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Reckless Driving by Speed in Fairfax County

Fairfax County Reckless Driving by Speed

Reckless Driving by Speed is different than a regular speeding ticket and is not prepayable.  It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia to exceed the speed limit by 20 mph or more or to drive in excess of 85 mph no matter what the speed limit is pursuant to Virginia Code §46.2-862.  Therefore, it is very easy to pick up a reckless driving by speed charge in Fairfax County.  In each instance, such an inadvertent mistake can really cause some problems with your record, your driver's license, and possibly your freedom.  However, in many cases, we can help you avoid a criminal conviction for reckless driving through simple preparation.  Here at the Letnick Law Firm we handle over a dozen reckless driving by speed charges every month and are in court every day.  We know that our clients are good people that were simply just trying to get somewhere.  We want to ensure the Judge knows that as well and offer a free consultation to discuss your case.  

The major roads where we see people pick up reckless driving charges for speeding are Interstate 66, Interstate 95, Interstate 495, the Fairfax County Parkway, Route 28, Route 29, Route 50, and the Dulles Toll Road.  These roads are large, open, and have higher speed limits.  In many cases, traffic is going the same speed as you!  As luck would have it, you may have simply had the unfortunate luck of being the first vehicle the police officer caught up with while the other vehicles got away (yes this does happen).   

The modern vehicles have so much effortless power that it can be hard not speed.  In fact, according to JD Power, the average modern vehicle today has almost 200 horsepower which is very different from 20 years ago.  It now only takes seconds for a vehicle to increase its speed exponentially.  Driving in neighborhoods and keeping it at just 25 mph for example requires attention and focus.


The punishment for a reckless driving by speed charge in Fairfax County varies depending on the speed.  The maximum penalty for reckless driving by speed is 12 months in jail, $2500 fine, and 6-month loss of privilege to drive.  It is rare for a Judge to sentence an individual to the maximum jail sentence.  However, they do frequently suspend driver's licenses. 

In reality many reckless driving by speed charges can be reduced to an infraction and the misdemeanor avoided entirely with proper preparation.  In some cases, the speed may be too fast to avoid a conviction and avoiding a license suspension is the top priority.  Finally, there are cases where jail time is an issue due to the speed or prior driving record.  In any case, preparation for your court date is key.


It is reckless driving in Virginia to drive 20 mph over the speed limit in any speed zone.  45 mph in a 25 mph zone, 55 mph in a 35 mph zone, 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, and 75 mph in a 55 mph zone is reckless driving in Virginia and is prosecuted in Fairfax County.  In fact, all it takes is to reach that speed for a few seconds at the exact time an officer is running radar, lidar, or is pacing you.  This happens a lot when passing another vehicle while in traffic.  A lane opens up next to you and you accelerate at the exact moment the officer has you on radar or lidar.  And, unfortunately, the length of time at a particular speed is only of minor consideration to a Judge.   That said, in cases where a police officer obtains evidence of different speeds due to speed fluctuation, we can use that to negotiate a reduction of the charge to the lowest speed involved if it's under the reckless driving threshold.

When interacting with the officer on the scene and explaining to them that you were in a hurry to get to the airport, to pick up your kids, or get to work, these explanations to the officer can sometimes result in a favorable reduction of the charge at the scene.  Some officers will write for general speeding instead of reckless driving by speed.  However, remember, indicating you are running late also corroborates their observations that you were driving too fast and act as a motive.  In most cases it's best not to say anything other than “thank you” and contact a traffic attorney. 


In any speed zone in Virginia, going over 85 mph is reckless driving.  In Fairfax County, the old adage was "80 and over you lose your license."  Nowadays, that has been relaxed to some extent.  For example, going 81 mph in a 55 mph zone will not usually result in a loss of license in Fairfax County (provided the driving record is decent).  However, any speeds over 85 mph is a definite risk for a loss of privilege to drive in Virginia (up to 6 months). 

The other important thing about going over 85 mph in Fairfax County is that Judges are much less likely to reduce the charge from the misdemeanor.  While you may leave the courtroom with a simple fine and no loss of license, you would now have a misdemeanor reckless driving conviction on your record.  It is very important to have a traffic lawyer in these types of cases.  We handle reckless driving by speed cases all the time where the client is going over 85 mph in Fairfax County and we have a very good track record of avoiding a misdemeanor conviction.


An allegation that you were driving 90 mph or more in Fairfax County is a serious one.  This speed is where a license loss and possible jail time really come into play.  Sometimes, we are able to get a person's speed reduced and avoid a reckless driving conviction depending on the facts of the case.  Many times, we are in a situation where a conviction is unavoidable and we are simply seeking to keep the client's license intact and avoid a suspension.  Any speeds over 95 mph become cases where the client will be required to really listen closely to our advice for case preparation because Judges start looking for a small amount of jail time.  

