Reckless Driving Defense

A Guide to Virginia Reckless Driving Charges

Under Virginia law, reckless driving is considered a class 1 criminal misdemeanor charge (the same category as a DUI). Penalties for a reckless driving charge can include:

  1. A fine of up to $2,500
  2. A jail sentence of up to 12 months
  3. A license suspension of up to 6 months

Moreover, if a judge finds your guilty of reckless driving, you will receive 6 points on your Virginia license. The charge also stays on your driving record for 11 years. Additionally, a reckless driving conviction may increase your insurance premiums. It can also negatively impact employment opportunities since the charge stays on your criminal record for life. But you may be wondering: Do I really need a lawyer for my Virginia Beach reckless driving charge? Or, How much a lawyer cost for a reckless driving charge in Virginia Beach? We have helped hundreds of clients just like you resolve their Virginia Beach reckless driving citation. The first step is a free consultation. 

Charged with reckless driving in the Virginia Beach area? There are 11 different types of Reckless Driving under Virginia law:

Reckless Driving By Speed

Virginia law defines reckless driving by speed as driving at either 20 mph above the speed limit or driving at 85 mph or higher. In some parts of Virginia, speed limits top out at 70 mph, so all you need is 16 mph over the speed limit to get a reckless driving charge!  As one of the lawyers in our office notes, reckless driving by speed, “is the easiest way to become a criminal in Virginia.”

For reckless driving by speed charges and other speeding charges, it is important to review the calibration evidence presented to the court by the police officer. The officer needs to prove that his instruments were operating correctly when he stopped you. If he cannot prove this, the charge may be reduced or dismissed. If the officer paced you to determine your speed, there may be other defenses. Getting your vehicle’s speedometer calibrated is another way to get mercy from the judge.

“A person is guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of 20 miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of 85 miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.” – VA Code § 46.2-862

Reckless Driving Generally

Reckless driving generally serves as a catch-all category.  If you drive in a way (regardless of speed) that is percerceivd to endanger life, limb, or property, a police officer will likely charge you under this code section. 

“Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.” – VA Code § 46.2-852

Reckless Driving for Failure to Maintain Control of a Vehicle or Improper Brakes

A reckless driving charge for failure to maintain control of a vehicle is covered under VA Code § 46.2-853.  For example, swerving, fish tailing, and hopping a curb fall under this category.

“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control or which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes on any highway in the Commonwealth.” – VA Code § 46.2-853

Reckless Driving for Passing a School Bus

Passing a school bus with its lights on and stop arm extended is considered reckless driving under VA Code § 46.2-859. I have written more about reckless driving for passing a school bus here.

Reckless Driving for Driving Two Abreast in a Single Lane

“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives any motor vehicle so as to be abreast of another vehicle in a lane designed for one vehicle, or drives any motor vehicle so as to travel abreast of any other vehicle traveling in a lane designed for one vehicle.” – Va Code § 46.2-857.

Read more about reckless driving for driving two abreast in a single lane here.

Reckless Driving for Passing Two Cars Abreast

“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who passes or attempts to pass two other vehicles abreast, moving in the same direction, except on highways having separate roadways of three or more lanes for each direction of travel, or on designated one-way streets or highways.” – VA Code § 46.2-856.

Reckless Driving for Passing a Stationary Emergency Vehicle With Flashing Lights

As of July 1, 2019, the Virginia Code categorizes failing to move over for an emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing, blinking, or alternating red, blue, or amber lights as a reckless driving charge. Penalites for this charge are the same as a normal reckless driving by speed charge. You can read more about this type of charge here, but the safest thing to do when you see an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is to move over one lane when passing or slow down if it is unsafe to switch lanes.

Reckless Driving For Racing

In Virginia, racing is a type of reckless driving offense, which is a class 1 criminal misdemeanor. As such, a judge has discretion to give jail time of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500 for racing. However, the penalty for racing in Virginia comes with a required license suspension lasting anywhere between 6 months and 2 years. Learn more about what constitutes racing here.

Reckless Driving for Failure to Yield

“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to bring his vehicle to a stop immediately before entering a highway from a side road when there is traffic approaching on such highway within 500 feet of such point of entrance, unless (i) a ‘Yield Right-of-Way’ sign is posted or (ii) where such sign is posted, fails, upon entering such highway, to yield the right-of-way to the driver of a vehicle approaching on such highway from either direction.” – VA Code § 46.2-863

Learn more about reckless driving for failure to yield here.

Reckless Driving for Failing to Give Proper Signals

“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.”VA Code § 46.2-860

Learn more about reckless driving for failing to give proper signals here.

How to Beat a Virginia Beach Reckless Driving Ticket

Often times, police officers will write tickets for reckless driving at the scene of accidents. However, in accident cases, we can challenge the evidence that the court considers because, more often than not, the officer did not witness the accident. Case law does not permit a judge to infer guilt just because an accident occurred. Even if the judge decides that the evidence is sufficient to find the defendant guilty, it is still possible to get a lower sentence based on mitigating factors such as a good driving record, defective equipment, or a legitimate emergency.

Reducing the Charge from Reckless Driving to Improper Driving

With the right mitigation, we can usually get a reckless driving charge reduced to a lower, non-criminal charge such as speeding. But, one of the best outcomes available to those charged with reckless driving (apart from a dismissal!), is known as improper driving. Improper driving only carries three points and gets removed from a driving record after three years. We have helped many clients get their charge reduced to improper driving. The Virginia Code describes improper driving this way:

“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.” – Virginia Code § 46.2-869

Contact a Virginia Beach Reckless Driving Lawyer

No matter what kind of reckless driving charge you have received, we are here to help. From our initial consultation to the day of court, we will be alongside you to answer questions and assist in any way we can. Don’t wait to get the help you need! If you’re wondering if you even need a lawyer, read this article.


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