If you have been involved in an accident in Prince William County, you may have received a reckless driving charge. The ticket you receive can be a bit confusing because it may not explicitly say "reckless driving" on it. Instead, your ticket may say Failure to Maintain Control, Improper Control, or Improper Brakes. In addition, the Virginia Case Information System may reflect a charge of "RD-OP IMPROPER BRAKES" meaning reckless driving - operating with improper brakes. The key to find out if you have been charged with the misdemeanor offense of reckless driving is to check the statute listed on the summons. If the law section is §46.2-853 then you have a reckless driving charge and should contact an attorney to help you. Our office handles reckless driving charges almost every day. Feel free to give us a call at 703-273-4100 or use the contact form below.
§46.2-853: Failure to Maintain Control or Improper Brakes in Prince William County
Virginia Code §46.2-853 makes it reckless driving to drive a vehicle not under proper control or with inadequate brakes. It is a very broad statute which is why it is a favorite for police in Prince William County in accident cases. As a form of reckless driving, Failure to Maintain Control or Improper Brakes is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. There is a potential jail sentence of up to 12 months, 6-month loss of privilege to drive, and $2500 fine. Such a harsh punishment is unlikely in these cases but a misdemeanor conviction is still very possible and proper steps must be taken to avoid it.
First and foremost, case law has made it clear that an accident, in and of itself, is not reckless driving. Rather, there must be additional evidence to support a conviction. In the case of Kennedy v. Commonwealth, 1 Va. App. 469 (1986), an individual was involved in an accident. He claimed his steering wheel was malfunctioning which is what caused him to lose control. Upon questioning, he admitted he had been having problems with his steering wheel for some time (probably in an effort to put the blame on the vehicle and not himself). In this case, the court found that since he was aware of the defect that resulted in difficulty in keeping his vehicle under control, he was deemed guilty of reckless driving by continuing to drive it. However, in Powers v. Commonwealth, 211 Va. 386 (1970), a vehicle was found to have drove out of control for 900 feet, hit two trees, and both the engine and Defendant were thrown from the vehicle. Notwithstanding the severity of the crash, the court held that there was no way to tell what, if anything, the person did wrong. There was no evidence of speeding or inattentiveness. Because there could have been a sudden emergency, unknown vehicular defect, or other surprise, the court dismissed the reckless driving charge. This is why it is important not to say anything to the police following an accident about how it happened - especially a single-car accident. Without any witnesses or information about how the accident happened, Powers v. Commonwealth requires dismissal of the charge.
In many cases, there is evidence to charge failure to maintain control or faulty brakes. However, our client may not have known their brakes were malfunctioning or that their brake pads were worn. We have also had clients fall asleep at the wheel and crash into another vehicle or barrier. In many of those cases, we have an argument that culpability is slight and that our client may only be guilty of improper driving which is a traffic infraction. Improper driving is a much better result than reckless driving because it is not a misdemeanor and does not carry any of the other penalties associated with reckless driving. We make have had a lot of success with getting reckless driving charges reduced in Prince William County.
Finally, in some cases, there are injuries involved. When we get a Prince William County accident case that involves a reckless driving charge, whether it be for failure to maintain control or bad brakes, we want to know where the insurance companies stand. We want to avoid pleading any of our clients guilty (even to a reduced offense) when we know there are outstanding insurance claims for injuries. In these cases, we have to plead not guilty to protect civil liability.
We have had many people call us a year after their case pleading to have their cases reopened because they were convicted of reckless driving. They just didn't realize at the time of the consequences involved and now their job is impacted or they lose their insurance coverage. We have to give them the bad news that there is nothing we can do at that point. If you are charged with failure to maintain control or bad brakes in Prince William County, including the localities of Manassas Park, Town of Haymarket, the City of Manassas, Town of Occoquan, or the Town of Dumfries, be sure you do your research and hire an attorney. It will be worth it.