“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. For most of my clients, their goal is to avoid a criminal misdemeanor conviction, so being convicted of improper driving instead is a good result.
Improper driving is a form of judicial relief where the judge or commonwealth attorney (prosecutor) determines that the “degree of culpability is slight” and shows mercy. Law enforcement officers do not charge drivers with improper driving. If my client is charged with reckless driving by speed and the judge gives us the option of getting the charge reduced to either speeding or improper driving, my client has a decision to make. Here are the pros and cons of each:
- Improper driving (3 points which stay on your record for 3 years) – The points are less and stay on your Virginia record for a shorter period, but if your driving record is ever needed in the future, a judge will know that you have already received judicial relief on a charge of reckless driving.
- Speeding at 10-19 over the limit (4 points which stay on your record for 5 years) – The points are more and stay on your record for a longer period, but your driving record will mask the fact that you were charged with reckless driving.
I try to go for a dismissal of a reckless driving charge if the facts warrant it. But for those charged with reckless driving, either alternative disposition (improper driving or simple speeding), would be a much better result, allowing the driver to avoid a criminal misdemeanor conviction in the same category of offenses as a DUI.