Reckless Driving Defense Attorney in Virginia
In Virginia, reckless driving is a serious criminal offense with very real consequences. If convicted, you could be facing up to a year in jail, thousands of dollars in fines, and the suspension of your license. Additionally, drivers can receive multiple points on their record, which can have effects such as increased insurance rates. To protect yourself from these penalties, contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone. The firm’s lead Virginia criminal defense attorney has defended more than a thousand cases in the decade he has operated a private practice.
Request a FREE consultation with the firm today to learn about your legal options.
What Constitutes Reckless Driving?
Under Virginia law, reckless driving is generally defined as driving “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.” The law also sets forth a specific definition for reckless driving by speed. In other words, if you violate that law, you will be charged with reckless driving rather than getting a simple speeding ticket.
Motorists have a legal obligation to others, known as a duty of care. This obligation requires drivers to act in such a manner as to not place others at risk of unnecessary harm. If a driver violates that duty in a way that puts others at risk, they could face reckless driving charges.
In most cases, officers make reckless driving arrests based on their interpretation of the driver’s behaviors. For example, if an officer sees a motorist driving at a high rate of speed, swerving in and out of their lane, passing other cars too closely, or otherwise behaving in a dangerous manner for the roadway’s current conditions, they can make an arrest.
No matter what actions led to your specific offense, a Virginia reckless driving lawyer from The Law Office of Michael Pignone can help you to clear your name and protect your driving record.
Common Examples of Reckless Driving
Charges for reckless driving can stem from actions such as the following.
Excessive speed is among the most common causes of reckless driving. A person can face charges for driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or more than 80 miles per hour on any public road.
Failure to Stop for a School Bus
A school bus will signal other drivers to stop when passengers are boarding and offloading from the vehicle. All drivers on a non-divided road must come to a stop until the driver of the bus signals that traffic can resume.
Any persons who engage in street racing can face additional punishments, such as an extended suspension of their driver’s license.
Inability to Control a Vehicle
It is against the law to continue to operate a vehicle that a driver cannot control. This can include hindered control due to faulty brakes, obstructed views, or improperly inflated tires.
These are just a few of the types of reckless driving charges that you could face. In fact, officers can arrest you on this charge for virtually any behavior they deem as reckless while driving a motor vehicle.
Potential Penalties for Reckless Driving
In Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. For a first offense, you face a fine of up to $2,500 and up to 12 months in jail. You could also have your driver license suspended for up to 6 months. You will have a permanent criminal record, which can interfere with your ability to get a job. Your insurance premiums will also increase significantly.
If you were driving on a suspended license at the time of your arrest, you will face a Class 6 felony charge. Conviction on a Class 6 felony charge carries one to five years in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
If you caused an accident while driving recklessly, you could also face other charges—especially if the accident resulted in property damage, injuries, or a fatality. If someone died in a reckless driving accident, contact a vehicular manslaughter lawyer in Virginia as quickly as possible.
Legal Process for a Reckless Driving Charge in Virginia
Reckless driving is a criminal offense in Virginia. As such, there is a strict legal process involved in the resolution of any reckless driving charges.
The officer on the scene will typically write a ticket that should indicate a court date. In most cases, the officer will verbally tell the driver the purpose of the court appearance or write the purpose on the ticket. The date can either be for a first appearance or a trial date. Contact a local reckless driving attorney in Virginia or the county clerk if you are unsure of which type of hearing the ticket indicates.
At a first appearance, you will be advised of your right to obtain legal counsel, and a trial date will be set. If the indicated date is the trial date, your trial for reckless driving will happen that day.
A judge will hear your case on the trial date. Even though reckless driving is a criminal charge, you are only entitled to a jury trial on appeal from a conviction in Virginia. During the trial, you can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A Virginia reckless driving lawyer will help you decide how best to proceed.
If you proceed to trial, the judge will hear the evidence that day and issue a ruling. If you are found not guilty, you will be free to go. If you are found guilty, the judge will set the punishment.
You will have 30 days to pay any fines or fees. If the judge suspends your license, the court will take it. For suspensions of less than 30 days, you can pick up your license from the county clerk at the end of the suspension period. You will have to go to the DMV if the suspension is longer than 30 days.
If you are sentenced to jail time, you will need to report to jail. Some judges allow guilty parties to delay reporting to jail, but this is not a guarantee.
If you decide to appeal your conviction, you can choose between a bench or jury trial. Defendants who are found guilty during a jury trial must pay the costs of the jury in addition to any fines and fees.
Reckless driving laws in VA can be surprising to many out-of-state drivers. It is essential for out-of-state drivers who are charged with reckless driving to contact a Virginia reckless driving lawyer to guide them through the legal process.
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor criminal charge in Virginia, not a civil traffic violation. As such, being found guilty of reckless driving can result in up to a year in jail. A conviction will also give you a criminal record that may complicate finding employment or qualifying for government programs.
Due to their criminal nature, a court appearance is required for reckless driving charges. You must appear for your court date even if you live as far away as Hawaii. Sometimes a reckless driving attorney in Virginia can appear on your behalf, saving you travel costs and time off work.
Virginia is part of the driver’s license interstate compact, so any suspensions or points against your license obtained in Virginia will likely follow you to your home state.
Will I Be Sentenced to Jail Time for Reckless Driving?
