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Reckless Driving Because of an Accident in Fairfax County

If you have been involved in a car accident you already know the stress involved.  In some accident cases the stress is compounded by virtue of being handed a reckless driving ticket.  This happens in many cases where the police officer did not even witness the accident but amasses an opinion on what happened.  We have had clients laying in a hospital bed following an accident being issued a citation for reckless driving.  While this is a frustrating experience it's important to address the situation as soon as possible.  Reckless Driving in Virginia carries the possibility of a jail sentence of up to 12 months, 6-month loss of privilege to drive, and $2500 fine.  It should be noted that in most reckless driving accident cases such a jail sentence is unlikely absent a substantial injury.  But it is important to have a good traffic attorney in these cases.   We offer a free consultation to discuss your accident case.  Use the contact form below or give us a call at 703-273-4100 so we can get to work.

How we handle a reckless driving accident case

We have handled hundreds of reckless driving cases and these include accident cases.  We have handled fatality cases in which a person died from the injuries.  We have handled more minor cases where no one was hurt but involved vehicle damage such as in a simple fender bender.  In any case prosecutors take reckless driving accident cases seriously because there is usually another driver involved.  As a result, case preparation is key.

One of the first things we discuss with a client is the circumstances that led up to the accident.  The State has to prove that the person was driving in a way that endangered life, limb, or property by law.  Just because an accident happened does not mean it is reckless driving.    By law the mere happening of an accident is not reckless driving.  There must be evidence of speeding, swerving, aggressive driving, inattentive driving and the like. 

It is important to know if there are other drivers involved in the accident and, more importantly, whether any witnesses exist.  Judges and Prosecutors give a lot of weight to witnesses.  This is because they don't have any reason to fabricate their story since they're not facing any charges themselves and typically don't know the parties involved in the accident.   So we always ask the client to request a copy of the crash report from the DMV.  The crash report will tell us a lot of information about the incident and will include the other drivers information that were involved in the accident.  Having this extra information helps us prepare. 

The next important piece of information is whether the parties involved had vehicle insurance.  Insurance coverage has less to do with defense of the case and more to do with mitigation.  Insurance coverage is important because it gives us some bargaining position to negotiate a reduction of the reckless driving charge if the Judge or Prosecutor sees that the other parties have been compensated already.  

In reckless driving accident cases where it appears the Prosecutor may be able to prove their case we will want to negotiate a reduction of the charge.  This will avoid a misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving.  In this instance we will likely advise our client to take a defensive driving course before the court date for mitigation purposes.  We use completion of the course in conjunction with a letter from the insurance company advising that any claims have been resolved towards getting the charge lowered.  While admitting guilt to a lesser charge may feel like a loss it's actually win a in the long run.

In cases where it appears a trial is warranted then we will proceed accordingly and prepare our client for trial.  Whether or not it's best for our client to testify is determined on a case-by-case basis.  Trials are appropriate in cases where the prosecutor is not agreeing to reduce the reckless driving charge so we lose nothing by having a Judge decide the case.  It should be noted that we have had cases involving substantial injury where the prosecutor agreed to waive a jail sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to the reckless driving charge.  We only recommend this disposition in rare instances where we feel like a Judge may incarcerate our client.  In any case all of these instances are thoroughly discussed with the client ahead of time.


A single car accident with no witnesses or other evidence is not reckless driving.  The case law is clear on that issue.  However, many times, police officers and troopers will appear on the scene of an accident and issue a reckless driving charge simply because there is some damage.  After all, the charge only requires driving in a manner as to endanger life, limb, or property.  Since the property is damaged it must be reckless driving to them.  However, in Powers v. Commonwealth, it was held that the mere happening of an accident is not reckless driving.  In that case, the damage was severe.  There were vehicle impressions on the road for over 840 feet, two trees 20 feet apart were debarked, the vehicle was found in a ditch off the highway, and the engine was thrown 36 feet from the car.  Notwithstanding all of that damage from the accident, the court found the Defendant not guilty of reckless driving because there was no way to determine what had caused the accident.  Rather, the Defendant could have fallen ill or have been met with a sudden emergency.  That case was decided almost 50 years ago and we still use it today with success.

