Reckless Driving in Virginia: A Comprehensive Legal Guide
You’ve been charged with reckless driving in Virginia, and you never imagined the consequences could be so severe. We understand how stressful this situation can be, and we’re here to arm you with all the information you’ll need about your situation.
What is Considered Reckless Driving in Virginia?
The Code of Virginia defines reckless driving as “…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…”
When you’re stopped and charged with willfully operating a vehicle indifferently or recklessly, you are putting other people or property at risk. In Virginia, there are many different types of reckless driving charges.
Reckless Driving Offences
- Speeding in excess of 85 mph
- Speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit
- Passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle
- Passing a school bus
- Passing on the crest of a hill
- Passing at a railroad crossing
- Passing two vehicles abreast
- Driving two vehicles abreast
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Failing to give a proper signal
- Faulty brakes/improper control
- Reckless driving on any public driveway, parking lot, etc.
- Driving with an obstructed view
- Failure to stop before entering a highway
- General reckless driving
In Virginia, reckless driving is never just a traffic violation. Each type of reckless driving carries the potential for a felony or misdemeanor charge – a criminal offense. If you’re found guilty, reckless driving violations usually come with a Class 1 misdemeanor offense, which is the most serious misdemeanor. Severe Class 1 misdemeanor charges can result in one year in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a six-month suspension of your driver’s license on top of the demerit points assigned to your license.
Some of the most common categories of reckless driving include speeding, aggressive behavior, and distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that for over than two decades, speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. This has made it the number one cited driver-related factor in fatal highway crashes.
In the state of Virginia, speeding moves from a traffic ticket to a reckless driving violation when you exceed 20mph over the posted speed limit, or when you exceed. Many highways in Hampton Roads, and throughout Virginia, have speed limits of 70mph. It’s important to note that if you are traveling at any speed above 85mph, you may receive a reckless driving ticket, even if you are not traveling 20mph faster than the posted limit.
Generally speaking, the criminal charge of reckless driving by speed can be amended by the prosecution or the judge to a non-criminal speeding case. You may face a minimum $250 fine, plus any court costs, but it will reduce your violation down from a criminal charge.
Driving aggressively is considered reckless driving due to the risk it creates for lives and property. In Virginia, a driver is guilty of aggressive driving if they violate one of the following offenses, and that person is a hazard to another person or commits an offense with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person.
Aggressive driving violations include:
- Failure to drive on the right side of highways
- Failure to observe lanes marked for traffic
- Following too closely
- Failure to stop or yield right-of-way when entering certain highways
- Evasion of traffic control devices
- Failure to safely overtake a vehicle
- Stopping on highways
Weaving in and out of traffic or tailgating other drivers because they are not going fast enough, or they cut you off (accidentally or intentionally) is no reason to put anyone’s lives at risk. Aggressive driving increases the chance of causing a tragic accident on a busy roadway.
Typically, aggressive driving is punished as a Class 2 misdemeanor in Virginia, but when the driver is found to have been driving with the intent to injure another person, it is punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Aggressive driving convictions often carry 4 demerit points, staying on your license for 5 years. In addition to any other penalties assigned by the court, those found guilty of aggressive driving may be required to complete an aggressive driving program.
One of the most common forms of modern day distracted driving is the use of a cell phone while behind the wheel. While many believe they can easily and safely multitask, Carnegie Mellon reports that texting while driving decreases the amount of brain function that is focusing on the road by up to 37%. As of January 1st, 2021 it became illegal in the state of Virginia to hold a “handheld personal communications device” while driving a motor vehicle. In addition to this new law, any driver who is convicted of reckless driving in Virginia and was found to be holding their phone at the time will receive a mandatory minimum fine of $250 in addition to any other penalties.
Your phone call or text message can wait a few minutes. You can fix your hair when you stop your car. You don’t need to change the radio station while you are turning the corner at the red light. Your eyes need to be on the road – for your safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road.
Impaired driving includes three major areas of concern – drowsy driving, drugged driving, and drunk driving. Each of these factors dramatically reduces your ability to focus on the road, creating a reckless environment for yourself and others.
Drowsy, or sleep-deprived, driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. The NHTSA estimates that in 2017, 91,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. These crashes led to an estimated 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 deaths. If you feel yourself begin to drowse and lose focus, it’s important to pull over until you are able to rectify the situation. The NHTSA recommends drinking one to two cups of coffee, or pulling over for a short 20-minute nap in a safe, well-lit, designated rest stop as short-term solutions.
Drugged driving includes both illegal drugs, as well as medications which may alter your ability to focus on the road. Driving under the influence of any illegal drug can earn you a DUI in Virginia – a 6-point violation that stays on your license for 11 years. Drugs such as marijuana can significantly impair your ability to multitask and can reduce your reaction time, making the choice to get behind the wheel an extremely reckless decision.
Drinking and driving is a well-known problem throughout the world. NHTSA reports that about 28 people die every single day in the United States from drunk-driving crashes – that’s one person every 52 minutes. In 2019, 32% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related in Virginia. All drivers in Virginia with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher are considered to be driving under the influence. Drivers under age 21 can be convicted of illegal consumption of alcohol with a BAC of .02% to less than .08%.
VA DMV shares that “Virginia has some of the strongest drunk driving laws in the nation, which also apply to drugged driving. First-time offenders lose their driver’s license for a year, and have a mandatory ignition interlock device when they begin driving again. A three-year driver’s license suspension occurs after a second conviction, and 20 days in jail is required for a second conviction within five years.”
