WHAT IS RECKLESS DRIVING IN VIRGINIA?
What is the Reckless Driving law in Virginia? Reckless Driving is a criminal traffic offense in Virginia, punished as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Under Virginia law 46.2-862, anyone driving in Virginia is guilty of Reckless Driving when operating a motor vehicle on a Virginia road either: at a speed of 20 MPH or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit, or at a speed of more than 85 MPH (regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit).
The maximum penalties in Virginia for Reckless Driving include:
- a 12-month jail sentence
- a $2,500.00 fine
- 6 months suspension of your driver’s license
- 6 points on a Virginia DMV record
ALEXANDRIA, FAIRFAX, AND ARLINGTON
Criminal Reckless Driving may be alternatively charged as:
While it appears that the numbers are different, they all point to the same penalties and criminal designation.
FIRST OFFENSE RECKLESS DRIVING
First-time reckless driving offenders get consideration for being first-time offenders, their lack of speeding history during sentencing and plea bargaining negotiations between the defense attorney and prosecutor. However, it is important to understand that prior speeding tickets and poor driving records, even though non-criminal in nature, are considered by the prosecutors and judges to elevate penalties. Please consult with an attorney about your particular case factors to better gauge an appropriate sentence range expectation.
Penalty Table for Reckless Driving Charges in Virginia
|Offense||Crime||Max Jail||Max License|
|Misdemeanor||12 months||6 months||$2,500|
|Misdemeanor||12 months||6 months||$2,500|
|Misdemeanor||6 months||12 months||$5,000|
Out of State Drivers Charged in Virginia
Out of state drivers are charged with a Reckless Driving misdemeanor in offenses in Virginia no differently than Virginia drivers. While criminal and traffic laws vary from state to state, each driver is responsible for knowing and following the criminal and traffic laws of every state that he/she drives into. Thus, having an out of state driver’s license or being from out of state is not a defense to Reckless Driving in Virginia.
WILL I GO TO JAIL FOR RECKLESS DRIVING?
It depends on your speed and on the city or county in which you are charged. Going above 90 MPH will usually make you a candidate for jail time. Driving above 100 MPH is usually a sure thing for jail time. In a famous case in 2006, a law student who was driving 126 MPH went to jail to 12 days (full story on Washington Post web site). Other factors which may lend you in jail would be your behavior with the police officer, other circumstances leading up to ticket, and your criminal record and traffic history. Prior speeding tickets on your record will usually indicate a general and escalating disregard for the law and may result in jail time on a reckless ticket. Some examples of our clients avoiding jail time and some having to serve jail time for high-speed offenses can be found here.
CONSEQUENCES OF A RECKLESS DRIVING CONVICTION
This offense has been reported as serious to their employment or work circumstances by clients in the following industries: military (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force), civilian-military employment, students applying to Universities, college students on scholarships, individuals engaged in government contracts employment, individuals obtaining / maintaining a security clearance, admission to a state bar for lawyers, and law enforcement / police officer employment, amongst others. Individuals with these concerns should discuss the implication with their attorneys.
SHOULD I GET A LAWYER FOR MY RECKLESS DRIVING CHARGE?
While no one would plead guilty to a DUI / DWI (probably because it is a more popular or commercial crime) drivers unintentionally plead guilty to Reckless Driving, a crime of the same criminal magnitude as a DUI, on a much more frequent basis. Due to the serious nature of a VA Reckless Driving offense, it is important to fight the “ticket” for Reckless Driving in court, and not just pay it when you get home. By paying the Reckless Driving “ticket” before your court date, you are actually pleading guilty to the Class 1 Misdemeanor offense. The first thing that you should do after you get home is call a lawyer and discuss the details of your case. Your circumstances may make you eligible for various punishment reductions and charge reductions, and if you are really lucky, maybe even dismissal of the charge or a non-prosecution of the charge! Additionally, trying to represent yourself without a lawyer is strongly discouraged as the legal background that lawyers have on these laws and the experience with trial rules creates an incomparable advantage to self-representation.
WHAT ARE DEFENSES TO A RECKLESS DRIVING CHARGE?
This crime, like any other, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a courtroom. Defenses include insufficient testimony from the police or other witnesses, improper calibration of lidar or radar, improper testing of lidar or radar, expired certification of the lidar or radar, amongst others. Plea offers include breaking down the charge to simple speeding, improper driving, or dismissing it all together.
CAR ACCIDENT RESULTING IN RECKLESS DRIVING TICKET
Police officers and state troopers who show up at the scene of an accident after it took place will frequently write Reckless Driving tickets. The problem with these in court is that officers almost never have sufficient evidence to actually get a judge to convict the accused of the offense. The evidence of a vehicle accident, on its own, is insufficient for a conviction. If this situation applies to you, make sure to consult with a lawyer immediately.
