Police Officer Pulling Over a Driver for Reckless DrivingIn Virginia, a reckless driving charge can be a felony. This only applies in limited circumstances. In those specific situations, it can be a Class 6 felony. Depending on the case, this can result in up to 20 years in prison. But, most of the time, reckless driving in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor. It is more than a simple traffic violation. Reckless driving is a criminal charge and you should take it seriously.

Keep reading to learn the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony with a reckless driving charge in Virginia. This article will also outline the potential penalties for misdemeanors and felonies. While speed is often a factor, officers can charge you for reckless driving for other reasons too.

Reckless Driving Is Usually a Misdemeanor

Virginia has four classes of misdemeanors. Most reckless driving charges in the state are a Class 1 misdemeanor. Of the classes, Class 1 misdemeanors carry the harshest potential penalties. Jail time is possible. If the offense isn’t too serious, jail time is not very common. But, a conviction can lead to a permanent criminal record.

As a general rule, Virginia code §46.2-852 states, “Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives 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 shall be guilty of reckless driving.”

Several sections of the Virginia code describe examples of reckless driving. These include:

  • Not having control of the vehicle, like driving with faulty brakes.
  • Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve.
  • Driving with the driver’s view obstructed.
  • Passing two vehicles abreast.
  • Driving two vehicles side-by-side in a single lane.
  • Passing at a railroad grade crossing.
  • Passing a stopped school bus.
  • Failing to give proper signals.
  • Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions.
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way.

When Reckless Driving Can Be a Felony

Virginia has three situations where a reckless driving charge can be a felony.

  1. Virginia code §46.2-868. The accused is driving with a suspended or revoked license due to a moving violation, and someone dies as a result of their reckless driving.
  2. Virginia code §46.2.865.1. The accused was racing, and someone not involved in the race was seriously injured.
  3. Virginia code §46.2.865.1. The accused was racing, and someone was killed because of the race. This is regardless of whether the person who died was or wasn’t involved in the race.

In all three cases, a reckless driving charge is a Class 6 felony. Note that speeding and reckless driving may be related, but they are not the same thing. The first is a traffic or moving violation. The latter is a criminal offense. In the case of a fatality, Virginia law views it as a special felony with higher penalties.

Reckless Driving Penalties in Virginia

The possible penalties for a Virginia reckless driving charge depend on whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. The law states minimum or maximum sentences. A skilled defense lawyer can help argue for lesser penalties if you are found guilty. They can bring up relevant factors, such as clean driving records, to convince the judge to reduce sentencing.

Possible Penalties for a Reckless Driving Misdemeanor

If the reckless driving charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor, penalties may include:

  • A fine of up to $2,500
  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • A driver’s license suspension of up to six months
  • Six DMV points added to your record
  • A minimum fine of $250 if the driver was using a handheld device

The conviction stays on your Virginia driving record for 11 years. It also remains on your permanent criminal record for life. This can affect employment opportunities, especially related to security clearance. It can also impact other areas in your life, like child custody, housing, and travel. If convicted of reckless driving, auto insurance premiums typically increase steeply too.

Possible Sentences With a Reckless Driving Felony Charge

When a reckless driving charge is a Class 6 felony, the penalties are heavier. They still include a lifelong criminal record and big auto insurance hikes. If convicted, you may also face:

  • A fine of up to $2,500
  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • Up to five years in prison
  • Six DMV demerit points
  • A driver’s license suspension of up to six months

When reckless driving involves a race that results in a fatality, the special felony carries much harsher penalties:

  • A mandatory minimum of one year in prison
  • Up to 20 years in prison
  • A driver’s license suspension of up to three years

The fine of up to $2,500 and the six demerit points still apply. The points stay on your Virginia DMV record for 11 years.

Why You Need a Defense Lawyer on Your Side

Reckless driving is a very serious offense and must be taken seriously. Prison sentences, license suspensions, and permanent criminal records can alter someone’s life irreparably. It’s crucial to hire a reckless driving defense attorney. They can help explain the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. An attorney can formulate a powerful defense, helping to give you the best shot possible at having the charge dropped or dismissed.