A Virginia reckless driving charge is a CRIME-not a traffic infraction. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony and will remain on a driver’s permanent criminal record and cannot be expunged.
What is Reckless Driving in Virginia?
A driver can be charged with reckless driving in Virginia if he drives a motor vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of another person. To put it another way, a person drives recklessly when he disregards the consequences of his acts by driving a motor vehicle with an indifference to the safety of life, limb, or property of another.
Reckless Driving Charges in Virginia
There are a number of charges in Virginia that are considered reckless driving. The most common are general reckless driving (Va. Code §46.2-852), reckless driving by speed (Va. Code §46.2-862), aggressive driving (Va. Code §46.2-868.1), and racing (Va. Code §46.2-865).
Reckless Driving (General) (Va. Code §46.2-852)
Reckless driving under Va. Code §46.2-852 is committed when a person drives a motor vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of another person. For more information on general reckless driving charged under Va. Code §46.2-852, click here.
Reckless Driving (Speeding) (Va. Code §46.2-862)
Driving more than 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or driving more than 80 miles per hour is a form of reckless driving in Virginia (Va. Code §46.2-862). The difference between the traffic infraction of speeding and the misdemeanor of reckless driving by speed is the likelihood of injury to other users of the road. For more information on reckless driving by speed charges in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-862, click here.
Aggressive Driving Va. Code (§46.2-868.1)
Va. Code §46.2-868.1 states that if a driver commits any one of a number of traffic offenses and is a hazard to another or commits the offense to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person, he is guilty of aggressive driving. The offenses include driving on right side of highways, failure to observe traffic lane markings, following too closely, failing to stop or yield right-of-way before entering highway, evasion of a traffic control device, passing when overtaking a vehicle, improper passing on the right, failing to give way to overtaking vehicle, improper overtaking/passing, stopping on a highway, and speeding. For more information on aggressive driving in Virginia, click here.
Racing Va. Code (§46.2-865)
Racing is another form of reckless driving in Virginia. A race is a contest of speed between two or more vehicles. The racing form of reckless driving is charged under Va. Code §46.2-865 and is punished with mandatory driver’s license suspension and seizure and forfeiture of the vehicle used in the race. For more information on racing charges in Virginia, click here.
Other Reckless Driving Charges in Virginia
There are a variety of offenses that can be considered Virginia reckless driving charges. They include:
- Driving Too Fast for Highway/Traffic Conditions (Va. Code §46.2-861)
- Failing to Maintain Proper Control/Faulty Breaks (Va. Code §46.2-853)
- Failure to Yield Right of Way (Va. Code §46.2-868)
- Reckless Driving on Parking Lot (Va. Code §46.2-864)
- Failure to Give Proper Signal (Va. Code §46.2-860)
- Passing a Stopped School Bus (Va. Code §46.1-859)
- Passing at a Railroad Crossing (Va. Code §46.2-858)
- Driving with Obstructed View (Va. Code §46.2-855)
- Driving Two Abreast in a Single Lane (Va. Code §46.2-857)
- Passing Two Vehicles Abreast (Va. Code §46.2-856)
- Passing On or at the Crest of a Grade or Curve (Va. Code §46.2-854)
Difference Between Reckless Driving and Traffic Infractions in Virginia
The difference between a traffic infraction and a Virginia reckless driving charge is the degree of danger the driver caused by his conduct. A Virginia reckless driving charge is a crime. As a result, a conviction will give a driver a permanent criminal record.
Unlike traffic infractions, a driver CANNOT pre-pay a fine for a Virginia reckless driving charge. The driver MUST come to court. Failure to appear in court could result in an ADDITIONAL criminal charge.
Proof of Virginia Reckless Driving Charge
To convict an offender of a Virginia reckless driving charge, the commonwealth must prove that the offender drove a motor vehicle in a reckless manner.
One of the most common reasons for a Virginia reckless driving charge is that the driver was involved in an accident. The police officer who responds to the scene determines who is at fault and charges that driver with reckless driving. However, the mere fact that there was an accident does not itself prove reckless driving in Virginia. The Commonwealth is still required to prove that the accused engaged in reckless conduct by driving in a manner than endangered the life, limb or property of another person to convict him of a Virginia reckless driving charge.
Penalty for Virginia Reckless Driving Charge
A Virginia reckless driving charge can be a misdemeanor or a felony. A Virginia reckless driving charge is generally a Class 1 misdemeanor, punished with jail, high fines, driver’s license suspension, DMV demerit points, and possible enrollment in the Virginia ASAP program. If the offender is convicted of the racing form of reckless driving, his vehicle will likely be seized and forfeited. There are also increased penalties for reckless driving in Virginia if the offender was texting while driving or committed felony reckless driving.
Jail: A conviction for a Virginia reckless driving charge is punished with up to 12 months in jail. If the basis of the Virginia reckless driving charge was an unsafe speed, the higher the speed, the more likely the offender will be sentenced to jail.
Fines: A driver can be fined up to $2500 if convicted of a Virginia reckless driving charge. The driver will also be required to pay court costs.
Driver’s License Suspension: A driver’s license can be suspended up to 6 months if he is convicted of a Virginia reckless driving charge.
DMV Demerit Points: The DMV will add 6 demerit points to the driving record of anyone convicted of a Virginia reckless driving charge.
VASAP Referral: If the court believes that the Virginia reckless driving charge was alcohol-related, it may order the driver to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (Virginia ASAP) (Va. Code §46.2-392).
Texting while Driving: If the offender was texting or emailing during the commission of this offense, he will pay a minimum fine of $250 (Va. Code §46.2-868(C)). Texting (or emailing) while driving is also a separate traffic infraction under Va. Code §46.2-1078.1. In some circumstances, a driver can be convicted of both reckless driving and texting while driving under Va. Code §46.2-1078.1 and will have a mandatory minimum fine for both the texting while driving conviction and the reckless driving conviction.
Felony Reckless Driving: A Virginia reckless driving charge can sometimes be a felony. If the offender was driving without a valid operator’s license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation and caused the death of another person as a result of the reckless driving, he will be charged with a Class 6 felony (Va. Code §46.2-868(B)). This offense is punished with up to 5 years in prison, a fine up to $2500, and driver’s license revocation for 1 year.
Other Consequences of Virginia Reckless Driving Conviction
In addition to immediate penalties resulting from a Virginia reckless driving conviction, there could be many additional, collateral consequences. Insurance premiums will likely increase, educational and employment opportunities could be impacted due to a new criminal record, security clearances could possibly be in jeopardy, and there can be immigration consequences for anyone who is not a United States citizen.
It is important to contact a Virginia reckless driving lawyer as soon as possible to review options for, consequences of, and possible defenses to a Virginia reckless driving charge. If a conviction cannot be avoided, a Virginia reckless driving lawyer can help to obtain the best possible outcome.