Reckless Driving Blog
- Are you really at risk of going to jail?
- What are the penalties?
- How much are attorneys fees?
- How did the officer determine your speed?
- Can I appeal if I have been found guilty of reckless driving?
Virginia Reckless Driving laws are some of the most severe traffic laws in the country. The Virginia legislature set up its Reckless Driving statutes to criminalize the act of speeding if a person exceeds 20 miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit. For instance, if you were traveling 81 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, you may get a plain speeding ticket in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or North Carolina. For going the same speed in Fairfax County, you could be facing a Class 1 misdemeanor, a crime with penalties similar to a DWI or Assault and Battery conviction. Reckless Driving is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, and a possible loss of your driving privileges for up to six months. Additionally, you could be arrested for Reckless Driving and have your car impounded at the discretion of the police officer for committing this offense. Instead, most Northern Virginia and Fairfax police officers will just issue a reckless driving ticket or “summons” requiring you to appear in Fairfax County General District Court.
After realizing that a Reckless Driving charge could be serious, many people often go to the internet to find out more about the consequences of a conviction for reckless driving in Fairfax County. In addition to the information on these pages, the reckless driving attorneys at The Gordon Law Firm offer a free phone or office consultation so you can speak to an experienced Fairfax County lawyer about your reckless driving charge.
The two most common types of Reckless Driving are:
Virginia Code 46.2-862. Exceeding the speed limit – A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.
Virginia Code 46.2-852 is another type of Reckless Driving charge often used by Fairfax County police officers and State Troopers. The language of the section is broad and it can be applied in many different circumstances. In cases of general Reckless Driving under Section 46.2-852, the prosecutor must prove that the driver (1) drove at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger life, limb, or property of another; or (2) that the driver disregarded the consequences of his actions and displayed an indifference to the safety of life, limb, or property. The driving behavior must be intentional.
If convicted of Reckless Driving, the Virginia DMV also places six demerit points on your driving record.
A Reckless Driving conviction remains on your Virginia driving record for 11 years and because it is a misdemeanor it can remain on your permanent criminal record for the remainder of your life. A conviction for reckless driving in Fairfax and Northern Virginia can also cause your auto insurance rates to be increased and may make life and health insurance more expensive to acquire.
Reckless Driving in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor, a crime with penalties similar to a DWI or Assault and Battery conviction. Reckless Driving is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, and a possible loss of your driving privileges for up to six months.
If convicted of Reckless Driving, the Virginia DMV also places six demerit points on your driving record.
A Reckless Driving conviction remains on your Virginia driving record for 11 years and because it is a misdemeanor it can remain on your permanent criminal record for the remainder of your life.
So what do you do if you are one of the hundreds of people every year who get charged with Reckless Driving in Fairfax County, Virginia?
First, do not plead guilty to a Reckless Driving charge in Fairfax without the advice of a lawyer. As indicated above, there are serious consequences and you should have a experienced Fairfax traffic law attorney counsel you concerning all possible defenses to a Reckless Driving ticket. There are times when people are charged with Reckless Driving in Fairfax when an attorney can convince the judge or the prosecutor that you driving behavior was only “ improper driving” – a non-criminal traffic offense. If you are found guilty of “improper driving,” it is NOT a misdemeanor and the maximum punishment for the charge is a potential $500 fine, and three demerit points assessed on your Virginia DMV record.
It depends on the facts of your case. If you have a bad driving record or you were travelling at speeds near or above 90 miles per hour, your chances of being sentenced to jail and/or losing your driving privileges are dramatically increased. It is not common that persons speeding 85 miles per hour or less to be sentenced to serve jail time. However, most judges will still find a driver guilty of Reckless Driving, a Class One misdemeanor.
That is the reason why most people hire The Gordon Law Firm. They want to try to avoid a misdemeanor conviction. We have helped government employees concerned about security clearances, Fortune 500 executives that are worried about a potential criminal record, school teachers, and military personnel in their attempt to avoid Reckless Driving convictions.
However, if you are accused of speeding more than 90 miles per hour in Fairfax County, several judges have the unwritten policy of assigning 1 day in jail or more for each mile per hour above 90 mph. This also applies to Fairfax Reckless Driving charges if you are accused of exceeding 35 mph above the speed limit in lower speed zones. For instance, in front of some judges, a Fairfax Reckless Driving conviction for 94 mph in a 55 mph will result in a 4 day jail sentence. If you have a bad driving record, the likelihood of more jail time is possible.
