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The term “reckless driving” covers a wide range of dangerous behaviors on the road. From tailgating to failing to signal, from racing to overtaking a school bus, the definition of “reckless” in Virginia might surprise you. In this short guide, our Virginia traffic violation lawyer will answer your most pressing questions about this topic and discuss what to do if you ever find yourself facing a reckless driving charge. All Virginia drivers should know this information to ensure their constitutional rights are protected.

What is Virginia Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving is a criminal offense in Virginia. The Virginia reckless driving law defines it as driving in a way that puts other people or their property in danger, regardless of the actual speed you are driving. So, even if you are driving within the applicable maximum speed limit, if you are not being safe, it can still be considered reckless.

Here are some of the most common behaviors that cause reckless driving cases under Virginia law:

  • Not stopping fully at a stop sign
  • Going over 20 mph above the posted limit
  • Texting or using a phone while driving
  • Overtaking another vehicle on a curve or a hilltop
  • Passing a stopped school bus picking up or dropping off kids
  • Going too fast for road conditions
  • Racing other motor vehicles on public roads
  • Not using turn signals when changing lanes or turning
  • Operating a car with malfunctioning brakes or broken lights
  • Not giving the right of way
Photo of a Drunk Driver

What is the Legal Penalty for Reckless Driving in Virginia?

Since it’s a criminal offense, you are not just facing a traffic ticket if found guilty. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia – this is the same category as some theft charges or even assault charges. If the reckless driving convictions stick, you could spend up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines, in addition to paying court costs. You could also get your driver’s license suspended for up to 6 months.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will also add 6 demerit points to your driving record. These points can affect your license status and significantly increase your car insurance rates since auto insurance companies will consider you a “high-risk driver”. 

The reason why it’s so important to contact an attorney as soon as you get the reckless driving citation is because a reckless driving conviction will stay on your driving record for 11 years. Even if you had a very good reason to drive that way and you have never ever had a problem with the law, reckless driving convictions mean you will have a “criminal record” for as long as you live.

What is the Penalty for First-Offense Reckless Driving in Virginia?

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or fifth time being charged – reckless driving is a Class 1 criminal misdemeanor. Even if you have no history of being a careless driver, you still face all the Virginia reckless driving penalties outlined previously.

What Happens When You Get a Reckless Driving Ticket in Virginia?

Unfortunately, you can’t just pay a fine to the law enforcement officers and move on. Reckless driving tickets in Virginia are not like a regular speeding ticket.

In other words, once a police officer issues the ticket, you will get a court date where your appearance is mandatory. This will be your chance to defend yourself or have a Virginia reckless driving attorney do so on your behalf. We have noted the reckless driving penalties you will face if found guilty. Your biggest concern should be to hire an experienced lawyer to prevent you from getting a permanent criminal record.

What are the Chances of Going to Jail for Reckless Driving in Virginia?

Technically, the judge has the right to imprison you for up to 12 months if you are found guilty. But jail time for reckless driving is not always predictable as many factors come into play.

If it’s your first time being charged and no one was hurt, you may not get jailed. But if your speed was extremely high or your actions were particularly dangerous, jail time or even a felony reckless driving charge is a very real possibility. The court will consider how fast you were going, whether you caused an accident, and your driving history. If you have a pattern of violating traffic rules, prior reckless driving convictions, or if your irresponsible driving led to an injury, the chances of imprisonment will increase.

How Attorney Michael A. Pignone Can Help

When you consider contesting the validity of the traffic infractions charge by the prosecution, it makes sense to hire a lawyer who has worked as a prosecutor.  

Before Michael A. Pignone became the renowned criminal defense attorney he is today, he was a prosecutor for the City of Manassas Park. His job was to represent the government in criminal cases and prove the accused person’s guilt in court. This background makes Michael uniquely skilled to help people fight misdemeanor reckless driving charges in Virginia by taking any available evidence apart and finding hidden discrepancies in the prosecution’s reckless driving case. If you want to maximize your chances of getting the ticket dismissed or reduce the severity of the charges, don’t delay in reaching out to our Virginia reckless driving lawyer. Contact us today at (571) 450-8693 or fill out this form to get started.

Author Photo

Michael Pignone

Michael Pignone was raised and has lived in Prince William County since 1972. He attended public schools in the county and graduated high school from Osbourn High in Manassas. Following high school, he attended George Mason University where he graduated with honors from the Business School with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. He was then accepted into, and graduated with honors from, Suffolk Law School in Boston, Massachusetts. Before entering private practice, he clerked for the Prosecutor in the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

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