With almost 264 million registered vehicles and 218 million drivers, US roads are some of the busiest in the world. That also makes them some of the most dangerous in terms of motor vehicle accidents, not just in Fairfax County, Virginia.
With 40,000 traffic-related deaths in 2017, road safety has become a public health issue. Among the top causes are:
- distracted driving
- not wearing a seatbelt
In some cases, speeding is reckless driving. But reckless driving encompasses more than that and carries very serious consequences.
If you’re charged with reckless driving, you should be aware of what those consequences are and where you can turn for help. Keep reading to find out all that and more.
What is Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving is also known as careless driving or dangerous driving. The name of the charge varies from state to state. But the definition and seriousness of this charge vary little across the country.
In most states, reckless driving is considered a criminal offense. Dependent on the circumstances, it can carry fines as well as jail time.
Reckless driving covers a number of different driving infractions. This charge is the result of a driver willfully or recklessly operating a vehicle. The driver demonstrates a disregard for the safety of other drivers or pedestrians, as well as the property of others.
To be charged with reckless driving, the prosecution doesn’t need to prove that a driver intentionally acted recklessly. Instead, they need to prove that a driver consciously disregarded the risks of their driving.
Types of Reckless Driving
The penalties for reckless driving depends on the severity and circumstances of the charge. Most commonly, a reckless driving charge is laid when a driver is driving 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit.
But reckless driving is a broad category of traffic crime that involves a number of different moving violations, including:
- Passing a school vehicle
- Passing an emergency vehicle
- Not considering weather conditions in accordance with the speed
- Not abiding the instructions of law enforcement (i.e. failure to stop after a police officer orders it or avoiding a police officer)
- Racing with other vehicles
- Not using headlights after dark
- Speeding in excess of 80 mph
- Distracted driving as a result of cell phone use
- Blind passing (i.e. passing on a 2 lane highway with little visibility)
- Driving through red lights and stop signs
- Not yielding to vehicles and pedestrians (i.e. following the right of way)
Driving under the influence or while intoxicated may also result in a reckless driving charge. In some cases, you can be charged with both a DUI and reckless driving. In these cases, the punishment is often severe.
The Penalties for Reckless Driving
Reckless driving is typically considered a misdemeanor crime. It carries penalties including fines and imprisonment.
As mentioned, those penalties vary depending on the context of the crime as well as the consequences of the violations. Of the above scenarios, some are considered more dangerous and more serious than others. When the violation involves injury or harm to another person or their property, the punishment is generally more serve.
The Virginia laws that determine reckless driving are VA Code Secs. 46.2-852-865 and reckless driving penalties are set forth in VA Code 46.2-868.
In Virginia, if a reckless driver is lucky enough to get off with a fine, this can range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. These fines reach up to $2,500.
Being charged with reckless driving in Virginia also carries the possibility of a one-year imprisonment. It can also result in a loss of license or, at the very least, license suspension for up to six months.
Additional Penalties for Reckless Driving
Beyond fines and imprisonment, reckless driving has additional consequences. Again, this depends on the circumstances of the charge as well as the nature of the violation itself.
Because it’s a misdemeanor crime, a reckless driving charge will likely appear on the driver’s permanent driving record and possibly their criminal record. It can result in the loss of points. The number of demerit points is dependent on how severe the charge is.
As a result, insurance premiums will drastically increase. Reckless driving causes premiums to raise over twice the amount they would for a regular speeding violation.
People who drive as part of their job may lose their job as a result of a reckless driving charge. For military service members and people with government jobs, a reckless driving charge may result in a denial of security clearance.
Others may face deportation after being charged with reckless driving. People on parole may have that revoked.
Can You Get a Lesser Charge for Reckless Driving?
A reckless driving conviction carries heavy consequences. Because the prosecution doesn’t have to prove intent, it’s a difficult charge to fight.
If you’re a first time offender, you might be able to get a lesser charge. This is dependent on a judge’s discretion.
A judge may choose to give you a lighter sentence. However, they usually only grant this if you’ve had a clean driving record before the reckless driving charge.
Another way to increase the chances of a lesser charge is to hire an attorney. Typically, more than negligence is required for the prosecution to secure a reckless driving conviction. An experienced attorney can negotiate the circumstances of your charge and help get fines lowered and even avoid any potential time in jail.
Have You Been Charged with Reckless Driving?
If you’ve been charged with reckless driving, the penalties you face are severe. Whether it’s hundreds to thousands of dollars in fines or even imprisonment, the consequences will depend on the violation as well how much damage you caused. But an attorney can help you reduce those fines and avoid time spent in jail.