Whether or not you are sentenced to jail time will be determined by the severity of any reckless driving conviction. For example, some judges in Virginia make an example of drivers by sentencing them to one day of jail time for every mile per hour over 90 they were traveling. However, this is not a standardized practice. The best way to avoid jail time after being charged with reckless driving is to hire an experienced attorney to argue for leniency on your behalf.
How Long Will a Reckless Driving Charge Stay on My Record?
Reckless driving charges remain on your driving record for 11 years in Virginia. A reckless driving attorney can help get your charges reduced, in which case the charge could be on your driving record for a shorter period.
Should I Plead Guilty and Just Pay the Fine?
No. A reckless driving charge is a serious criminal proceeding. A conviction can lead to jail time and a criminal record, in addition to fines and penalties. It is best to seek the advice of an attorney before making a plea.
Should I get a lawyer for reckless driving in Virginia?
Yes. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. If convicted, you can face up to $2,500 in fines and 12 months in jail, depending on the particulars of your case. Not to mention you will have a criminal record that will show up on all background checks!
A Virginia reckless driving attorney like Michael A. Pignone can fight your charges and may get them reduced or dismissed altogether.
How do you get a reckless driving charge dismissed in Virginia?
It’s not easy, but having experienced and well-connected reckless-driving lawyers in your corner can make all the difference. This is where Michael A. Pignone’s expertise as a prosecutor really comes in handy. He is not only familiar with the local judges and prosecutors but also knows how to challenge evidence (like the accuracy of the radar that determined your speed).
If you are a first-time offender with a clean driving record, the court may dismiss the charges or reduce them by having you attend a driver improvement course. If you were speeding due to an emergency and we can provide evidence of that emergency, that can also work as a good defense.
In some cases, we have been able to get our clients’ speeding or reckless driving charges dismissed by proving that the speedometer in their car was showing a different speed than the client was actually going. There have been a few times when we cross-examined the police officer who issued the reckless driving ticket and found that they made a mistake in judging the situation as “reckless”.
The point is that every case is unique. If you want a more accurate answer as to how to get the charges thrown out, contact a Virginia criminal defense lawyer.
How much are court fees for reckless driving in Virginia?
The amount you pay in court costs largely depends on which jurisdiction you are in. Generally speaking, in addition to the $2,500 in fines, you will be charged a fixed fee of $61 to have your misdemeanor processed in a Virginia district court. If you fail to appear in court, an additional fee of $35 may be added, unless you can give a valid reason for your absence.
Keep in mind that these fees can change over time, and there might be other court-related costs depending on the specifics of your reckless driving case. We recommend checking with the court where your case is being heard or consulting with a local Virginia reckless driving attorney to get the most up-to-date information.
How do I appeal a reckless driving case in Virginia?
You can appeal the decision by filing a Notice of Appeal with the same Virginia General District Court where you were convicted. This must be done within 10 days of your criminal conviction. Once your reckless driving lawyer files the notice, you are entitled to a “de novo” trial in the Circuit Court. It basically means that the court will hear your case as if it is being presented for the first time. It will not consider any evidence presented in your previous trial in the General District Court.
If the Circuit Court also convicts you, you have the option to appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals. However, this won’t give you a de novo trial—you won’t get to present all the evidence once again. The appeal to the Court of Appeals only allows you to challenge any legal mistakes you believe were made in the Circuit Court. The court will look at your case record and determine if the law was applied correctly. They won’t be deciding if you are guilty or innocent based on the evidence.
How does Virginia define “reckless” versus “aggressive” driving?
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, reckless driving means you are driving in a way that could endanger others or shows a disregard for the safety of others (including property)—even if no harm actually occurs. It’s one single, dangerous act. This could be:
- Driving over the speed limit by 20 miles per hour or more
- Racing other vehicles
- Passing a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children
- Driving too fast for weather conditions, like during heavy rain or fog
On the other hand, aggressive driving combines two or more traffic offenses, all of which pose a danger to other people or property. To be charged with aggressive driving in Virginia, you must commit at least one traffic offense (like following too closely or not yielding the right of way) and be a danger to others.
Think about it: you can follow another vehicle too closely without causing an immediate threat. But if you are tailgating at an excessive speed in heavy traffic, you are increasing the risk of crashing—and this makes it a case of aggressive driving.
How will a reckless driving conviction affect my driving record in Virginia?
One of the major consequences of getting convicted for any driving-related criminal offense in Virginia is that it adds demerit points to your driving record. A demerit point is a penalty point you automatically collect when you commit a traffic violation. The more severe the violation, the more points you will receive from the DMV.
In a reckless driving case, six demerit points are added to your driving record. These points will remain on your record for two years, but the conviction itself will stay on your record for 11 years. Since insurance companies see any kind of problematic driving record as a high-risk behavior, your insurance premiums will increase significantly after a conviction.
That’s not all. If you have prior convictions or the judge determines that you were highly irresponsible while driving, they might suspend your driver’s license as part of the punishment.
Legal Help for Reckless Driving Charges
If you have been charged with a traffic-related offense such as reckless driving, do not answer questions or provide any statement to the police or prosecutor until you contact a Virginia reckless driving attorney. A lawyer can explain your options and help you make the best possible decisions for you and your future.
The legal professionals at the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone have a proven record of success defending the rights of drivers throughout Virginia. We analyze the details of your case and craft a strong defense strategy on Dyour behalf. We fight tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
Our experienced legal practitioner also handles other types of cases, including:
Contact our office today to learn more or to schedule your consultation with a Virginia reckless driving attorney.