If you have been charged with reckless driving in Prince William County, it is strongly recommended you appear in Court with a lawyer who regularly practices such cases. Unlike a simple speeding ticket that is prepayable, reckless driving requires your appearance in Court and has serious consequences as a conviction. There are areas on Route I-66 in Prince William County where the speed limit is 70mph and many people find themselves in trouble in these areas.
What is Reckless Driving?
Reckless Driving is a traffic misdemeanor that, unfortunately, is the same Class 1 Misdemeanor as a DWI, Assault, Petit Larceny, Brandishing a Firearm, etc. While it is a very common charge, it is not a charge that an individual should put to chance and represent themselves hoping that a Judge reduces it in court. We recommend that people go onto the Virginia Case Information System and look up cases of people that have previously appeared in court on Reckless Driving charges. You would be amazed to see numerous cases of people going 75 mph in a 55 mph zone and are convicted of Reckless Driving. Additionally, where the speed limit is now 70mph, going over 80 mph remains reckless driving in Virginia notwithstanding the increase in the speed limit in those areas.
It is surprising how many people do not retain a lawyer to represent them in court for reckless driving cases. Even more surprising is how often a Judge finds the person guilty, institutes a small fine, leaving the person to believe they did well in court. It is not until later that the person realizes they were convicted of a Class 1 Misdemeanor and are facing additional consequences.
Reckless Driving Penalties
Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Consequently, in accordance with § 18.2-11 of the Virginia Code, the individual faces a punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2500.
Realistically, courts in Prince William County do not impose such jail terms but will incarcerate an individual for a period of time if appropriate. In addition, a conviction for reckless driving will result in a loss of 6 points on the Virginia driving record and will likewise remain on that record for 11 years. Unfortunately, it will remain as a criminal conviction for a lifetime. Insurance rates, employment issues, and security issues are other complications that may result from a reckless driving conviction.
Reckless Driving Examples
Reckless Generally: § 46.2-852
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.
Passing Stopped School Bus: § 46.2-859
A person driving a motor vehicle shall stop such vehicle when approaching,from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, provide road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons, and shall remain stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion; any person violating the foregoing is guilty of reckless driving.
Reckless by Speed: § 46.2-862
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.
Helping your Reckless Driving case
(i) Driving Record Your prior record is always the first thing a prosecutor asks for of your lawyer and is the first thing a Judge asks for from the officer in the event they find facts sufficient for a finding of guilt for Reckless Driving. Virginia Code §46.2-943 allows the court to impose a sentence after considering the person’s prior traffic record. While the statute does not explicitly allow a court to reduce the charge, it is generally understood that such a reduction is permissible. As a result, a favorable Judge may reduce a reckless driving charge of 75 mph in a 55 mph zone to 74 mph in a 55 mph which, consequently, will save the individual 2 demerit points on their driving record and save them from a misdemeanor conviction. However, as noted above, the court is not required to reduce the charge and does not in many cases.
(ii) Traffic Stop Cooperation Many times a prosecutor or Judge is on the fence about whether to do something favorable for a client, such as reduce the reckless driving charge. One of the first things they will ask of the officer is whether the individual was cooperative in the investigation of the traffic stop. While cooperation is not always going to “make or break” a case, we have represented numerous people who got a good break because they were cooperative.
(iii) Driver Improvement Course An in class 8 hour driver improvement course can be very important to the outcome of a reckless driving case. In fact, in high speed cases where the client went over 90 mph, we will typically have them take an additional 4 hour Reckless Aggressive Driving course. It shows the court that the client cared enough about their case to take an entire Saturday afternoon to sit through boring material and, in addition, learned something about driving along the way. These courses are an important part of the defense to reckless driving cases.
iv) Academic Degrees, Community Involvement, Employment As a part of our zealous representation in reckless driving cases, we like to present our clients in the best possible light. While not helpful in every type of case, a person’s employment, or school transcript, or current or prior community involvement, such as being an Eagle Scout, may be very helpful in cases. When we have high speed cases and the prosecutor or Judge is focused on the speed of the reckless driving charge at hand, it is important to remind the court of the contributions the client has made and will make in the future. Certainly, one mistake should not follow an individual for the rest of their lives, right?
