Imagine for a moment: you’re planning that long-awaited summer vacation. You’re headed south to Orlando or the Outer Banks. Maybe you’re heading north to New York or Boston. You make all your preparations, and your final task is getting directions. You go to Google Maps, Mapquest or use your AAA triptik. Your trip requires you to travel on I-95 through Virginia. Your vacation begins, and you finally head out the door for that week of relaxation. You enter Virginia, and your mind is on everything but the speed limit. You keep up with the flow of traffic because you have no idea what the actual speed limit is. And before your vacation even starts, you’re being stopped by law enforcement and issued a citation for speeding. Except that many times, its not speeding you’re charged with. Rather its Reckless Driving. You’re told by law enforcement that you’re required to appear in that county’s court. But you thought it was just a speeding ticket, right?
I have received hundreds of calls just like this scenario over the years. The most extreme calls come from out-of-state drivers because they fall in one of two primary categories: Having been charged with Reckless Driving, you researched it and found out that it is a Class 1 Misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine and a 6 month license suspension. You start thinking about your job, your finances and your future. Or you were completely unaware of the difference between Reckless Driving and your average speeding ticket. You had no idea that you were being charged with a misdemeanor or that you could possibly get jail time for a speeding-related offense. Maybe you’re one of the 394 drivers who received a Reckless Driving charge over this last weekend, according to a recent Associated Press article.
Unlike many states where all speeding cases are traffic infractions with only a fine and points to be concerned with, Virginia has instituted a Reckless Driving statute. It can be found in Title 46.2 of our Code, between Sections 852 and 868. There are a variety of offenses classified as Reckless Driving, but the one that causes the highest level of distress and misunderstanding from drivers is Section 46.2-862, which classifies Reckless Driving as “a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit” or “in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.” In Northern Virginia, you have to watch those speed limit signs carefully.
On I-95 traveling between Fredericksburg and Springfield, the speed limit changes between 65 and 55 miles per hour within a span of just a few miles. In Fairfax County, the maximum speed limit in a regular travel lane is 55 miles per hour, regardless of how many lanes of traffic there may be. Going with the flow of traffic can commonly find you going 75 miles per hour. Beware! That is Reckless Driving in some areas!
Here’s the reality. Regardless of what state you’re from, a good driving record can limit your punishment in most cases to a fine. In many circumstances, a good defense attorney can negotiate a reduction of the Reckless Driving to an infraction offense. Some courts will allow a person to take a defensive driving class; others, such as Fairfax County, do not. Jail time becomes a real possibility when your driving record shows a history of previous Reckless Driving convictions, a significant number of prior speeding offenses, your speed when you were stopped is more than double the posted speed limit, or you were driving at a speed approaching and in excess of 90 miles per hour.
For out-of-state drivers who wish they did not have to return to Virginia for a court appearance, it is possible for an attorney to request the court to waive your appearance and appear in your absence.
No matter where you land on the Reckless Driving knowledge scale, it is important to take any Reckless Driving charge seriously, and seek experienced legal representation.
The traffic defense lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. represent clients throughout Northern Virginia on reckless driving and other criminal traffic charges. If you have been charged with such an offense, contact us to schedule your free consultation with a Virginia reckless driving defense attorney today.