Virginia has one of the most strict and complex reckless driving laws in the entire country. In some cases, drivers who think they have been issued a traffic ticket were actually cited for criminal reckless driving. If you were charged with reckless driving, it is imperative that you speak to a lawyer before your court date. Do not pay a reckless driving ticket or plead guilty to an offense without understanding your rights. Here, our Richmond traffic violation attorneys offer a guide to reckless driving charges in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Reckless Driving: Understanding Virginia Law
Contrary to what some people believe, reckless driving is not simply a standard traffic ticket—it is a criminal offense. As explained by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), reckless driving is typically charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. You can be charged with reckless driving in Central Virginia if:
- You go 20 MPH above the posted speed limit;
- You go 80 MPH, regardless of the speed limit; or
- You operate your vehicle in a careless manner as to endanger life, limb, or property.
In other words, there are two ways to be charged with reckless driving in Virginia. The first is based purely on speed—”extreme” speeding is sufficient to support a reckless driving charge. Beyond that, Virginia has ‘catch-all’ language in its legal code—meaning a driver can be arrested for reckless driving if a state or local officer deems their conduct to be especially dangerous.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Virginia
The penalties for reckless driving will vary based on the underlying circumstances of that case—including the driver’s prior history of offenses, or lack thereof. Under Virginia law (Code of Virginia § 46.2-868), a defendant convicted of reckless driving will be subject to serious penalties that can include:
- Significant financial penalties (up to $2,500);
- Increased auto insurance costs;
- Suspension of your driver’s license (up to 6 months); and
- Jail time (up to 12 months).
To be clear, most reckless driving charges do not result in jail time in Virginia. If you were charged with reckless driving for absentmindedly going 85 MPH on interstate 64, it is very unlikely a prosecutor will seek the maximum sentence. That being said, reckless driving is still a misdemeanor criminal offense. It is a very serious matter. Do not pay the fine or plead guilty without talking to a professional.
Your Options for Defending a Reckless Driving Offense
Similar to other criminal offenses, reckless driving charges must be defended on a case-by-case basis. The approach that works well for another person’s reckless driving charge may not be right for you. Our Richmond traffic violation defense lawyers will review the specific facts of your case to determine the best way to protect your rights. If the evidence does not fit the charge, we are ready to fight aggressively to get your case dismissed.
Of course, in some criminal cases, it is more sensible to focus on getting the penalties reduced or the charges reduced. This type of strategy can be especially effective when facing reckless driving charges. Many drivers who are facing a reckless driving offense may be eligible to get the charge reduced down to ‘improper driving’. Under Commonwealth law, improper driving is a moving violation punishable by a maximum fine of $500—it is not a criminal offense.
Contact Our Richmond, VA Reckless Driving Defense Lawyer Today
At Bain Sheldon, our top-rated Virginia traffic violation lawyers are committed to providing aggressive, results-focused representation to motorists. If you were charged with reckless driving, we are ready to get to work. To schedule your free case evaluation, please contact our law firm immediately. With an office location in Richmond, we represent drivers throughout Central Virginia, including in Petersburg, Glen Allen, Mechanicsville, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, Goochland, New Kent, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, Powhatan, Prince George and Ashland.