“Reckless Driving by Speed” in Virginia is not simply a speeding ticket. Reckless driving by speed is codified under VA Code § 46.2-862. As a Class 1 misdemeanor, it can carry jail time of up to a year, a suspended license for up to 6 months, and a fine of up to $2,500. If you were charged with going 74 mph in a 55 mph zone in Virginia, speeding at 19 over the limit, you could prepay that fine if you chose not to fight the charge. However, if you were charged with going 75 in a 55 zone, most likely the officer charged you with reckless driving by speed, the misdemeanor charge. You can get charged with reckless driving by speed for going 20 or more miles per hour above the speed limit, or for going over 80 mph, regardless of the speed limit. While a speeding ticket is a traffic infraction, reckless driving by speed is a criminal misdemeanor.
There are at least 13 other ways you can get charged with reckless driving in Virginia. But if I had to guess, I would say that 90% of the reckless driving charges written are for reckless driving by speed. To know for sure what you were charged with, look at your Virginia Uniform Summons, the yellow sheet you received from the officer. Often times officers or troopers will write “RD” on the summons when they charge someone with reckless driving instead of spelling out “reckless driving” in its entirety. If you aren’t sure, it is wise to have an attorney review your summons with you.
Here’s one tip: if you were charged with “simply” a speeding ticket, the box saying “you may avoid coming to court only if this box is checked” would be checked. But if you were charged with reckless driving by speed or another type of reckless driving, the officer or trooper will cross out this section saying that you may avoid coming to court. This is because a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving carries the possibility of jail time and the judge will want you or your attorney to be there. An attorney may be able to have your case tried in your absence, but you should discuss the availability of this option with a traffic defense attorney first.
It is important that you fight your reckless driving charge. A criminal misdemeanor conviction is no laughing matter.