If you have been charged with reckless driving in Fairfax County, it is strongly recommended you appear in Court with a lawyer who regularly practices such cases. Reckless Driving is not like a simple speeding ticket that is prepayable and it is a misdemeanor charge. We recommend you do everything you can to avoid a misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving. We routinely appear in front of the same Judges and Prosecutors and have an established relationship with the Fairfax County Court system. Get some ease and contact us for a Free Consultation to discuss your case. Give us a call at 703-273-4100 or use the contact form below. Below you will a lot of good information written by us about reckless driving in Virginia and, more specifically, how it relates to the Fairfax County Court System.
RECKLESS DRIVING IS A MISDEMEANOR
Reckless Driving is a traffic misdemeanor. Unfortunately, it is the same Class 1 Misdemeanor as a DWI, Assault, Petit Larceny, etc. A reckless driving ticket is a very common charge in Fairfax County. However, 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 without an Attorney for their Reckless Driving charge. You would be amazed to see hundreds of cases of people going just 75 mph in a 55 mph zone and are convicted of Reckless Driving. 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 and gives a small fine. This leaves 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. As a result, we recommend that people hire a Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer for their ticket to get the best outcome for their case.
PENALTIES FOR RECKLESS DRIVING IN FAIRFAX COUNTY
Reckless Driving in Virginia is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Therefore, the penalties for Reckless Driving are harsh. Pursuant to §18.2-11 of the Virginia Code, the maximum punishment for reckless driving is up to 12 months in jail, a fine of $2500, and a 6-month loss of privilege to drive in Virginia. It should be noted that most people will not face an active jail sentence for a reckless driving conviction in Fairfax County unless the speed is elevated. However, everyone will face a loss of 6 points on their driving record that will stay on the driving record for 11 years. The big issue is that a reckless driving conviction will remain as a criminal conviction for a lifetime. As a result, it is a misdemeanor conviction for purposes of jobs (especially those that require driving for the company), security clearances, and insurance rate increases.
WHAT IS RECKLESS DRIVING
Reckless Driving is loosely defined as driving in a way that endangers life, limb, or property under Virginia Code §46.2-852. Case law further defines “reckless” as a disregard for the consequences of a person's act of driving and as an indifference to life, limb, or property. The court considers factors of erratic driving, lack of control of the vehicle, speed involved, highway conditions, intoxication, and noncompliance with traffic markers.
The following are some of the more common reckless driving charges we see:
- Reckless Driving Generally
- Failure to Maintain Control
- Passing on a Curve
- Impaired View
- Passing Vehicles Abreast
- Reckless Driving Passing a Stopped School Bus
- Reckless Driving by Speed
- Too Fast for Conditions
- Parking Lot
- Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle
How to Fight a Reckless Driving Ticket in Fairfax County
Fighting a reckless driving charge in Fairfax County takes preparation. Sometimes you can beat a reckless charge entirely by going to trial. In other cases, it may be best to admit guilt and argue for a reduction or other type of leniency. A Fairfax reckless driving lawyer can help you determine which approach is best and there are many factors to consider.
(i) Driving Record:
In Fairfax County, your prior driving record is always the first thing a prosecutor asks for of your lawyer. It is also the first thing a Judge asks for from the officer if they find evidence of 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, an understanding Judge may reduce a reckless driving by speed charge if the speed is not too high. This reduction will save the individual 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.
It is a good idea to get a copy of your driving record prior to court so you know what your record shows. You can either go to any Virginia DMV location or go online at http://www.dmv.state.va.us to order your record. Be sure to show your Lawyer your driving record. There is a big difference between a +5 driving record and a -5 in reckless driving cases.
(ii) Traffic Stop Cooperation:
Many times a Fairfax County prosecutor or Judge is on the fence about whether to 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 polite and cooperative. While we do not condone admitting to the offense at the scene, we absolutely recommend giving a smile, thanking them for their time, and refraining from arguing. You will have an opportunity to address the charge in court.
(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 Fairfax County. In fact, in high speed cases where the client went over 90 mph, we will typically have them take both the 8-hour course and an additional 4-hour Reckless Aggressive Driving courses. It shows the court that the client cared enough about their case to take an entire Saturday afternoon to sit through boring material and possibly learn something. The more it appears the individual shows they are concerned about the outcome of the case the more the Judge will give attention to an appropriate resolution.
