A first offense reckless driving charge can be very worrisome because you have never been through such a charge before. You know it's a problem because the word "reckless" sounds bad and your suspicions are in fact correct. A first-time reckless driving offense carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail, 6-month loss of privilege to drive, up to a $2500 fine, and remains on the driving record for 11 years. The silver lining is that in Fairfax County such a harsh punishment for a first offense is unlikely but a conviction is still possible. That said, what should you do next? First and foremost, after reading this page, we recommend you give us a call for a free consultation at 703-273-4100 so we can answer any questions you may have. We have provided this information based on how we handle our client's cases.
PREPARATION FOR YOUR first RECKLESS DRIVING CASE in fairfax county
When you are issued a summons for reckless driving you should start preparing right away. The Fairfax County General District Court does not have a bright line policy of reducing reckless driving charges simply because it is someone's first offense. Some Judges are certainly more lenient than others and some factors are simply beyond your control. It is strongly recommended that you first contact a traffic attorney that frequently handles reckless driving cases. This is because even a first offense reckless driving is a misdemeanor that, in many cases, can be avoided with proper preparation. This is why the majority of our time spent with our clients revolves around case preparation. It is at the courthouse, on your court date, where the magic happens.
Discussion of Case Preparation
Every reckless driving case is unique but similar with one another. A first offense reckless driving charge is unique because you haven't been through this process before. In addition everyone's responsibilities are different and people have different needs. But each case is similar because we need to avoid the statutory penalties as much as possible and much of the case preparation is the same. Of course, there is a difference in preparation for a first-time reckless driving charge versus a second-time reckless driving charge. There are also differences between a run-of-the mill reckless driving charge and that which has aggravating factors such as involves an injury.
Our first inquiry is always where and how the offense happened. This includes the road, time of day, where you are headed, what was going on at that time, the police officer's name, and a description of the interaction with the police officer and what they said to you. It's important to point out to the Court the “why” because it humanizes the case. Were you rushing to work? Did you have to get home because you needed to relieve a babysitter? Was it very late so there were no other cars on the road (so you couldn't tell how fast you were going)? Are there circumstances pointing to the fact that the charge is incorrect? Or is it correct but there was an emergency? Perhaps you simply weren't paying attention because your mind was elsewhere due to some strife. Once we get the “why” can better explain it to the Court for you.
The next inquiry we review with our clients is their current circumstances. We represent a very wide range of people with many different backgrounds. Our client's history may be useful to show good moral character or other attributes that portray them well. If they are in college or have recently graduated college, we may ask for a transcript or picture of their degree so we can show the Judge they are a college graduate and are about to enter the workforce. If our client has a career with the Government and has a security clearance we may ask for information pertaining to the clearance (without putting the client at risk) so the Judge understands that a misdemeanor conviction could impact their job. Many of our clients drive for Uber and Lyft and a reckless driving conviction would likely result in termination of their employment. Understanding the impact that even one reckless driving conviction would have on their record can help us properly present both them and their case to the court. At the Letnick Law Firm we call it putting a “face on the case.”
Once we have dug into the background of the case and our clients we can now start discussing how to prepare for court. In most cases preparation is simple and involves the client taking a defensive driving course and retrieving a copy of their driving record. In many cases a good record combined with a defensive driving course works wonders. And there may be more preparation needed depending on if the person has what would be considered a bad driving record (i.e. multiple prior tickets) or the facts simply warrant additional mitigation. For example, we may recommend an additional reckless driving course to use in conjunction with the defensive driving course or perhaps some community service hours. These additional items show the court the person is taking their reckless driving case ultra seriously. Once the items are completed we simply have our clients email them over and we organize everything for presentation of the case to the Prosecutor or Judge. This helps us how the court that this is going to be our clients first and only reckless driving charge they'll have.
COURT procedures for reckless driving in fairfax county
Waiver of Appearance in Court
In certain reckless driving cases we can appear on our client's behalf so they don't have to go to court. This is on a case-by-case basis and we always let our clients know if this applies ahead of time. In these cases we appear for our clients and they appear in court “through counsel.” We represent them and are their advocate for their case.
Most clients can expect a phone call in the later morning from us detailing our discussions with the police officer and the prosecutor. Any plea offers rendered will also be discussed. In most cases we can resolve the case that morning in our client's absence. Resolution of the case typically involves reduction of the charge thereby avoiding a misdemeanor conviction. We will provide our client details with the case result and how to pay any fine later that same day. In the event we determine it would be best for our client to appear we will request a continuance so that they can appear at a later date. This happens in cases where it appears the case would be better suited to be decided by a Judge rather than accepting a plea offer from the prosecutor.
Appearance in Court
We recommend our clients appear for court about 15 minutes before the court hearing. This gives us time to meet ahead of time and get them settled in. We always provide our clients with the courtroom number and we will meet outside of the courtroom. Our clients are then free to remain outside of the courtroom during the duration of the docket or can go inside and watch the proceedings if they choose. It should be noted that the case will not be called by the Judge until we ask them to when we're ready to proceed.
Every reckless driving case is first discussed with the prosecutor assigned to the particular courtroom we are in. As our client's advocate we sit down with them to discuss a resolution to the case. In most cases this means negotiating a reduction of the charge to avoid a misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving. We accomplish this by going over the specific facts and circumstances of the case and any mitigation our clients have prepared at our direction. It should be noted that in some cases the facts are more aggravated and it is unlikely the charge will be lowered. In these cases we are seeking avoidance of a license suspension or imposition of an active jail sentence. It is unfortunate but damage control becomes key. Plea negotiations are done because, in most cases, we will receive a better plea offer from a prosecutor than a Judge would provide in terms of punishment. This is because the Commonwealth Attorney, by statute, is given more discretion to amend charges than a Judge is. However, there are cases in which we will recommend to our clients to reject the plea offer because it is apparent we are not being offered a reasonable disposition. At that point we will go before the Judge to have a trial on the merits or do a plea before the Judge.
At the conclusion of every case we will walk our clients to the Traffic Division clerk's office so they can take care of any fines and court costs. It should be noted that a person has 90 days to pay a fine and associated court costs. If the client wishes to simply leave (who wants to stay at the courthouse longer than they have to) we will provide a brochure with details on how payment can be made online through the court's website.
After approximately one week after the case is resolved we will provide our clients with the court's final order reflecting the case disposition and provide a forum for any follow-up questions they may have.
YOU SHOULD HAVE A LAWYER FOR YOUR RECKLESS DRIVING CASE even if it's your first time
We are in court almost every day and have a comprehensive understanding of the Fairfax County Court System. We have seen many people represent themselves in court on a first-time reckless driving charge and receive a conviction and license suspension when it could have been avoided. We understand that lawyers are expensive and we do our best to offer reasonable fees so that you are not going to court alone. When there is a Judge, Police Officer, and Defendant, adding a Defense Attorney to the mix really evens the score. That score is further evened out when you have a traffic lawyer that knows the Judges, Prosecutors, and Police Officers.