Judges often take into account many factors presented by your attorney during the sentencing phase of a Reckless Driving trial in Fairfax or other Northern Virginia counties. These factors include:
- Other charges that were issued along with the reckless driving charge;
- The speed you were traveling or the dangerousness of the driving behavior;
- Your DMV record and previous convictions;
- Whether there were any injuries caused by the reckless driving;
- Your testimony or actions in court; and
- Whether you were argumentative or rude to the law enforcement officer.
Of course the demeanor and attitude of the judge or Commonwealth Attorney can affect the sentence. Different judges in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia have different perspectives towards certain types of Reckless Driving cases and these factors could increase or decrease your punishment if you are convicted.
You should expect your traffic and criminal defense attorney to have experience in representing people who have been accused of Reckless Driving in Fairfax and Northern Virginia at these high speeds. Ask your Reckless Driving lawyer what they will do to try to present the best argument and case they can to the Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney or the court in order to try to lessen the risk of a long jail sentence or license suspension.
After talking to an experienced criminal and traffic defense lawyer, your Reckless Driving attorney may recommend that you take some of the following actions:
Get a copy of your Virginia driving record prior to court date
First, you may be requested to obtain a copy of your current driving record from the state where you are licensed. After reviewing your record, your attorney can provide you with an assessment of what risks you may face in court and what potential difficulties may prevent a successful resolution of your case. For instance, if you have a prior DUI, Reckless Driving charge, or multiple speeding tickets, resolving you case in Fairfax may be more difficult than if you had a perfect record.
If recommended by your lawyer, have your vehicle’s speedometer calibrated before your Reckless Driving trial.
You should not necessarily do this without talking to an attorney beforehand. If you choose The Gordon Law Firm to be your Virginia reckless driving lawyers, we will direct you to automobile mechanics that have “dynamometers”. A dynamometer is like a treadmill. A trained mechanic runs the speed of the treadmill from 10 to 65 mph or more and compares the dynamometer reading to what your vehicle’s speedometer is telling the car’s owner.
Your car may be brand new.. or a Lexus … or a BMW … or a Toyota. We are attorneys, not automobile mechanics. Our Fairfax attorneys have helped reckless driving clients with brand new cars that have been tested with a dynamometer. Sometimes the calibration shows that the speedometer is perfect and other times we have seen new cars that have a speedometer reading 7 mph lower than the car’s actual speed. Maybe the tires on the vehicle are not the same size as the tires that were on the car when they left the factory. Maybe the men and women assembling your vehicle had a bad day at the manufacturing plant.
All we know is that after our Fairfax law firm helped more than 400 people with Reckless Driving charges in 2007, and a speedometer calibration often helped our clients a great deal. This is especially true if you are accused of speeding above 81 mph and is definitely recommended if you are accused of Reckless Driving in Fairfax County or Northern Virginia by exceeding speeds of 90 mph.
If recommended by your Reckless Driving attorney, take a driver improvement course.
Again, a reckless driving lawyer may not recommend a driver improvement course unless you have driving record that has prior tickets upon it. Each client’s situation is different. The Commonwealth of Virginia’s point system for violations of Virginia traffic law is very different from most other states. For instance, all traffic violations in Fairfax, Leesburg, and Manassas result in either 3, 4, or 6 demerit points being placed by the Virginia DMV upon your driving record unless it is a non-moving infraction. Those point values are much higher than those assessed in all of the states surrounding Virginia. Virginia offsets these high negative point values with the opportunity to earn positive points for good driving behavior or for taking a driver improvement program. Each year you drive your car without getting a traffic violation, one positive point is added to your Virginia DMV record. The maximum amount of positive points you can achieve is +5, the best driving record in Virginia.
You may also take an approved driver improvement program voluntarily and add five points to your driving record. These classes are even offered online. However, you can only take the driver improvement program once every 2 years and you cannot exceed a +5 score on your DMV record.
If you are accused of driving at extremely high speeds, or if you have a terrible driving record, our Reckless Driving lawyers may recommend that you complete an advanced driver improvement course through the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.
