Whether you’re a visitor or a longtime resident of Virginia, you may be surprised to learn how the state handles reckless driving offenses. Not to be confused with a regular speeding ticket, reckless driving is categorized as a Class 1 misdemeanor—the same level of offense as a DUI. In other words, the offense is considered a crime and can be punished with higher fines, a license suspension, and even jail time.
What is reckless driving?
The term “reckless driving” applies to a range of scenarios, including speeding over 80 mph, passing a school bus, racing, and failing to give a proper signal, among others. When it comes to speeding, there are two types of reckless driving charges you should learn to distinguish. You can receive a reckless driving charge by speeding 20 mph or more above the speed limit, but you can also be charged for speeding in excess of 80 mph—regardless of the posted speed limit.
What does this mean in practice?
Your speed should never exceed 80 mph. If the speed limit is 70, you won’t avoid a higher penalty by going 89. Virginia traffic law offers no leeway in this instance. The moment you hit 81 mph on any road, you are considered to be in violation of Virginia’s reckless driving laws. Most people would not anticipate receiving a reckless driving charge for driving 11 mph over the posted speed limit, but in Virginia this is exactly what can happen if you drive 81 mph in a 70 mph zone.
What are the possible consequences?
If your reckless driving charge results in a conviction, you could receive a fine, a license suspension, and/or jail time. The severity of your punishment will depend on the circumstances of your case. Factors like higher speeds and a poor driving record can increase your fine and your chances of a suspension or jail time.
Courts seldom assign the maximum fine of $2,500, but you will likely face other financial consequences like court costs, increased insurance premiums, and even job loss, depending on your employer. Resulting license suspensions can last up to 6 months, and jail time can be assigned for a maximum duration of one year, although these outcomes are less common for the average driver.
What about my driving record?
Your DMV record will be marked for 11 years following a reckless driving conviction, unless your only offense involves speeding over 20 mph, in which case it will be cleared from your driving record after 5 years. Adults typically receive 6 demerit points for reckless driving. Generally your driving record can affect your insurance premiums, limit your job opportunities, and increase your chances of a license suspension or revocation.
A reckless driving conviction will remain on your criminal record forever. Even if you don’t serve jail time, a tarnished record can limit your freedoms in several ways. According to an American Bar Association database, there are over 140 consequences for misdemeanor convictions in Virginia alone. A misdemeanor conviction can affect your ability to access housing, loans, employment, and a whole host of other necessities, opportunities, and privileges.
Who can help?
If you’ve been charged with reckless driving, you should immediately find an attorney to help you build a defense. I have several years of experience fighting traffic violations on behalf of drivers like you. I have witnessed how one simple mistake on the road can have a serious, far-reaching impact on one’s life, and I am dedicated to making sure that doesn’t happen to my own clients.
Virginia traffic law is harsh, but it’s not unbeatable. When you call my law office, you’ll get my undivided attention as well as my authoritative knowledge on traffic infractions, ticket disputes, and more. Get in touch to minimize your fines and safeguard your criminal record. I’ll make sure you have a fighting chance to defend your rights and your future.