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The Seriousness of Reckless Driving for Virginia Truckers

In Virginia, reckless driving is not just a simple traffic violation. It is a serious criminal offense that could result in severe penalties. A reckless driving charge can be especially devastating for commercial truck drivers. In addition to legal penalties, Virginia truckers convicted of reckless driving could face additional consequences. Hiring an experienced reckless driving lawyer like James E. Short as soon as possible after an arrest is critical to achieving the most positive outcome possible.     

The Basics of Virginia’s Reckless Driving Laws

Virginia law includes a wide range of driving behaviors that can result in reckless driving charges. A reckless driving conviction can seriously and irreparably damage a person’s life. For truck drivers, this type of conviction can also impact their livelihood. This is true even if the violation occurred when driving a personal vehicle.

The Code of Virginia Section 46.2-852 defines the general rule for reckless driving. It’s when someone drives “in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.” Reckless often involves excessive speeding, but not always. For example, passing a school bus or failing to yield the right of way can result in reckless driving charges.

Several other statutes define other types of behavior that constitute reckless driving. For example, Section 46.2-853 forbids driving a vehicle with faulty brakes, or that is otherwise not in proper control. Failing to give proper signals is covered by Section 46.2-860 of Virginia law. You don’t have to be involved in an accident to be charged with reckless driving.

Reckless Driving Is a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia

In only limited circumstances is reckless driving a felony in Virginia. In most cases, reckless driving is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. This class of misdemeanor carries the heaviest potential penalties, including:

  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • Up to $2,500 fine 
  • Up to six months suspended driver’s license
  • Six DMV points
  • A conviction that stays on your record for 11 years

These consequences apply to drivers of regular passenger vehicles and commercial trucks alike. For truckers who have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the ramifications can put their long-term livelihood at risk. A restricted driver’s license during suspension does not extend to CDL privileges.

How a Conviction Can Impact a Commercial Truck Driver

A reckless driving conviction is far more impactful than a simple speeding ticket in Virginia. A commercial driver could be subject to harsh, possibly career-ending penalties.

Regular Driver’s License Suspension

This is true whether the offense occurred while operating a commercial motor vehicle or driving the family car on the weekend. A suspension of a person’s regular driver’s license is one of the most common consequences of a reckless driving conviction.

While your regular driver’s license is suspended, a professional driver is also unable to drive a commercial truck. In effect, your CDL is also suspended. As a result, you are legally unable to work as a driver until the driver’s license suspension is lifted.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Consequences

If the driver has been convicted of other serious driving violations, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may also disqualify them from having a valid CDL. In addition to reckless driving, other serious violations include things like tailgating or making unsafe lane changes. Two violations within three years result in a 60-day CDL suspension. Three or more violations in three years result in a 180-day CDL disqualification.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Disqualification

Beyond the Commonwealth of Virginia, commercial truck operators are also governed by a national body. Broadly, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defers to local laws for defining reckless driving.

Similar to the Virginia DMV, FMCSA disqualification from driving a commercial truck results from serious violations:

  • A disqualification for 60 days with two violations in three years.
  • A disqualification for up to 120 days for three violations in three years.

Loss of Driving Employment

Short-term consequences for reckless driving can be heavy, but the long-term ramifications may be the harshest reckless driving penalties for truckers. A driver with reckless driving on their record may be terminated by their current employer, as such a conviction may violate company policy. After all, it’s important for companies to manage risk and reduce insurance costs. 

With a reckless driving conviction, it may also be very difficult for someone to be hired as a commercial truck driver for any other employer. Companies want drivers with the cleanest records possible, which means that reckless driving can be a career-ending criminal offense for a commercial truck driver.

Retain a Skilled Virginia Reckless Driving Lawyer Right Away

When faced with a reckless driving charge, time is of the essence. With such high stakes on the line, the sooner you hire a skilled reckless driving attorney, such as experienced Virginia defense attorney James E. Short, the better. A serious charge like reckless driving requires a serious defense.

The best-case scenario is for the charge to be dismissed and expunged from your record, which may happen when a person is wrongly accused. In other cases, it may be possible to reduce a Virginia reckless driving charge to a lesser offense. Depending on exactly what happened, it may be possible for the charge to be reduced to improper driving, which is a minor moving violation rather than a misdemeanor. This can lower immediate penalties and also minimize the impact on future employment.