Every driver understands what speeding is, and why driving while intoxicated is so dangerous. But what exactly is reckless driving? Join us as we break down this class of charges, explain the possible penalties, and advise you on what to do if you have caught a reckless driving charge.
There are a number of variations on reckless driving charges. The three most common are speeding, failure to maintain control of the vehicle, and reckless driving that threatens someone’s life.
Reckless driving also includes charges such as (but not limited to):
- Failing to signal
- Driving two abreast
- Passing another vehicle on a grade or curve
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Driving too fast for conditions
It’s important to note that there is a category of reckless driving simply called “driving aggressively.” In other words, the arresting officer can use their own discretion, determine that you are driving recklessly, and issue you a ticket. It’s then up to you — and your attorney — to try to prove otherwise, or to use mitigating circumstances to get your charges reduced.
What Are the Possible Penalties of Reckless Driving?
If you are convicted on a reckless driving charge in the state of Virginia, you will face penalties. The maximum penalties that you may be given are as follows:
- Six points on your driver’s license
- Suspension of your license for six months
- A fine of $2,500
- 12 months of jail time
Remember that these are the maximum penalties. An experienced attorney who specializes in reckless driving charges will likely be able to reduce the penalties you face, by showing mitigating circumstances.
If you have a clean driving record and no history of criminal activity, it is not likely that you will face jail time or even license suspension. It is more likely that your punishment will consist of a fine and points on your license.
Additionally, a conviction on charges of reckless driving may result in consequences like a higher automobile insurance premium. Because reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor, you will also have a misdemeanor on your permanent record. And six points on your license is a pretty serious consequence, too. For almost all reckless driving charges, those points will stick around for 11 years.
What’s the Best Course of Action When Charged with Reckless Driving?
After you receive a Virginia Uniform Summons for reckless driving, you have a couple of options. You can go it alone in court, or secure the services of an attorney. An experienced attorney can help you decide whether or not to fight the charges in court, and will discuss your possible lines of defense if you do go to court.
Just as in more serious criminal cases, the burden of proof in reckless driving cases is on the Commonwealth. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the violation. Many times, you can beat the charges if the Commonwealth doesn’t offer the necessary evidence to prove this.
If you are a first offender with a fairly clean record, it may be worth your while to try to get the charges dropped or reduced — rather than going to court to fight them.
According to the Greensville County VA reckless driving lawyers at Weiland Upton, the difference between a regular ticket for speeding and a charge of reckless driving is often minor. Nevertheless, “the difference in penalties can add up to months in jail, months of suspended driving privileges and thousands of dollars in fines.” Obviously, those are consequences you want to avoid if at all possible.
If the Commonwealth’s case looks pretty airtight, your attorney may talk with you about the possibility of having the charge(s) dropped or reduced. The most likely outcome when it comes to reduced charges is one of “improper driving.”
A charge of improper driving can only be levied by the court as a lesser alternative to reckless driving; it isn’t an option for the law enforcement officer who stops you or responds to your vehicular accident. Improper driving charges result in only three points on your license, rather than six. Not only that, but this charge is only part of your driving record, which means you won’t have a misdemeanor on your criminal record.
Since most attorneys offer a complimentary initial consultation to discuss your case, it’s a good idea to pursue legal help and discuss your options. Receiving legal counsel can mean the difference between no jail time and serving jail time, a minimal fine versus a hefty fine, or three points on your license rather than six.
Naturally, it’s always best to avoid being charged or ticketed in the first place — not just because it saves you the hassle of going to court, but because it’s safer for everyone on the road. However, if you have committed a violation and received a ticket, contact a reckless driving law firm for help.