STEP ONE: FIND OUT WHAT YOU ARE CHARGED WITH
What Law Section you are Charged with Determines the Potential Punishment
If you have a high speed reckless driving or speeding ticket in Virginia then you may be facing serious consequences. The first thing you need to check is to see if you are charged with reckless driving by speed, or speeding. You can check this by looking for the LAW SECTION on your ticket. The law section will tell you what you are charged with.
In Virginia, reckless driving by speed is charged under law section 46.2-862. Speeding is commonly charged under law section 46.2-870. There is more than one speeding section, but there is only one reckless driving by speed law section. You can look up and read your law section online here:
What is the Difference Between Reckless Driving by Speed and Speeding?
RECKLESS DRIVING BY SPEED
It is a big difference. Reckless driving by speed is a class 1 criminal misdemeanor and it leaves you with a permanent criminal record if you are convicted. The potential range of punishment in Virginia for a class 1 misdemeanor is:
- 0-12 months in jail (this doesn’t meant the judge will actually give jail time, but this is the potential range)
- $0-2500 fine (again, it is rare to see a $2500 fine, but high speed cases do usually have higher fines)
- 0-6 month license suspension
Speeding is a traffic infraction and not a misdemeanor. Therefore, it does not leave you with a criminal record if you are convicted, unlike reckless driving by speed. A Virginia judge cannot suspend your license for speeding, however your DMV can in some cases.
Speeding is punished as follows:
- Fine of $0-250
- Judge cannot suspend your license, but DMV may be able to
POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES IN ADDITION TO JAIL, FINE, COSTS, and LICENSE SUSPENSION
- Potential insurance increase: In addition to the potential consequences the court can impose, you may have to deal with insurance increases. I took a phone call recently where someone prepaid a speeding ticket for 73 mph in a 60 thinking it was no big deal. His insurance increased $70 per month about 6 months later and that is when he called me. Unfortunately it was TOO LATE TO HELP.
- Potential employment consequences: Employers often care about criminal misdemeanors. I have taken calls from people who had a reckless driving misdemeanor show up on a background check TEN years later and the company withdrew their job offer.
WHY DID THEY CHARGE ME WITH RECKLESS DRIVING? I WAS NOT DRIVING RECKLESSLY
In Virginia, reckless driving by speed is defined as driving EITHER 20 or more mph over the limit regardless of the speed zone OR ANYTHING OVER 80 MPH. The officer has discretion as to whether or not the charge is written as reckless driving but if you are driving over 80 mph or 20 or more mph over the limit they ALMOST ALWAYS write it for reckless driving.
So check the law section on your ticket as that determines what you are charged with and what potential consequences you face. Reckless driving is a STRICT LIABILITY crime, which means that you do not have to KNOW you are violating it. As long as you were actually driving over 80 or 20 or more over the limit then you are technically guilty of the crime.
JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE CHARGED WITH RECKLESS DRIVING OR SPEEDING, DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO GET CONVICTED
Here is a case we did where the client was driving 108 MPH. Not only did our client avoid jail and a license suspension, but his charge was actually reduced:
STEP 2: KNOW THE JUDGE AND KNOW THE COURT WHERE YOU ARE CHARGED
A high quality traffic defense lawyer will be familiar with the jurisdiction where you got your ticket. Every jurisdiction in Virginia is different. Sometimes the prosecutor gets involved and sometimes they don’t. If they do get involved, sometimes it is helpful and sometimes it is not. Here is another case we did recently where the judge reduced a 96 mph in a 55 in Brunswick, VA traffic court:
Where you got the ticket will usually determine what, if anything, can be done with your case. I represented 3 high speed charges within one year, all of them were OVER 120 MPH and NONE of my clients spent even a day in jail.
SOME SPEEDS ARE SO HIGH THAT AVOIDING JAIL IS A HUGE WIN
You can reach a point where avoiding jail time is a huge win in and of itself. Honestly, any case 40 or more over the speed limit, or over 100 mph it is a very good result to avoid jail time.
Prince George General District Court: Reckless driving by speed, 120 MPH in 70:
The prosecutor gets involved and asks for jail time at 120 mph. I was able to convince the prosecutor to try my client in her absence. So my client did not have to come to court, and there was no jail time.
Dinwiddie, Virginia General District Court: Reckless driving by speed, 127 MPH in 70:
The prosecutor got involved on this case as well. I was again able to convince the prosecutor to agree to a result that carried NO JAIL TIME. At 127 mph that is HIGHLY unusual. In Virginia, once you reach 100 mph most jurisdictions give jail time. And I have seen the judge in Dinwiddie give 10 days in jail at 92 mph. So this was a fantastic result.
In addition, the driving record was terrible. My client had FIVE tickets for moving violations (4 were speeding/reckless driving) within the last three years. However, I was able to position the case to avoid jail.
Brunswick, VA Reckless Driving, 121 MPH in 70:
This case was the most challenging because the judge gives jail 100 percent of the time once you get to 100 mph, and the prosecutors ask for more jail than the judge normally gives. However, in this case I scoured the officer’s calibration report and I LOCATED A LEGAL DEFENSE THAT EVEN THE PROSECUTOR MISSED.
As you can see from this law, calibrations of radar, laser or other speed measuring devices are only valid for SIX MONTHS. When I reviewed the officer’s calibration, IT WAS NOT WITHIN 6 MONTHS.
This defense was not obvious. The prosecutor mistakenly believed it was within 6 months. Most attorneys would have missed this. However, this legal defense let my client avoid probably 5-15 days in jail.
THREE DIFFERENT CASES, ALL OVER 120 MPH and NOBODY WENT TO JAIL
These are three highly unusual results. See Washington Nationals former player Jason Werth who went to jail for driving 105 mph.
It is important at these speeds to try to exploit every possible avenue to avoid jail. Call today for a free consultation about your reckless driving charge.