government security clearance, as well as contract eligibility for law enforcement officers and military members. You also must disclose this conviction if you apply for U.S. citizenship.
While your judge evaluates your case, they consider any and all prior reckless driving convictions, your Virginia DMV point rating, your driving record, whether your reckless driving caused someone else a personal injury, and your demeanor before the court. If your charge results from racing other motor vehicles, you will face greater consequences. These increased penalties include a suspended driver’s license from driving for up to 2 years, and the possible seizure of your vehicle.
In certain situations, however, it is possible to be charged with felony reckless driving. For example, if a person’s wrongful death results from racing, it is considered a class 6 felony. In this case, you will face a license suspension of anywhere from 1 to 3 years, along with up to 20 years in prison. If you are charged with reckless driving during a period in which your license is suspended or revoked, this is also a class 6 felony.
Will reckless driving put points on my driving record?
As we just learned, if you are arrested for reckless driving, you may be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Not only this, but those found guilty of reckless driving in Virginia may also receive up to 6 points on their DMV record.
While speeding is only a traffic infraction, reckless driving is a criminal offense. As such, Virginia reckless driving penalties carry the same potential consequences as many other misdemeanors, including potential jail time and a permanent criminal record.
At the Manassas Law Group, we pride ourselves on offering aggressive defense against alleged traffic violations and reckless driving. Call our Manassas criminal defense attorneys today at (703) 361-8246 for a free consultation on how to protect your driving record.
Reckless Driving vs. Improper Driving
Luckily, Virginia’s reckless driving laws do have some leeway. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-869, in cases where a person is charged with reckless driving but the “degree of culpability is slight,” the court may reduce the charges from reckless driving to improper driving.
Improper driving in Virginia is not a misdemeanor like reckless driving, but rather a traffic infraction. As a result, those found guilty of improper driving may only face up to $500 in fines and avoid the other penalties that come with reckless driving charges.
Is 85 mph reckless driving in Virginia?
Yes. Recently, Senate Bill 63 raised the reckless driving threshold to 85 mph from 80 mph. This means that exceeding 85 mph is considered reckless driving, regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit for that roadway. Additionally, driving in excess of 20 mph over the maximum speeds permitted in a given area is reckless driving.
What happens if you speed over 100 mph?
If a law enforcement officer pulls you over for speeding in excess of 100 mph, the penalties are likely to be very severe. You are more likely to receive maximum penalties for this class 1 misdemeanor, as there are very few reasons that an officer or a judge will accept in terms of why you were driving so far over the speed limit.
Whether or not someone receives jail time for excessive speeding of 100 mph or more depends on a number of factors. The judge for your case will consider all of the following when determining whether or not to have you spend time in jail:
- Your driving record
- Any victims or injuries
- Your attitude and appearance in court
- How fast you were driving
- Your attitude the officer/s while being arrested
If found guilty, you will likely face the maximum penalties of up to a year in jail, fines of up to $2,500, and a license suspension of up to 6 months.
Do I have to go to court if I got a reckless driving ticket?
In most cases, yes, you will have to appear in court if you violated the Virginia reckless driving law. As a general rule, most people who receive reckless driving tickets must appear in court either for an arraignment or a trial. This is due to the fact that VA reckless driving offenses are typically considered a misdemeanor charge (or, in some cases, a felony). Depending on specific situations, however, you might be able to have a reckless driving attorney appear on your behalf.
Generally speaking, this can happen for defendants who did not exceed 100 mph or who did not drive more than 30 mph over the speed limit. It can also happen for out-of-state drivers. If you are nervous about your court date or are unsure about anything, you should probably consider hiring an attorney.
At the Manassas Law Group, we’ve handled hundreds of reckless driving cases, so we know what it takes to put up a strong defense. We work hard for our clients all over Virginia and help take away the stress of dealing with the complicated and often overwhelming criminal justice system.
Do you need a lawyer for reckless driving?
As you can see, reckless driving carries severe consequences for those convicted. Such an offense is much more than a simple traffic infraction, and those facing these charges should take them extremely seriously. As such, it may be in your best interest to equip the help of a Virginia reckless driving attorney to fight on your behalf.
Because a reckless driving charge is likely to head to court, you need a Virginia traffic attorney from the Manassas Law Group on your side from the very beginning. Even “minor” convictions affect your life and your record for years to come. People all over the state of Virginia come to us when they require competent legal counsel. Why? Take a look at our Manassas Law Group reviews and see for yourself! We’ll help you defend against a conviction, resolve your charges, and walk you through the legal process.
Facing criminal charges for driving recklessly? Don’t wait until you’re caught up in the confusing world of Virginia traffic laws. Call the Manassas Law Group today at (703) 361-8246 for a free consultation.