If you were charged with reckless driving in Virginia, an attorney may be able to help you get your charge reduced to improper driving. Reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia but improper driving is a traffic infraction without a criminal classification. For most people, avoiding a misdemeanor and getting improper driving is a welcome result, unless of course there is a way to get the reckless driving charge dismissed altogether.
Police officers do not have the ability to charge drivers with improper driving. Improper driving is a form of judicial relief defined under Virginia Code § 46.2-869, 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. This law section states:
“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
Improper driving is also less points from the Virginia DMV’s perspective. 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. If my client is charged with reckless driving by speed (one of the types of reckless driving offenses in Virginia) and the judge gives us the option of getting the charge reduced to a speeding offense or improper driving, here are pros and cons of each 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 you go to court again in the future, the judge will know that you previously 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) – This carries more points and stays on your record longer, but your future driving record will mask the fact that you were charged with reckless driving since a speeding ticket could have been a prepayable offense instead of an act of judicial leniency.
- 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 6 points in Virginia and the points count against you for 11 years. This conviction is a class 1 misdemeanor.
If we can’t get a reckless driving charge dismissed, either alternative disposition (improper driving or a reduction to speeding), would be a much better result than a reckless driving conviction.
If you need help on a reckless driving case, we offer free consultations in these jurisdictions:
- Accomack Reckless Driving Defense
- Chesapeake Reckless Driving Defense
- Hampton Reckless Driving Defense
- Newport News Reckless Driving Defense
- Norfolk Reckless Driving Defense
- Norfolk Federal Court Reckless Driving Defense
- Northampton Reckless Driving Defense
- Portsmouth Reckless Driving Defense
- Suffolk Reckless Driving Defense
- Virginia Beach Reckless Driving Defense