The old adage in Fairfax used to be "over 90 and you lose your freedom."  Due to advances in modern technology, Judges are aware that cars are safer today at higher speeds and can get to higher speeds much quicker than before.  To the contrary, back in the 1980s, getting a vehicle up to 90 mph took more work (and more intent).  Back then, the Judges took the position that jail time was appropriate for people going 90 mph or more since cars were generally not safe at those speeds.  Additionally, getting to those speeds was considered not be inadvertent or a simple mistake.  However, today, the idea that it was mere inattention by the driver is more possible.  As already noted, however, Judges won't simply turn a blind eye to these speeds either.


If you have read this far you probably know what we are going to discuss next.  Simply put, going 100 mph or more in Fairfax County is not only reckless driving but has a substantial chance of jail time and a loss of privilege to drive.  It is under very specific and rare circumstances that an individual will avoid jail time at these speeds.  You will need a good lawyer and should follow their directions carefully.  We routinely handle these types of cases and know what the Judges need to see to make them comfortable (and hand down a favorable sentence).  We have also won these cases before outright.

We had a case where our client was going 111 mph.  Our client was certain he could not have gone that speed because his old BMW had a bad control arm.  Peculiarly, the summons had the correct year and color of the vehicle but had down that it was a Mercedes.  It could have been a simple oversight by the trooper but we kept an eye on it.  When we got to court, of course, the prosecutor was asking for jail time.  We rejected their plea offer and went to trial.  While on the stand, we got the trooper to admit that there was heavy traffic.  We also got him to admit that our client drove a black BMW.  We also got him to admit that it was about 10:00 pm and was dark out.  Finally, we got him to admit that when our client drove through his radar beam so did other vehicles.  When asked to articulate the difference between a black Mercedes and a BMW he was unable to do so.  The Judge found a reasonable doubt as to whether the trooper got the right (or wrong) vehicle and our client was acquitted of reckless driving.

Every case is different and most 100 mph reckless driving cases are resolved by a guilty plea in order to minimize the penalties.  Sometimes, a trial is appropriate such as when a prosecutor is asking for jail time and we think the Judge may see differently.  We will help you decide which avenue to pursue and you will be thoroughly prepared.


Defending and preparing for a reckless driving by speed charge will depend in large part on the speed involved and the driving record for the individual.  The higher the speed alleged the more pre-court preparation that will be needed by the client.   Additional preparation will also be needed if the driving record reflects prior convictions or tickets.  These items are discussed in depth with the client during our consultations.   


There are two parts to defending a reckless driving by speed case:  Pre-Court Preparation and In-Court Litigation.  Most of these cases are resolved by plea agreement on the day of court.  A plea agreement is an agreement reached with the prosecutor for a particular result.  To that end we always have our clients prepare for court ahead of time.  For example, if the client has a decent driving record and were driving 80 mph in a 55 mph zone (80/55), completion of a standard 8-hour defensive driving course will be all that's needed.  With higher speeds we may recommend an additional reckless driving course for added mitigation.  In many cases, to lower the speed involved, we will have our clients get their speedometer calibrated.  There is a Virginia Statute that allows us to use speedometer calibrations.   Finally, depending on the speed and driving record, we may even recommend completion of some community service hours which is typically recommended in cases where we feel that jail time is possible. 

We always provide our clients with our recommendations at the beginning of the attorney-client relationship so they have ample time to prepare and don't have to rush.  This also allows us to be prepared to sit down with a prosecutor on the court date to discuss the case in a meaningful way.  We relish in hearing from the prosecutors in Fairfax County how we always come to court prepared.  This is funny to hear because every case should be that way.

When we appear in court for these cases the first thing we do is review the evidence presented by the police officer with the prosecutor.  Every reckless driving by speed case is initiated via radar, lidar, or pace.  Depending on the device used to judge the speed we always check for its accuracy.  Most of the time the police officer has the requisite paperwork substantiating its accuracy.  However, there are times they either don't have the paperwork or it's expired (too old) which means they now can't prove their case.  Sometimes they like to couple their observations with “visual speed estimate” and this is not a legally viable way to determine speed.  There is no statutory authority granting visual speed estimate as a factor in determining speed.  There is statutory authority granting radar, lidar, and pace and Judges rely heavily on that.  Unfortunately the police officer does not have to show you the device they used to judge your speed at the scene of the stop.  We simply have to take their word for it and defend the case.  If they have bodycam or dashcam footage from the stop we may file a request for that to see if there is anything helpful.  While they don't always show anything defensible it can still show the court the traffic conditions, client interaction with the officer, and other depictions that may sway a Judge.  We've had countless cases where Judges or Prosecutors were on the fence about a reckless driving by speed case and asked the officer whether our client was polite and cooperative which made the difference.    


Remember, reckless driving by speed is not a simple speeding infraction but is a misdemeanor.  In some of the lesser-speed reckless driving cases in Fairfax County we can even appear in court on your behalf so that you won't have to miss work or family obligations.  We do these cases all the time.  We provide a free consultation to discuss your reckless driving by speed case and we will answer all of your questions and will let you know how things look in your case.  While we can't predict the future, we can give you a good idea as to what to expect.

Our Attorneys

  • Jeremy S. Letnick

    Jeremy Letnick is in the courtroom daily. Raised by both an attorne...

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!

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