You can get a reckless driving conviction for “driving two abreast in a single lane.”  This is a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense in Virginia. The maximum punishment can include up to 12 months incarceration, a fine of up to $2,500.00 and a suspension of your privilege to drive for six months. Virginia is just very very tough on drivers and penalties.

Va Code § 46.2-857 explains what is meant by “driving two abreast in a single lane.” (There is another code section making it a reckless driving offense to “pass two vehicles abreast”, but that is a different code section and covers something different.)

“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives any motor vehicle so as to be abreast of another vehicle in a lane designed for one vehicle, or drives any motor vehicle so as to travel abreast of any other vehicle traveling in a lane designed for one vehicle.” – Va Code § 46.2-857

This law section goes on to explain certain exceptions. For example, it does not preclude two two-wheeled motorcycles from traveling abreast in one lane. It also does not preclude a vehicle from lawfully overtaking and passing a vehicle traveling in the same direction in a separate lane.

When defending one of these charges, I look to spot certain issues:

  • Who observed the behavior that the officer or the Commonwealth Attorney is alleging is reckless driving behavior?
  • Is that person there to testify?
  • What other evidence does the prosecution have?
  • Were there mitigating circumstances?  A legitimate emergency?
  • Was there really only one single lane?
  • Did the driver charged with the offense lawfully overtake and pass a vehicle?

Reckless driving is a serious charge in Virginia. It is a class 1 criminal misdemeanor offense. In cases where the judge finds that the evidence is enough to convict, that he believes the behavior covered under the reckless driving statute for driving two abreast in a single lane occurred, we can still ask the judge to consider reducing the charge to improper driving.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this article, upon the trial of any person charged with reckless driving where the degree of culpability is slight, the court in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving. However, an attorney for the Commonwealth may reduce a charge of reckless driving to improper driving at any time prior to the court’s decision and shall notify the court of such change. Improper driving shall be punishable as a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $500.” – Va Code § 46.2-869

Compared to reckless driving, which means 6 demerit points for 11 years on your driving record, improper driving is only 3 demerit points for 3 years and is a traffic infraction, not a criminal misdemeanor charge.  Please call us today if you need aggressive defense.

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