(v) Defendant Speedometer Test: § 46.2-942 This Virginia statute is arguably the most important in reckless driving cases.
The statute dictates that, in the trial of anyone exceeding the speed limit, the court shall receive as evidence a sworn report of a calibration test showing the accuracy of the speedometer of the Defendant’s vehicle or that of the officer’s vehicle. The report shall be considered in determining guilt, innocence, and in fixing punishment, if applicable. This statute is important because it essentially allows an individual to rely on the accuracy of their speedometer when driving. Therefore, when an individual is charged with reckless driving at 77 mph in a 55 mph zone, and the client brings to court a notarized Calibration Sheet showing the true speed of the vehicle versus the speed that the individual’s speedometer told them they were traveling, their case could be substantially helped. In the above example, if the sheet shows their speedometer showed 74 mph when the vehicle was actually traveling at 77 mph, many Judges will find them guilty of the reduced infraction of simple speeding since that’s what they reasonably believed they were going, which is not reckless driving.
(vi) Determining Speed: § 46.2-882
The calibration of the Radar, Lidar, or speedometer device used to stop the defendant can be challenged. Upon examination of the certificate of calibration or accuracy of the device, or a true copy thereof, an objection can be made to its introduction into evidence. Typical objections rest on whether a calibration of the device was was done within the past six months, whether the individual who did the calibration signed the certificate or, at the least, the certificate identifies who they are, and/or whether a photocopy of the original calibration is considered a “true copy” within the meaning of the Code.
vii) Accident Case? Unexplained accident that gives rise to mere speculation is not reckless driving Powers v.Commonwealth, 211 Va. 386 (1970). Defendant cannot be convicted of reckless driving based on speculation and conjecture as to what cause him to lose control of the car Thompson v. Commonwealth, 27 Va. App. 720 (1998)
Reckless Driving Outcomes
Depending on the speed and/or driving behavior, as well as the individual’s driving history, a reckless driving charge can be reduced by the Judge or Prosecutor. Some reckless driving cases can be reduced to the following:
§46.2-869 covers the improper driving statute. Improper Driving is a 3-point offense and is a traffic infraction. It is a favorable result because it is 3 points less than the 6 point reckless driving charge and is not a misdemeanor.
§46.2-870 and § 46.2-878 cover the general speeding statutes. As covered in the other Traffic Infractions area of this website, they range from 3point, 4point, and 6pointoffenses. In addition, they are all infractions only and are better than a reckless driving conviction.
In Prince William County, the Judge or Prosecutor can send an individual to traffic school for dismissal of the charge. This result is not a routine outcome and depends largely on the individual’s driving record and roadside cooperation. If the individual is ordered to take traffic school, which is generally an 8-hour driver improvement course, and successfully completes the course, the charge is dismissed. Note that traffic school is not generally available for high-speed cases.
Non Moving Violations
Having a reckless driving charge reduced to a non-moving violation in Prince William County is ideal in the event the charge cannot be dismissed. Non-moving Infractions includes both State, County, City, and Town Codes wherein the charge is amended (changed) to reflect a traffic infraction that is not a “moving” violation and, therefore, carries no DMV demerit points. This result is the best result (aside from a dismissal) because they generally do not affect insurance rates. The Typical State Infractions include Defective Equipment (§46.2-1003) and Resting on a Highway (§46.2-830.1) The Typical County, City, and Town Codes include Failing to Pay Full Time and Attention (82-4-25) and Failing to Maintain Control (82-4-25).
What will happen in Court?
