Is Reckless Driving a Felony or Misdemeanor in Virginia?

Many of my clients are shocked to find out that there traffic offense is actually considered a criminal offense.  This is particularly true for out of state clients who receive a ticket for going as little as 81 in a 70 mile per hour zone.  In Virginia, such an individual was likely charged with reckless driving by speed.

What is Reckless Driving in Virginia?

There are 14 different variations of reckless driving in Virginia.  The following is a list of the various reckless driving statutes:

·      § 46.2-852 Reckless Driving; general rule

·      § 46.2-853 Driving vehicle which is not under control; faulty brakes.

·      § 46.2-854. Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve.

·      § 46.2-855. Driving with driver's view obstructed or control impaired.

·      § 46.2-856. Passing two vehicles abreast.

·      § 46.2-857. Driving two abreast in a single lane.

·      § 46.2-858. Passing at a railroad grade crossing.

·      § 46.2-859. Passing a stopped school bus; prima facie evidence.

·      § 46.2-860. Failing to give proper signals.

·      § 46.2-861. Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions.

·      § 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit.

·      § 46.2-863. Failure to yield right-of-way.

·      § 46.2-864. Reckless driving on parking lots, etc.

·      § 46.2-865. Racing; penalty.

Reckless Driving by Speed

Among the reckless driving code sections, § 46.2-862 is by far the most frequently used.  This statute strictly refers to the speed at which you are driving without any regard to your manner of driving.  This statute defines reckless driving in two ways.  The first section of this statute mandates that you can be convicted of reckless driving for traveling 20 or more miles per hour above the speed limit.  

 The second section defines reckless driving as driving over 80 miles per hour no matter the posted speed limit.  This section becomes particularly troublesome on highways with 70 mile per hour speed limits. This means that a motorists pulled over for going as little as 11 miles per hour over the speed limit will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. 

Classification and Penalties

Virginia Code § 46.2-868 dictates that reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor and therefore carries extremely serious consequences.  In Virginia, a Class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious category of misdemeanors and falls just one step short of a felony. Specifically, as a Class 1 misdemeanor, reckless driving carries a maximum one year in jail, $2500 fine, and 6 month license suspension.  Additionally, there are many secondary consequences such as increased insurance premiums, points on your driving record, license suspensions due to accumulation of points,  and failed criminal background checks.

Defending Reckless Driving

            When representing someone charged with reckless driving, I am initially looking for an absolute defense to the case.   There are certain technicalities that officers are required to follow for a conviction to be upheld.  Be sure to speak with an attorney who knows what to ask for and where to look to ensure that all the proper procedures have been followed.

            When there is no absolute defense, a reckless driving case will often hinge on what mitigation evidence has been presented.  The right evidence can often save even the worst case.  Some of the items of mitigation I have my clients complete include defensive driving courses, community service, and speedometer calibrations.

            I have handled thousands of reckless driving cases and have a proven track of obtaining outstanding results for my clients.  I have become intimately familiar with the jurisdictions I cover.  I have been able to nurture good professional relationships with the clerks, officers, commonwealth’s attorneys, and judges in these courts.  This in turn allows me to give my clients honest, upfront consultations regarding the most likely outcome for their case.  Please contact me today to discuss your pending reckless driving case.  I can be reached by phone (804) 451-6033 or email, trey@mattoxlawpc.com.