If you were charged with reckless driving in Virginia, I may be able to get your charge reduced to improper driving, a traffic infraction without a criminal classification. Law enforcement officers do not charge drivers with improper driving. 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 to help a defendant avoid a misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving.
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, avoiding a criminal misdemeanor conviction is a win, so being convicted of improper driving instead of reckless driving is a welcome result. Improper driving is defined in the code under Virginia Code § 46.2-869.
“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
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, here are pros and cons to consider:
- Improper driving (3 points which stay on a Virginia 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 viewed in the future, a judge will know that you have already received judicial relief on a charge of reckless driving.
- Speeding at 10-19 mph over the limit (4 points which stay on a Virginia 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 since a speeding ticket on your record doesn’t show that you were given mercy.
- Speeding at 0-9 mph over the limit is 3 points in Virginia for 5 years.
- Speeding at 20+ mph over the limit is 6 points in Virginia for 5 years.
- Reckless driving is usually 6 points in Virginia and the points count against you for 11 years. This conviction is normally a class 1 misdemeanor.
I try to go for a dismissal of a reckless driving charge if the facts warrant it, which can happen in accident cases. But for those charged with reckless driving, either alternative disposition (improper driving or a reduction to 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.