Virginia has perhaps the harshest traffic laws and regulations in the entire country. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, motorists who are caught travelling more than 20 miles per hour above the speed limit or 80 miles per hour total can be charged with reckless driving — a criminal offense.
To be clear, this means you could be facing jail time for excessive speeding. In this article, our Richmond criminal defense attorney provides an overview of the most important things that motorists need to know about the Virginia reckless driving laws.
Virginia Law: What is Reckless Driving
Under Virginia law, reckless driving comes in two different forms.
The first type of reckless driving is excessive speeding. As was mentioned, you can be charged with reckless driving for speed alone. If you are caught going more than 20 MPH over the posted speed limit or 80 MPH total, you are subject to a reckless driving charge under Virginia Code § 46.2-862.
The second type of reckless driving is operating a vehicle in a manner that endangers life or property. This is obviously a less clear standard. That being said, if a police officer observes a driver operating their vehicle in an unreasonably dangerous manner, then they can arrest them for reckless driving under Virginia Code § 46.2-852.
What are the Maximum Penalties for Reckless Driving
Reckless driving is a serious criminal offense. If hit with the maximum penalties, the consequences will be severe. Among other things, a reckless driving conviction exposes defendants to the following penalties:
- Six points on your driver’s license;
- A $2,500 fine and increased insurance costs;
- Up to one year in jail; and
- A six-month suspension of your driving privileges.
Of course, it is important to understand that these are the maximum penalties. You will not necessarily go to jail if you are pulled over for going 81 miles per hour — indeed, if you have a clean driving record, it is fairly unlikely. Judges have wide discretion in these cases. As explained by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, judicial discretion is a term used to describe the court’s authority to make decisions while weighing the totality specific facts and circumstances of the case.
Reckless Driving Charges May Be Downgraded to Improper Driving
In some cases, the best way to defend a reckless driving charge is to try to get the offense downgraded to a non-criminal issue. Specifically, under Virginia Code § 46.2-869, defendants can be cited for a less severe offense called ‘improper driving’. Notably, improper driving is a traffic violation that carries a maximum of a $500 fine. Unlike reckless driving, it is not a criminal offense. Our lawyer can help you pursue this option.
Discuss Your Case with Our Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
At Ali J. Amirshahi Attorney at Law, PLLC, our Richmond criminal defense attorney has the skills and legal experience needed to handle traffic offenses, including reckless driving charges. under certain conditions we have been able to have charges dismissed altogether, sometimes after completing driving school and sometimes simply based on the evidence.
To request a free, fully private initial consultation, please contact us right away. With a law office in Richmond, we handle reckless driving charges throughout the region, including in Henrico County and Chesterfield County.