It should be noted that just because there were no witnesses to an accident does not mean an automatic acquittal of a reckless driving charge.  Remember, if any statements were made to the officer regarding speed or other distractions, it can become difficult to say "we don't know what happened in this case Judge."  For example, if it's snowing out, you are driving a little sports car, the speed limit is 50 mph but you are driving 65 mph (and tell that speed to the officer) around a curve and strike someone or hit a tree, that could be reckless driving.  While on a normal dry day that speed may be just fine, on a snowy day, that could be too fast given the weather.  Each reckless driving case involving an accident is different.


When there is another driver involved in the accident or witnesses exist the case is slightly more complicated.  The prosecutor will usually want to speak with the other driver and any witnesses before trying to resolve the case via agreement (or trial).  While these cases can still be resolved by plea agreement to a reduced charge a trial is more likely.  A prosecutor is much more likely to view the other driver as a “victim” and pursue their version of justice by asking for a reckless driving conviction.  A reckless driving conviction then allows the prosecutor to ask the Judge to issue a driver's license suspension and a jail sentence.  Whether or not the Judge agrees with that request depends on the facts of the case.  Just because a prosecutor is asking for jail time does not mean a Judge will order that.  It does mean that jail time is possible now so great care needs to be executed in navigating the case.  

The difference between a minor accident and a major accident can be monumental.  A minor accident can usually be resolved by an agreement to a reduction of the charge.  A major accident brings in the possibility of a driver's license suspension and jail time.  But whether or not the prosecutor can prove the case is a big factor and needs to be investigated.


In accident cases in Fairfax County for reckless driving you have a right to have a trial.  This is a fact.  However, the officer does not bring witnesses to the first court date.   This is because many accident cases are resolved by agreement at the first court date, or there may be no other witnesses involved so the case can proceed, or the person appears at court and simply enters a guilty plea thereby disposing of the case.    If you plead "not guilty," the Judge will continue the case to a later date so that other driver can be subpoenaed to appear for that next court date for the trial.  This happens a lot for us when the other driver involved was injured and prosecutor wants to investigate further.  The case is then continued for trial.

In the event you wish to plead guilty at the first court hearing representing yourself, there will be no future trial date.  Instead, the Judge will either find you guilty of the charge or, sometimes, find you guilty of a lesser offense.  However, it is never advisable to simply plead guilty in reckless driving cases that involve an accident.


Over the years it has become clear that many insurance companies will find fault or no fault for their insured on their own investigation irrespective of what happens in court.  We have had clients' insurance companies contact them before court to advise that they are not being held at fault for the accident (and that the court result won't matter).  In other cases, even if the client is awaiting trial on their reckless driving charge, the insurance companies have already decided their insured will be held responsible for the accident.  Other times, there is just no way to know what the insurance company will do. 

One thing is clear, it is best to plead not guilty in accident cases where there is a charge of reckless driving and there was substantial injury.  Even if the client is clearly at fault and would be found guilty by the Judge, pleading "not guilty" would at least preserve the question of fault for insurance purposes.  While not a complete shield to fault it serves to better protect against a monument claim that exceeds a person's insurance coverage.  The insurance company will do their own analysis and have to parse through what they have from their client's statement and that of the other driver.  All things being equal, when they look at the court proceeding, they can see their insured plead "not guilty."  After all, when analyzing fault, what are they to think when their insured says the accident is not their fault but then plead guilty in court.  It is better to stay consistent in that case.


Whether you wish to have a trial or wish to enter a guilty plea in your reckless driving case, it is important to have a lawyer.  Remember, not all accident cases are reckless driving in Fairfax County.  Some are ripe for plea deals to lesser offenses while others are better for trial.  It is not advisable to appear for trial without a lawyer because it will be the police officer against you.  In some cases, it will be both the officer and the other driver against you.  This is not a fair fight but it could be made more fair with the right help.

The truth about your case

We will not “sugar coat.” We will tell you exactly what you are facing and will give you the best and worst case scenarios. We are not here to scare you or to pull the wool over your eyes. We find many people calling us for a simple case where they have spoken to other lawyers and are now afraid. However, after speaking with those people and getting the facts, many times there is nothing to fear. We will tell you how things look and we will tell you the truth because we want happy clients. That’s you!

Letnick Law Office
(703) 273-4266 (fax)
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Tue: 08:30am - 05:00pm
Wed: 08:30am - 05:00pm
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Fri: 08:30am - 05:00pm