Even if you normally consider yourself to be an excellent driver, one moment of poor judgment can have lasting consequences. If you're running late to an important appointment or distracted by a situation beyond your control, you might be tempted to take additional risks on the road. Unfortunately, this can result in a reckless driving charge.
In most cases, reckless driving charges in Virginia are related to excessive speed. Drivers can be charged with this offense if they are traveling 20 mph above the posted speed limit or over 85 mph regardless of the speed limit. However, you can also face a reckless driving charge if the arresting officer believes you've operated your vehicle in a careless manner that endangers life, limb, or property—even if you're not speeding.
Potential Penalties for Reckless Driving
Many people are surprised to learn that reckless driving is a criminal offense and not a simple traffic violation. In Virginia, the charge is a Cass 1 misdemeanor. Penalties include:
- A potential fine of $2,500
- A potential jail sentence of 12 months
- A license suspension of up to six months
- Six DMV points added to your driving record
The conviction will remain on your Virginia driving record for 11 years. It will remain on your permanent criminal record for the remainder of your life.
Sentencing Considerations and Mitigating Factors
As with other types of criminal offenses, the judge has some discretion in assessing penalties for a reckless driving conviction. The judge will consider factors such as your prior driving record, whether your conduct caused any injuries or property damage, and if you're facing any additional charges related to the incident. Evidence of an incorrect speedometer might be a mitigating factor, but this typically only comes into play when a difference of a few miles could take the charge back down to a simple speeding ticket.
Your attitude towards the judge and arresting officer will also play a role, so it is important to be polite and respectful throughout the process. Additionally, the judge may be more willing to show leniency if you offer to complete community service or a driver education course. Your goal should be to be seen as remorseful and accountable for your actions.
Virginia residents convicted of reckless driving can expect a hefty increase in auto insurance premiums. The exact amount will vary depending upon your policy terms and past driving record, but one survey found that reckless driving increased premiums by an average of 21.8%—a steep increase compared to the 10.62% associated with a normal speeding ticket.
The potential negative consequences of a criminal record are also an important factor to consider if you're facing a reckless driving charge. For example, if your job duties require driving, you may be terminated or disqualified from a new position due to a reckless driving conviction. Maintaining a government security clearance may also be a problem, especially if you have more than one offense on your record.
How an Attorney Can Help
With so much at stake, it would be a mistake to try to handle a reckless driving charge on your own. Without an understanding of Virginia law and what defenses are legally acceptable, you can't simply appear before the judge and "explain" your conduct away. And, if you accidentally miss a required court appearance, you can be charged with an additional offense.
Experienced criminal defense attorney James Short will review the strength of the evidence against you and identify any legal defenses you may have. If beating the charge is not feasible, he can argue for lesser penalties or alternative sentences. If you are unhappy with the outcome of your trial, he can assist you in filing an appeal with the local Circuit Court.
James has been in private practice since 1991—giving him extensive experience defending clients from Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and the surrounding areas who've been charged with reckless driving. Contact us today to request a consultation to discuss your defense options.