Of all the different ways a person can be charged with reckless driving in Virginia, a reckless driving charge for failing to give proper signals is one of the more rare ones used. This law is codified under Virginia Code § 46.2-860 and is very short, being only one sentence.
“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to give adequate and timely signals of intention to turn, partly turn, slow down, or stop, as required by Article 6 (§ 46.2-848 et seq.) of this chapter.”
As innocent as it may seem to fail to give a proper signal, any charge of reckless driving is still considered a class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia law and carries with it the possibility of harsh penalties, including up to a year in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, and a potential license suspension of up to six months.
The Commonwealth must prove that you failed to give “adequate and timely” signals, terms not defined in this statute and subject to interpretation. If a judge finds that the facts are ambiguous, or that the commonwealth has not proven their case, a judge may find a defendant not guilty.
A judge may also be willing to find a defendant guilty of a non-criminal infraction under another code section, such as Virginia Code § 46.2-848 which states:
“Every driver who intends to back, stop, turn, or partly turn from a direct line shall first see that such movement can be made safely and, whenever the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by such movement, shall give the signals required in this article, plainly visible to the driver of such other vehicle, of his intention to make such movement.” (The Virginia DMV told me over the phone that this non-criminal code section is negative 4 points.)
Some judges may be persuaded to reduce the charge to improper driving where the degree of culpability is not as great. Often our clients will offer mitigating evidence to the judge in the form of completion of driving school, proof of a good driving record, or community service. What we recommend to our clients depends on the facts and circumstances of each case, since every case is different and unique.
If you have been charged with reckless driving for failing to give proper signals, give us a call today.