LIST OF ALL VARIATIONS OF THE VIRGINIA RECKLESS DRIVING OFFENSES
1) The most common charge is for “Reckless Driving by Speed.” This charge applies to speeding 20 miles over the speed limit and/or driving above 85 miles per hour in Virginia. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-862 and is explained above.
2) The second most common charge in Virginia is for “Reckless Driving Generally.” This charge applies to the manner of your driving and is evaluated by whether your driving manner endangered either a person or property. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-852.
3) “Reckless Driving – Driving vehicle which is not under control” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control or which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-853.
4) “Reckless Driving – Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who, while driving a vehicle, overtakes and passes another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, on or approaching the crest of a grade or on or approaching a curve in the highway, where the driver’s view along the highway is obstructed, except where the overtaking vehicle is being operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for each direction of travel or on a designated one-way roadway or highway. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-854.
5) “Reckless Driving – Driving with driver’s view obstructed or control impaired” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who drives a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat such number of persons, as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-855.
6) “Reckless Driving – Passing two vehicles abreast” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who passes or attempts to pass two other vehicles abreast, moving in the same direction, except on highways having separate roadways of three or more lanes for each direction of travel, or on designated one-way streets or highways. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-856.
7) “Reckless Driving – Driving two abreast in a single lane” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who drives any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, so as to be abreast of another vehicle in a lane designed for one vehicle, or drives any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, so as to travel abreast of any other vehicle traveling in a lane designed for one vehicle. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-857.
8 ) “Reckless Driving – Passing at a railroad grade crossing” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who overtakes or passes any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction at any railroad grade crossing or at any intersection of highways unless such vehicles are being operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for each direction of travel or unless such intersection is designated and marked as a passing zone or on a designated one-way street or highway, or while pedestrians are passing or about to pass in front of either of such vehicles, unless permitted so to do by a traffic light or law-enforcement officer. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-858.
9) “Reckless Driving – Passing a stopped school bus” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons, and to remain stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-859.
10) “Reckless Driving – Failing to give proper signals” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who fails to give adequate and timely signals of intention to turn, partly turn, slow down, or stop. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-860.
11) “Reckless Driving – Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-861.
12) “Reckless Driving – Failure to yield right-of-way” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who fails to bring his vehicle to a stop immediately before entering a highway from a side road when there is traffic approaching on such highway within 500 feet of such point of entrance, unless (i) a “Yield Right-of-Way” sign is posted or (ii) where such sign is posted, fails, upon entering such highway, to yield the right-of-way to the driver of a vehicle approaching on such highway from either direction. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-863.
13) “Reckless Driving – Reckless driving on parking lots” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who operates any motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person: (1) On any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public; or (2) On the premises of any industrial establishment providing parking space for customers, patrons, or employees; or (3) On any highway under construction or not yet open to the public. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-864.
14) “Reckless Driving – Racing” is another Reckless Driving charge. This charge applies to anyone driving in Virginia who engages in a race between two or more motor vehicles on the highways in the Commonwealth or on any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public in the Commonwealth shall be guilty of reckless driving, unless authorized by the owner of the property or his agent. This is charged under Virginia VA Code Section 46.2-865. It is important to note the VA definition of racing, as police officers and lawyers alike tend to mistake speeding contests for actual racing as is defined by Virginia law. Racing requires a pre-defined start point and pre-defined endpoint. Just because two cars are going very fast next to each other and trying to beat the other’s speed does not mean that in fact, they are racing under this reckless driving code section.
All of these reckless driving tickets are punishes as Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offenses. The penalty is described above.
FEDERAL RECKLESS DRIVING OFFENSE
Another important factor about VA Reckless Driving is speeding along the GW Parkway in Alexandria, VA or any other Federal territory located in Virginia. Federal law punishes for Reckless Driving the way that it is defined in the Virginia code. The main difference is that the prosecution in the Federal Court in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) is much more serious and having a Federal offense on your criminal record is considered more consequential for purposes of your criminal record. As stated before, the first thing that you should do after you get home is to call a lawyer and discuss the details of your case. Your circumstances may make you eligible for various punishment reductions and charge reductions, and if you are really lucky, maybe even dismissal of the charge or a non-prosecution of the charge! Read more by clicking here.
Virginia Reckless Driving Law Overview: Jump to-
- What is Reckless Driving in Virginia?
- Penalty Table for Reckless Driving Charges in Virginia
- Reckless Driving in Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington
- First Offense Reckless Driving
- Out of State Drivers Charged in Virginia
- Consequences of a Reckless Conviction
- Should I get a lawyer for my Reckless Driving ticket?
- What are defenses to a Reckless Driving ticket?
- Reckless Driving charge for Vehicle Collisions / Accidents
- List of all VA Reckless Driving offenses
- Federal Reckless Driving charges