For those charged with reckless driving by speed or speeding in Virginia, it may be advisable for you to get your vehicle’s speedometer calibrated so that you can show the court that your speedometer is defective. If your speedometer is off in the right direction, it is common for many judges to adjust your speed by the amount your speedometer was off by. Some judges give speedometer calibrations more weight than others.
So a speedometer calibration can be very helpful, especially if your alleged speed is a border line case for reckless driving by speed. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-942, properly authenticated calibration test results are admissible in court, and the technician who performed the test does not have to be in court with you.
But what if you can’t get your speedometer calibrated before court for one reason or another? Perhaps it is just not possible for you because you were driving a rental vehicle and you have already returned your vehicle to the rental agency. Or perhaps your vehicle has been sold or is no longer functional. In cases where my client can not produce a speedometer calibration certificate, a judge may feel less inclined to reduce a charge to a lesser speed since there is no scientific evidence to support it. Still, we often ask a judge for mercy based on other points of mitigation, such as other things my client did before court. Sometimes we recommend our clients do community service or driving school before court to give the judge a reason to show mercy.
If a judge won’t reduce the speed alleged on a summons, a court might still consider a conviction for improper driving or speeding at the same speed (but not reckless driving), since either of these avoids the reckless driving criminal conviction. At some point, judges will not reduce a charge to improper driving, since it is only 3 demerit points for 3 years and is a traffic infraction. In that case, the court should be made aware of Virginia Code 46.2-492(D)(1), which states that “speeding twenty or more miles per hour above the posted speed limit…. shall be assigned six demerit points.” This code section is my argument that a judge has discretion to convict someone going 20 mph or more above the speed limit for speeding at the same alleged speed, without finding them guilty of reckless driving by speed. In essence, the six points assigned for speeding at 20+ over the limit is the same amount of points as a reckless driving by speed conviction, but it avoids the misdemeanor reckless driving classification.
For example, I had a reckless driving defense case in Northampton County, where the judge was not in the habit of reducing any charge over 80 miles per hour to improper driving. My client did not have a speedometer calibration certificate to show the judge. The judge was willing to reduce my client’s reckless driving by speed charge, for 83 mph in a 55 mp, to speeding at the same speed when he understood that my client would get six demerit points and was really trying to avoid a criminal misdemeanor conviction. This was a win in my book since a conviction for speeding at the alleged speed is much better than a reckless driving criminal misdemeanor conviction.