- September 2013
- Posted By JohnnyG
- 0 Comments
Unlike other states where the violation of the law is considered as a traffic infraction or a speeding ticket the charge of reckless driving Virginia is defined as a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense. Indeed, being a careful driver in the State of Virginia is strongly advised for both its residents and non-residents including tourists and transients because of the stiff penalties imposed by the state and local governments.
Applicable Provisions of the Law
To paraphrase the Code of Virginia, Virginia reckless driving is defined as driving a vehicle on any highway in a reckless manner or at a speed or in any manner that endangers the limb, property and life of any person. It must be emphasized that reckless driving is defined as such regardless of the maximum speeds permitted on the highways by either the state or local authorities.
Furthermore, the definition of exceeding the speed limit set on the highway is so specific under reckless driving Virginia laws that it leaves little room for subjective interpretation. A person shall be considered guilty of the Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense when he/she drives a motor vehicle in Virginia’s highways at speeds exceeding either:
- 20 miles per hour or more in excess of the maximum speed limit in the area
- In excess of 80 miles per hour irrespective of the maximum speed limit applicable in the area
But that’s not all either. The law on Virginia reckless driving adds another layer of gravitas to the criminal offense – a person convicted of the crime who caused the death of another individual, with the former’s action being the sole and proximate cause for the demise of the latter, and who was driving without a valid driver’s license because of a prior revocation or suspension for a moving violation shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.
Suffice it to say that the criminal offense of reckless driving Virginia has its consequences for the offender and, in the case of death for his/her deceased victim, has repercussions that go well beyond the day of the accident. Again, careful driving is strongly advised.
Penalties Upon Conviction
Of course, the charge against a person for violations of the law on Virginia reckless driving must be subjected to due process. Usually, a judge will determine the guilt or innocence of the accused and then decide on the sentence.
It must be noted that in several counties, namely, Spotsylvania, Stafford Fredericksburg, and King George, the judges can exercise considerable judicial discretion in cases of reckless driving Virginia. The person charged with the criminal offense can then ask his/her attorney to argue his/her case and lessen the charge and/or the penalties involved.
For example, if you have violated the law on reckless driving at the Spotsylvania County, your attorney can present mitigating circumstances that can lessen your charge to “improper driving”. This means that you have committed a mere traffic infraction with lesser fine ($500 or less), lower DMV points (3) and faster removal from your records (3 years only).
In contrast, the conviction for reckless driving Virginia carries heavier penalties for both residents as well as non-resident drivers (i.e., out-of-state and foreign). These include:
- Permanent criminal record indexed in the NCIC criminal database
- Addition to Virginia driving record for 11 years except for the charge of speeding 20 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit, which means an addition of just 5 years
- Six demerit points applied on the DMV record
- Potential jail sentence of 12 months and fine of $2,500
- Suspension of driving license for up to 6 months
Each case is different because of the differences in circumstances so the above mentioned penalties especially the last 2 aspects can be either decreased or increased depending on the discretion of the judge.
Going back to the definition of reckless driving Virginia, here are a few of the ways that a driver can be considered as guilty of the criminal offense:
- Speeding as mentioned above
- Passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle or a school bus
- Passing at a railroad crossing or crest of a hill
- Passing or driving two vehicles abreast
- Failure to give appropriate signal
- Faulty brakes or improper control
- Driving too fast for the present driving conditions
Your attorney for the charge of reckless driving Virginia will take into account the circumstances regarding the incident in question. Be honest about the events leading up to the reckless driving charge so that the appropriate case approach can be adopted and, hopefully, you can be penalized for a lesser charge or the case can be dismissed.
Possible Ways for Lesser Charge or Dismissal
Your attorney should have several aces up his sleeve to achieve a reduction in charge and penalty for the initial charge of Virginia reckless driving. These aces include but are not limited to the following:
- Mitigating factors like good driving record and legitimate emergency like rushing to the emergency room for stroke treatment. As harsh the reckless driving Virginia appears, it has certain provisions for legitimate reasons for the speeding behavior while driving.
- Test of the radar or laser unit to ensure its accuracy before and after the officer’s shift during the alleged reckless driving incident. A calibration certification must be issued; failure to comply means that the officer’s calibration is inadmissible in court and, thus, he may be unable to prove your actual speed at the time of the incident. Visual estimations are usually not admitted in court because of their gross inaccuracy.
- Test of accuracy or range of accuracy for the radar unit used in the determination of the over-speeding speed. This may not mean much in a reckless driving Virginia charge where you were speeding well over the speed limit – say, 80 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone – but when the disputed over-speeding speed is so close to the maximum speed limit, even a single mile per hour will matter.
For example, you have been charged as driving 20 miles per hour over the limit but further examination revealed that the radar calibration was off by 2 miles per hour; you were driving just 18 miles per hour over the speed limit. You can then get off with a simple speeding charge instead of the Virginia reckless driving offense.
The bottom line: When you are charged with reckless driving Virginia, call an attorney with specialization in these cases so that you will have excellent representation in court.