If you are represented by a lawyer, your court appearance will be different than those without a lawyer. For example, in Prince William County, the Judge will call your case by your name. The individual would need to state they are present in court and that they have a lawyer. The Judge will then “pass” the case and skip over you and continue calling the rest of the docket while your lawyer is speaking to the officer, prosecutor, and/or any witnesses to your case. During this time, your lawyer will also attempt work out a favorable resolution for your case. This is the time in which your lawyer will present mitigating evidence to the prosecutor, such as driver improvement course certificates, speedometer calibrations, etc. In a reckless driving case, the lawyer will work to reduce or dismiss the charge depending on the facts.
Once your lawyer has spoken to the prosecutor, they will come get you from the courtroom and you will discuss the plea offer that has been made. Some prosecutors are more lenient than others and offer better plea bargains than others. In the event you are offered a plea bargain that does not suit your expectations, your lawyer will have one of two options: (i) ask the court to continue the case to the officer’s next traffic date (they’re preset), or (ii) go to trial.
In Fairfax County, Prince William County, and Loudoun County, they have trial advisement and plea forms that must be signed in the event you and lawyer have worked out a plea bargain with the prosecutor. The plea form will set forth the charge and the agreement. The client must read the form carefully and ask their lawyer any questions before signing it. In reckless driving cases, generally, it’s fairly straight forward. Presumably, a good deal would be a reduction from reckless driving to speeding, or some other traffic infraction, with a fine. If signed and agreed, your lawyer would then hand up the plea form to the Judge for them to execute the plea agreement. At that point, the Judge is merely a scrivener of sorts and incorporates the plea agreement in the file. In reckless driving cases, the presiding Judge will typically “strike” the reckless driving charge by crossing it out on the summons or warrant and insert whatever reduced charge has been worked out. The clerk will then update the Virginia Case Information System accordingly.
We always recommend people appear in court with a lawyer. At the Letnick Law Firm, we have had the privilege of hearing our clients say how much easier we made it for them when they hired us as their lawyer. They don’t have to say anything to the officer or Judge and they know they have an experienced lawyer working for them.
Do you need to go to Court for your Reckless Driving charge?
In certain reckless driving cases, your lawyer can appear on your behalf for court. While it depends on the speed and your record, the lawyers at Letnick Law Firm have appeared on the client’s behalf dozens of times so that the client does not need to take the time out of their day to miss work or family obligations. In the event we go to Court and it turns out we need the client present to resolve the case, we will simply continue (move) the case to another day for the client’s appearance at that later date. This method saves valuable time for the client and keeps the dockets lighter for the Judges in court. In addition, we have not had it negatively affect the outcome of the case. At the conclusion of the case, we contact the client letting them know the result and the fines and court costs, if any.
Your Free Initial Consultation
We offer a no obligation Free Initial Consultation to discuss your reckless driving case. You can either come in for an inoffice appointment or do a telephone conference. We will talk about the facts of your case, whether any mitigating evidence is necessary, the price for the representation, and the next steps. While each case is different, our fees are reasonable. We like being in court and enjoy helping people. We can help you too.
Finding the Best Reckless Driving Lawyer is vitally important to your case. There are thousands of lawyers in the Northern Virginia area but only a handful can properly handle your case.
Certainly, you would not want to hire a civil lawyer to handle your traffic case. Traffic lawyers are generally in court everyday and appear in front of the same judges and prosecutors on a consistent basis. This relationship with the court is not established when an attorney appears in court once a month.
The best way to find the best lawyer for your case is to do your research and meet with the lawyers you’re considering. Make sure they answer all of your questions and make sure that they consistently represent people on such cases. Reckless driving is a serious traffic misdemeanor and the case should be handled by a competent attorney.
Reckless Driving Lawyer Cost
Our fees for a reckless driving charge depend on the individual’s speed and their driving record. Typically, the lower the speed and the better the driving record, the lower the fee. We offer very competitive flat rates (i.e. onetime fee) on all reckless driving cases. We will quote you the fee during your free initial consultation so that you can then decide if it works for you. We regularly appear in Prince William County and we strongly recommend you hire a lawyer who regularly practices in that county to help you achieve the best result possible.