You are not alone in experiencing uncertainty and fear as it relates to the outcome of your DUI, DWI, or Criminal Traffic case. Decker Law Firm’s criminal traffic attorneys are dedicated to helping individuals and families minimize the consequences of a DUI charge or other serious traffic violations. We provide aggressive defense to individuals charged with drunk driving and driving under the influence.
Penalties for Reckless Driving or Related Common Charges
There are times you think it may not be worth the time, effort, or money to hire an attorney to represent you in court for a reckless driving charge. This is NOT one of those times. You need stellar, experienced, and knowledgeable attorneys to defend you when you go to court for your reckless driving offenses. It’s vital that you have legal representation so you can mitigate the damage from any of the Virginia reckless driving violations.
If you’re convicted of a reckless driving violation, you will likely receive 6 demerit points against your driver’s license. These points will stay on your driver’s license for 11 years. Each time you commit a traffic offense, the VA DMV will add additional demerit points to your record. Accumulation of points within certain timeframes can cause serious consequences for Virginia drivers.
For drivers who are 18 or older:
- If you accumulate 8 demerit points in 12 months (or 12 points in 24 months), you will receive an advisory letter that cautions you about the consequences of violating the law.
- If you accumulate 12 demerit points in 12 months (or 18 points in 24 months), you will be required to complete a driver improvement clinic. You must enroll in and satisfactorily complete the clinic within 90 days.
- If you accumulate 18 demerit points in 12 months (or 24 points in 24 months), your driving privilege will be suspended for 90 days. Additionally, you must complete a driver improvement clinic before your privilege will be restored. Once your privilege is restored, you will be placed on a six-month probation period.
How a Reckless Driving Charge on Your Record Can Affect Your Future
One of the most significant and telling advantages when you hire an experienced attorney is that it helps you obtain the best possible legal results from your Virginia reckless driving offense. Attorneys know the ins and outs of court, and that gives you a tactical advantage opposed to going in alone.
You may have received a speeding ticket before, paid your fine, and moved on. Being convicted of a reckless driving violation can have far more severe consequences.Not to mention that in Virginia, it’s not possible to pre-pay your reckless driving ticket, like you may have before with a speeding ticket. Reckless driving is a criminal offense and requires a court appearance. If you don’t arrive to your court date, you will be found guilty, and the judge will assess the case and decide your penalty. If you want to fight to lessen the charges, it’s important to contact a traffic lawyer as soon as you can after receiving the ticket, so they can fight for your best interests in the courtroom.
Permanent Criminal Record
Reckless driving is a crime – meaning if you are convicted you will have a permanent criminal record. This means that any time a background check is run (new jobs, applying for rental properties, etc.) this offense will appear. In the state of Virginia, crimes cannot be expunged from your record, meaning it will stick with you for life.
If your employer requires you to have a driver’s license and a clean driving record, being charged or convicted with reckless driving can cause major problems. Many drivers risk losing employment and find themselves unable to get similar jobs in the future.
Higher Insurance Premiums
Having a reckless driving offense on your record demonstrates to insurance companies that you have a history of unsafe behavior on the road. To offset the liability risk that it poses to your insurance, they may charge more money for coverage. A reckless driving charge could affect the price of your car insurance for the rest of your life.
The Advantages of Hiring a Reckless Driving Lawyer to Help You
Anyone facing a reckless driving charge needs to understand how serious it can be and ultimately what it can become if not handled correctly from the beginning. At The Decker Law Firm, our experienced attorneys offer over fifty years of criminal defense expertise. That means you’re getting knowledgeable, top-tier lawyers that can help you no matter your specific criminal defense needs.
Every detail of your reckless driving charge needs to be weighed and evaluated. All the facts and evidence in your case needs to be analyzed and considered. That’s why having the best legal counsel to help you fight a reckless driving offense is so vital.
The Decker Law Firm offers you options you never knew you had before you go to court to adjudicate your case. Can you really take a chance on representing yourself with a reckless driving charge or worse, ignoring one? The only thing you’re risking by not obtaining the best legal counsel possible for a reckless driving charge is your future.
When you call our team, we may ask you to be proactive and take certain actions to help show the court why your penalty deserves to be lowered or dismissed. You may be asked to participate in a driving course, to get a professional to calibrate your speedometer, and to obtain a copy of your driving record. These all take time to complete, so the sooner you call, the sooner you can start working toward a better result.
What Does Attending Traffic School Do to Help You Reduce Your Reckless Driving Charge?
If you’ve lost points due to traffic offenses, you can take the Virginia Driving Improvement course and get +5 added to your point balance. This usually helps gain back some points you may have lost in your previous traffic offenses. Virginia is known for its reasonably generous traffic school or driver improvement clinic program.
Any classes taken at a traffic school or driver improvement clinic in Virginia will help you earn driving points and become eligible to receive car insurance discounts. You can find a traffic school near you when you search for them on the Virginia DMV driving school clinic weblink.
Reach Out to The Decker Law Firm Today for Help with Reckless Driving
It’s important that you reach out to The Decker Law Firm as soon as you can after you receive a reckless driving ticket.
Your best future counts on you not having a criminal record or losing your driver’s license. Can you really take the chance and walk away from the future that could have been if you’d have handled your reckless driving ticket with a legal team like those with The Decker Law Firm?