It’s a nightmare all drivers share: the red-and-blue lights of a police cruiser. If you were pulled over by police and cited for reckless driving, you may not realize how serious your situation is. In Virginia, reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense. This means that, if convicted, you will have a criminal record and may have your license suspended. Not only that, but a conviction can also make finding a job more difficult. At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, we provide aggressive representation to individuals charged with reckless driving. If you have questions about what’s at stake or how you can fight your case, we can help.
What Is Reckless Driving in Virginia?
Virginia’s reckless driving law provides, “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.” Of course, this doesn’t exactly clarify what constitutes reckless driving. However, based on decades of experience, we can tell you that most reckless driving cases involve one of the following.
Going a few miles per hour over the speed limit may get you pulled over. However, chances are a police officer will only give you a speeding ticket. However, under Code of Virginia § 46.2-862, if you are going 20 miles per hour over the limit or faster than 85 miles per hour, you may face reckless driving charges. This is the case regardless of whether you exhibited any other signs of dangerous driving.
Endangering Others’ Lives or Property
Most reckless driving citations involve drivers going too fast. However, police officers can also cite a motorist for driving in a way that endangers human life or another person’s property. This is, of course, a very subjective standard. As a result, police officers can charge drivers with reckless driving in a wide range of circumstances. However, frequently, the following are non-speed-related reasons why a driver may receive a reckless driving violation:
- Failure to stop for a school bus or emergency vehicle;
- Drag racing; and
- Driving erratically.
Regardless of the reason police cited you for reckless driving, the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone can help. We’ve successfully represented countless clients, helping many get out from under the serious consequences of a reckless driving charge.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Virginia
Unlike many other traffic tickets, reckless driving is actually considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense. If convicted of a reckless driving charge, you could face a fine of up to $2,500, up to 12 months in jail, and a driver’s license suspension of up to 12 months. Additionally, a reckless driving conviction will add up to six points to your Virginia driver’s license.
The points from a reckless driving conviction can also result in the Department of Motor Vehicles suspending your driver’s license. Any DMV-imposed suspension is in addition to the suspension ordered by the court. Thus, anyone facing a reckless driving charge should immediately consult with an experiencedPrince William County reckless driving attorney. It is important to remember that just because the government charged you with reckless driving does not mean you are guilty. There are defenses, and an experienced Prince William County reckless driving lawyer can help you determine which best fits your situation. A legal practitioner can also negotiate on your behalf in hopes of getting your reckless driving ticket reduced to an “improper driving” ticket. Depending on your situation, you may also be eligible to get your case dismissed if you agree to attend driving school.
Reckless Driving Charges for Out-of-State Drivers
If you are pulled over and cited for reckless driving as an out-of-state driver, it is especially important that you retain an experienced Prince William County reckless driving attorney. This is because, unlike in some states, a reckless driving citation isn’t just a ticket you can pay and be on your way. No, in Virginia, reckless driving is a criminal offense that, by default, requires your appearance in court. However, with the court’s approval, your attorney may be able to excuse your presence and defend the case in your absence. This can save you hundreds of dollars in travel expenses, missed work, and the hassle of needing to come back to Virginia to defend your reckless driving case.
At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, we are frequently called upon by out-of-state drivers to help them fight their reckless driving cases. And while we can’t make any promises that the judge will excuse your presence, it is certainly something we will fight for on your behalf.
How Does the Government Prove Reckless Driving Charges?
In Virginia, you can be cited several different ways for reckless drifting. Thus, how reckless driving is proven depends on the nature of the alleged violation.
For example, in the most straightforward case involving someone driving more than 20 miles per hour over the limit or faster than 85 miles per hour, the prosecutor will call the police officer, who will testify to the speed they observed you traveling. In most cases, this will involve the officer explaining that they used a radar detector to estimate your speed and that you were traveling more than 20 miles over the limit (or faster than 85 miles per hour).
However, other types of reckless driving charges are more subjective. Take, for example, a situation where you were cited for reckless driving after allegedly endangering human life. In this type of case, the prosecution would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions placed another person’s life in danger. Note, however, that the prosecution does not need to prove that you put a specific person’s life in danger; it’s enough that you drive in a way that endangered human life.
Of course, regardless of which type of reckless driving you face, there are defenses that can result in the prosecution withdrawing the case or an acquittal.
How to Fight a Reckless Driving Citation
There are many defenses to reckless driving cases, and determining the best defense for your case is both an art and a science. Below are some of the most common defenses to reckless driving charges:
Challenging the Radar/LIDAR Results
For cases involving excessive speeding, one of the most common defenses is to challenge the results of the radar or LIDAR device used to track your speed. While these technologies are different, they both require frequent calibration. The officer who testifies should have a copy of the most recent calibration, and if they don’t, it may mean that the results are not reliable.
Disputing the “Driving” Element
To be guilty of reckless driving, you need to be the one in the driver’s seat. Often in accident cases, the police officer did not witness who was driving at the time of the accident. The government may try to argue that you were the driver because you owned the car or were in the vicinity, but this isn’t indisputable proof you were driving. Remember, the prosecution needs to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Fighting the “Endangering Human Life” Element
Police officers are not the final judge on what constitutes reckless driving; that’s up to the judge. So if you were arrested for reckless driving based on an accident or general “dangerous” driving, the prosecution must prove that you actually drove in a way that put people’s lives or property in danger. This is easier said than done, especially if you did not make any statement to the police admitting that you were driving recklessly.
Are You Facing Reckless Driving Charges?
If police pulled you over and now you’re charged with reckless driving, it is important that you work with an experienced Prince William County reckless driving attorney. At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, we represent clients facing all types of traffic citations, including reckless driving charges and DUI offenses. Since 1995, we’ve been helping good people get out of bad situations through our aggressive negotiation and advocacy. We also offer free consultations to all prospective clients, during which we will answer all your questions, go over your options, and explain what we can do for you.
Our experienced legal practitioner also handles other types of cases, including:
To learn more about how we can help you defend against the reckless driving charges you face, give the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone a call to schedule a free consultation. You can reach us through our online contact form. We also help out clients fight DUI charges and other traffic offenses.