Reckless Driving Charges Are Not To Be Taken Lightly

Yesterday I received a call from a potential client who had let her ticket for reckless driving slip her mind, and her court date was that day. Despite the fact that she took the time to call an attorney, I could tell from her general tone that she was not terribly concerned. But she should have been.

Reckless driving is a class I misdemeanor in Virginia. By way of comparison, it is treated the same as simple assault, DWI, shoplifting, and possession of certain narcotics. A class I misdemeanor conviction could result in a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a 6-month license suspension. Jail time and license suspension are generally reserved for the most severe cases, but this should demonstrate how serious an offense reckless driving is. What might happen to you depends on a number of factors, but the prevailing point you should take from reading this is that being found guilty of reckless driving in Virginia means you will have a criminal record.

The definition of what we call “general” reckless driving is very broad: it is driving which endangers life, limb, or property. As many are well aware, there are also several more specific actions that can lead to a reckless driving charge. The one action that most people are aware of is excessive speeding. In Virginia, if you are caught driving 20 or more miles per hour over the posted speed limit, you can be charged with reckless driving. Also, any driving in excess of 80 miles per hour is considered reckless – even in those parts of Virginia where the speed limit is 65 or 70 miles per hour. In other words, on some highways you could be driving just 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit and still be charged with reckless driving.

In addition to avoiding a criminal record, there are several other good reasons to try to fight a reckless driving charge. A reckless driving conviction will have several unwanted side effects, most notably on your car insurance. It’s impossible to gauge how much your premiums will increase, but I can absolutely promise that they will. Even if they go up by an incremental amount, it’s fairly easy to do the math. Over the course of the three years you will be paying the increased amount, you could very likely be paying over a thousand dollars extra just because of one ticket.

More possible consequences of a reckless driving conviction include secondary actions taken by your home state if you are not licensed in Virginia. Unfortunately, what happens in Virginia does NOT stay in Virginia. If you’re charged with reckless driving, you should educate yourself on how the conviction would translate to your state. Most other states will post your conviction in Virginia on your driving record, which could result in points added to your drivers’ license in that state. In some jurisdictions, most notably North Carolina, you run the risk of having your license suspended even if Virginia did not suspend your license.

Clearly there are many reasons to take your reckless driving charge seriously in Virginia. Whether or not you hire a reckless driving lawyer is up to you, but I can assure you that there are many legal defenses available to you, even when the case seems cut and dry.