A few driver improvement courses that are DMV-approved we can recommend are the following:
a) Fairfax ASAP: 703-246-2727;
b) AA Driving Academy: 703-478-6800; and
Upon completion, keep your driver improvement certificate and give it to your Attorney. Your Attorney will use the certificate of completion in Court to help get your reckless driving charge reduced.
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 can go a long way. In addition, current or prior community involvement 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) Vehicle Speedometer Test: § 46.2-942
This Virginia statute is arguably the most important in reckless driving cases. The statute says that the court is permitted to consider evidence of a vehicle speedometer test. This statute is important because it allows a person to have their speedometer tested for accuracy. If the report shows the speedometer was a little inaccurate, the court should consider it. For example, this means that when charged with reckless driving at 77 mph in a 55 mph zone, the court can reduce the charge to simple speeding if the speedometer said a slower speed than the car was traveling.
To get your speedometer calibrated, go to any service station that does them. We recommend M&M Collision or Advance Automotive in Fairfax County. After the calibration, you should receive a notarized calibration document that shows the actual reading versus the dynamometer reading. Many times, due to a vehicle's age and mileage, the speedometer does not accurately reflect the true speed of the vehicle.
(vi) Determining Speed: § 46.2-882
The calibration of the Radar, Lidar, or speedometer device used to stop the defendant can be challenged. Typical objections rest on whether a calibration of the device was was done within the past six months. Additionally, was the individual who did the calibration who signed the certificate in court? Finally, if the calibration is a copy, is it considered a “true copy” within the meaning of the Code?
(vii) Improper Driving: § 46.2-869
In many cases, beating a reckless driving ticket can also hinge on one simple notion: You are not guilty of reckless driving but of improper driving. When a Judge finds “slight culpability,” Virginia Code §46.2-869 gives the Judge authority to reduce the charge to improper driving which is a traffic infraction. This avoids a misdemeanor conviction and can be a great outcome.
Do you really need a Fairfax County Reckless Driving Lawyer?
In short, you need a lawyer for a reckless driving charge. There is simply too much to risk going to court without a lawyer since reckless driving is a misdemeanor and you are going up against a police officer. Most Fairfax County Police Officers, State Troopers, and Dulles Toll Road Officers (MWAA) are pretty relaxed about outcomes for their cases if the person was polite and cooperative. However, the outcome of the case is not up to them since it is the Judge that decides and it is important that the Judge be provided with the appropriate arguments and mitigation for the case. Remember, reckless driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor with a host of penalties if convicted so don't be afraid to ask for help. At the Letnick Law Firm PLC, 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 police officer or Judge and they know they have an experienced lawyer working for them. We pride ourselves in letting the clients know what the likely outcome will be when we first speak. We will not create any unjust expectations in our cases and want our clients fully informed prior to their court date.
YOU HAVE A FREE CONSULTATION
We offer a no obligation Free Initial Consultation to discuss your Fairfax reckless driving case. You can either come in for an in-office 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. We provide every client with a plan of attack so that when their court date arrives they are prepared. If anything, we have our clients over-prepare for their cases.
Cost for Representation for Reckless Driving Cases
During your free consultation we will quote our fee taking into consideration the facts of your case. We offer very reasonable flat rates. A flat rate means it is a one-time fee and includes later court dates in the event the case is continued (i.e. we don't charge per court appearance). While every case is different our fees range from $500 to $1500 in the Fairfax County General District Court for reckless driving cases and we do accept credit cards.
Further Thoughts on your Fairfax County Reckless Driving Charge
Many people want the best lawyer for their reckless driving charge. The best lawyer is one that you can trust, communicates with you well, and gives you real answers to your questions. There are hundreds of lawyers in the Fairfax County area but only a handful can properly handle your case. You would not want to hire a civil lawyer to handle your reckless driving charge. Lawyers that handle reckless driving cases are generally in court every day and appear in front of the same judges and prosecutors on a consistent basis. This relationship is not established when an attorney appears in court once a month.
We at the Letnick Law Firm, PLC are in court just about every single day (barring holidays and court conferences). We are familiar with every judge and prosecutor in Fairfax County, as well as most police officers, and know what their particular tendencies are in cases. Remember, we have had a relationship with the Fairfax County Courts since 1978 and know that we can help you.