What is Improper Driving in Virginia?

Improper driving is a form of judicial relief where a judge or prosecutor reduces a charge from reckless driving to help a driver avoid a class 1 misdemeanor. While reckless driving is a criminal charge, improper driving is a traffic infraction. Improper driving is defined in the code under Virginia Code § 46.2-869. It 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

How Many Points is Improper Driving?

Compared to reckless driving, which carries 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. 

What are the Pros and Cons of an Improper Driving Conviction Versus Other Types of Reductions to Avoid a Reckless Driving conviction?

  • Improper Driving in Virginia is 3 points which stays on your record for 3 years. The down side is that in the future, a judge reviewing your record will see that you received judicial relief on a charge of reckless driving in your past.
  • Speeding at 0-9 mph over the limit is 3 points which stays on your record for 5 years. Your driving record will mask the fact that you were charged with reckless driving.
  • Speeding at 10-19 over the limit is 4 points which stays on your record for 5 years. Your driving record will mask the fact that you were charged with reckless driving.
  • Speeding at 20+ over the limit is 6 points which stays on your record for 5 years. The points are the same as a reckless driving conviction, but you avoid a misdemeanor and the points stay on your record for 5 years instead of 11 years for a reckless. Although six points, sometimes this is the only option a judge may consider to give you a break from avoiding a reckless driving conviction. A judge reviewing your record at a future date will know that you could have faced a reckless driving by speed charge, but either got a break from a law enforcement officer or the court.
  • Defective equipment is 0 points and would be a big reduction if you can get that, though whether a judge will give this depends on the facts of the case.

Can Police Officers Charge Defendants and Drivers with Improper Driving?

No, the way the law is currently written, law enforcement officers cannot charge a person with improper driving. As a result, many times in accident cases, police officers feel compelled to charge a driver with reckless driving simply because an accident occurred. A driver with a bad day ends up having a worse day facing a misdemeanor charge. Delegate Timothy Anderson has proposed a law change to allow officers to charge people with improper driving rather than having them face the prospects of a class 1 misdemeanor. The bill to give officers more discretion did not pass this year in the 2022 legislative session.

Can I get my Reckless Driving Charge Reduced to Improper Driving?

This will depend on the facts of your particular case, such as why the officer pulled you over, what your record looks like, and what you have done to earn the mercy of the court. Our office offers free consultations for reckless driving cases in the cities that we serve. Feel free to schedule a consultation with our office.

improper driving

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The lawyers at our office in Virginia Beach handle traffic and criminal defense matters for clients in the greater Hampton Roads area.

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