Again talk to an experienced Fairfax Reckless Driving lawyer first. The attorneys of The Gordon Law Firm will tell you how to maximize the benefit of completing a driver improvement course either before your Reckless Driving case in Fairfax County or to improve your driving record in the long run.
If you have a driver’s license from another state, much of the above information may not apply to your state’s DMV records. Again, our lawyers will advise you how to best proceed to try to increase your chances for a positive result for your Reckless Driving case in a Virginia court.
The attorneys of the Gordon Law Firm have helped clients charged with speeding and Reckless Driving throughout Northern Virginia. Part of our law firm’s success has been dependent upon learning about the equipment used by law enforcement when they issue citations for Speeding and Reckless Driving in Virginia.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia more than 200,000 speeding tickets and Reckless Driving charges are issued each year by local police and State Troopers. There are three main methods law enforcement officers in Fairfax County use determine the speed of our cars and trucks. These methods are Radar, LIDAR (or laser), and/or by pacing the speeding vehicle.
How Radar Guns Work
The word “Radar” is an abbreviation for “Radio Detection and Ranging”. It is imperative that police officers who use radar guns are well-trained and have a good working knowledge of how radar works.
The typical police radar gun uses radio waves and the Doppler Effect to determine the speed of a moving car. The Doppler Effect states that the measured frequency of a wave is relative to the motion between the source and the observer. When a radar signal hits the object that is moving toward the police vehicle, the returning frequency will be higher than the original. When the signal hits a car that is moving away from the police vehicle, the returning frequency will be lower than the original frequency. The frequency change is used to determine the speed of the target vehicle.
For instance, when a radar gun is used by Fairfax police on the Dulles Toll Road, the radar sends radio waves of specific frequencies in a chosen direction. The waves then bounce off all objects, including vehicles, and return to the radar gun’s receiving station in the squad car. When the waves reflect off a moving vehicle, a measurable frequency shift, called the Doppler Shift, occurs. The radar gun computer then uses the frequency shift to calculate the speed of the moving vehicle. The Fairfax police officer or State Trooper hears the squelch of the frequency change that alerts him to the speeding vehicle.
The beam that emanates from the radar gun is conical in shape and continues outward indefinitely from the antenna until it is reflected, refracted, or absorbed. This radar beam transmits low level, non-ionizing radio frequency electromagnetic radiation. According to scientific research, the emission levels resulting from traffic radar do not pose risk to the operator of the radar or the occupants of vehicles being targeted.
There are five types of radar guns that are regularly used in Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions: the Kustom Pro-1000, the KR-12, the Talon, the Stalker, and the Golden Eagle.
The Golden Eagle, made by Kustom electronics, is used in most State Trooper vehicles in Northern Virginia for speeding and reckless driving tickets. Because many of our clients have been stopped by Troopers using this device, the Gordon Law Firm purchased its own Golden Eagle radar. We have used the Golden Eagle and its operations manual to learn how the radar is properly used, the requirements for calibration and testing. and to be able to present to the court demonstrative evidence of how the device can produce inaccurate results through computer or operator error.
How LIDAR Works
LIDAR (Laser Radar, Ladar) is an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging.
According to scientific research, Lidar (laser radar, ladar) does not emit any harmful radiation. The Lidar laser beam shoots 280 pulses per second and at 1,000 feet the beam is 3 feet square. The Laser Radar Beam travels 186,282 miles per second and that is 1 foot per billionth of a second.
The beam is usually aimed at the front of the car or rear license plate of a suspected speeding car. The LIDAR cannot be effectively operated from a moving police vehicle. Unlike RADAR, the LIDAR can target specific vehicles to determine the speed. Judges believe that the Lidar is more accurate and we at the Gordon law Firm have been working hard to dispel that myth.
Because the LIDAR is a precision instrument the testing, calibration, and operation in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications is very important. This is especially true when a person can be convicted of a Class One Misdemeanor for Reckless Driving by simply speeding.
The Pro-Laser III, made by Kustom electronics, is used in many police vehicles in Northern Virginia to issue speeding and reckless driving tickets. Because many of our clients have been stopped by law enforcement using this device, The Gordon Law Firm purchased its own laser speed measuring device, the last generation Pro-Laser II. We have used the Pro-Laser II as demonstrative evidence at trial and we have reviewed and the operations manual of its newer cousin, the Pro-Laser III, to learn how it is properly used. We are also very familiar with the requirements for calibration and testing of the Pro-Laser III. This is important in order to be able to present effective arguments in court concerning how the device can produce inaccurate results through computer or operator error.
