The penalties for reckless driving in Virginia can be severe. Harsh penalties may be imposed on drivers who pose a risk to the public. If you are charged with reckless driving in or near the Roanoke area, you must be advised and represented by a Roanoke criminal defense attorney.
In Virginia, reckless drivers are not merely negligent and are not drivers who make only a minor mistake. A reckless driver willfully and dangerously endangers the life, limb, or property of another. What does it take to be charged with reckless driving? What are the penalties if you are convicted?
If you continue reading this brief discussion of reckless driving in Virginia, you will find the answers to these questions, and you will also learn what a Roanoke reckless driving attorney will do on your behalf to defend you against a charge of reckless driving.
When Can You Be Charged With Reckless Driving?
Because reckless driving is a criminal offense in Virginia rather than a traffic infraction, you must appear in court, or your defense attorney must appear on your behalf, so you cannot simply “pay the fine” for reckless driving.
Speeding can trigger a charge of reckless driving, but speeding is not the only way you could be charged with the offense. Motorists who exceed the posted limit by twenty or more miles per hour, and drivers who exceed eighty miles per hour anywhere in Virginia, may face the charge.
Additionally, if you drive in a manner that a law enforcement officer believes is reckless – by failing to use turn signals, tailgating, abruptly changing lanes, or running stop signs and traffic signals, for instance – that police officer can charge you with driving recklessly.
For Reckless Driving Convictions, What Penalties Are Imposed?
Drivers should know that Virginia has some of the harshest traffic laws of any state. If you’re accused of reckless driving, you should not attempt to act as your own attorney, but you can’t let yourself be defended by the wrong reckless driving lawyer, either.
A great deal will be on the line, because as mentioned previously, reckless driving is a crime and not a simple infraction or violation. In fact, for most drivers in Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction could send you to jail for up to one year.
Additionally, you could receive a six-month driver’s license suspension, and six demerit points will go on your driving record. You could also be fined as much as $2,500.
If your reckless driving conviction arises from street racing, you will face enhanced penalties, including a driver’s license suspension for up to two years and the possible seizure of your vehicle.
There are also what you might call “extra-legal” penalties if you are convicted of reckless driving. A conviction establishes a criminal record. Your car insurance will cost considerably more. If you make your living as a driver, you might have to look for another line of work.
Can Reckless Driving Be Charged As a Felony?
For most motorists in Virginia, as mentioned above, reckless driving is a misdemeanor, but for some drivers, it can be charged as a felony. If the reckless driving caused the death of another person, you may be charged with a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony conviction can be penalized with up to five years in prison.
If you are engaged in racing as reckless driving which causes the death of another you may be punished with up to twenty years in prison.
How Will Your Attorney Defend You?
If you’re charged with reckless driving, getting in touch with the right reckless driving defense attorney is your first step. Even if you are convicted, with a clear driving record, your lawyer can contend that your recklessness was a single, isolated incident. Other possible defenses are:
- You were speeding due to a genuine emergency.
- The device that measured your speed was improperly calibrated.
- Your speedometer wasn’t functioning properly (but you have had it repaired).
If you were pulled over by a police officer because of a speedometer malfunction, have it fixed before your court date and make copies of the receipt. Your attorney can show the receipt as evidence that you had no criminal intent and did not know how fast you were driving.
Can the Charge Be Reduced?
Virginia’s judges have substantial discretion in these cases. Your attorney may be able to persuade the judge in your case to reduce reckless driving to “improper” driving, an infraction (and not a crime) punishable upon conviction with no more than a $500 fine.
Additionally, improper driving puts only three points on your driving record instead of six, and improper driving remains on your record for only three years. A reckless driving conviction remains on your record eleven years.
Can You Appeal a Reckless Driving Conviction?
Do not plead guilty to a charge of reckless driving without consulting an attorney. Consulting a Roanoke criminal defense attorney and adhering to that attorney’s advice is the best strategy.
Charges of reckless driving can be reduced or dismissed, but to achieve a reduction or dismissal of the charge – or to succeed with your appeal – you will need a defense attorney who has considerable experience representing those who face the most serious traffic-related charges.
What Else Should You Know About Reckless Driving?
If you reside in a different state, you may presume your home state will take action against your license based on the Virginia conviction. This means your home state may suspend your driver’s license based on the reckless driving conviction in Virginia. Your home state may also apply any demerit points against your license based on the Virginia reckless driving conviction.
If you’re charged with reckless driving, you may want to fight the charge. A criminal traffic case is very much like any other criminal case and a reckless driving attorney can advise you on the best way to fight the charge.
If you are not guilty, and if the charge against you can’t be dismissed, you may want to insist on your right to a trial by jury, and your attorney will advocate in court on your behalf. To convict you, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and a good reckless driving attorney may be able to convince the jury reasonable doubt exists in your case.
If you’ve been charged with reckless driving, your best hope for avoiding the most severe penalties is to contact a reckless driving defense attorney at your earliest possible opportunity.