We hope that the following information assists you in understanding how the officer came to believe that you were exceeding the speed limit in Fairfax County. Our criminal defense firm uses this information to attempt to successfully challenge Reckless Driving and Speeding charges at trial or obtain a favorable resolution of the case prior to trial. If you have any questions or would like a free consultation, please us at 703.218.8416.
Call or email us for free consultation. After listening to you and finding out the circumstances of your Reckless Driving charge in Fairfax we will often quote a fee during the initial phone or office consultation. The fee depends on the facts of your case. If you have a bad driving record or you were travelling at a high speed, your fee will be higher than someone with a good record who was travelling at 81 miles per hour.
We also charge flat fees, which mean that the fee does not increase if the matter takes multiple court appearances in General District Court. We believe that clients should not be charged every time they want to communicate with their attorney. We also accept payment by credit card and we may set payment schedules if circumstances warrant.
Yes. You must file an appeal within 10 days from the date you were found guilty of Reckless Driving in Fairfax by a General District Court judge. You should proceed with caution because the results of an appeal can have serious consequences because it is a trial de novo. That means the results of your first trial are erased and you start from scratch in Circuit Court. The Fairfax prosecuting attorney may or may not be the same one who prosecuted you in General District Court. You will have a different judge for your second Reckless Driving trial. Either you or the Commonwealth Attorney may request a trial by a jury.
At the trial in a Virginia Circuit Court, the Commonwealth Attorney must (again) attempt to prove to a judge or a jury that you were driving recklessly. The evidence and testimony may or may not change, but the Fairfax prosecutor must still prove that you were “Reckless Driving” beyond a reasonable doubt. You must also be aware that the punishment also may change for the better or for the worse. Your Fairfax Reckless Driving attorney can explain the risks and benefits of an appeal or a jury trial.
The most common form of reckless driving charged in Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties is speeding 20+ mph above the speed limit under Virginia Code Section 46.2-862. However, Fairfax and Northern Virginia area law enforcement officers have the ability to pick 16 different ways to charge a driver with Reckless Driving. Virginia Legislature has decided to make each of the following different types of driving behavior “Reckless Driving”, a Class One Misdemeanor which can have the potential of a 6 month loss of driving privileges, up to a $2500 fine, and a 12 month jail sentence.
- Speeding at 20+ miles per hour over the speed limit;
- Driving at speeds over 80 mph.Virginia Code Section 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit
- Driving in a manner generally endangering the life, limb or property of others;Virginia Code Section 46.2-852.
- Improperly passing a stopped school bus;Virginia Code Section 46.2-859.
- Driving at speeds too fast for traffic conditions regardless of speed limit;Virginia Code Section 46.2-861.
- Reckless Driving in a parking lot.Virginia Code Section 46.2-864.
- Failing to give a proper turning or stopping signal;Virginia Code Section 46.2-860.
- Driving with faulty brakes and driving while vehicle not under proper control;Virginia Code Section 46.2-853.
- Overtaking, passing, or failing to yield to an emergency vehicle;Virginia Code Section 46.2-829.
- Racing; Virginia Code Section 46.2-865.
- Passing a vehicle at a crest of a hill, on a curve, or on a grade;Virginia Code Section 46.2-854.
- Overloaded vehicle such as to obstruct or with driver’s control or view;Virginia Code Section 46.2-855.
- Overtaking or passing another vehicle at a railroad grade crossing;
Virginia Code Section 46.2-858
- Failure to yield right-of-way to other vehicles when merging onto highway;Virginia Code Section 46.2-863.
- Passing two other vehicles side by side;Virginia Code Section 46.2-856.
- Driving a vehicle two abreast in a single lane;
Virginia Code Section 46.2-857.
The criminal defense lawyers of The Gordon Law Firm have helped more than 1,500 people charged with Reckless Driving and other traffic related charges in Fairfax and Northern Virginia. Our Reckless Driving attorneys in Fairfax and Northern Virginia will be happy to answer any questions you may have about Reckless Driving.
See our latest BLOG posts on Reckless Driving.