Improper Driving VA is a Traffic Infraction and Not Misdemeanor Reckless Driving

Improper driving VA

Improper driving VA

Improper driving VA is a reduced charge where the degree of culpability is slight. Improper driving in Virginia cannot be charged by the police or the prosecutor. It always begins as a reckless driving charge in Virginia. Improper driving is unique to Virginia. Every improper driving VA charge starts as reckless driving. Out of state drivers often face increased penalties with reckless driving, so a reduction to improper driving is often very helpful.

So how does the charge go from reckless driving Virginia to Virginia improper driving? And who makes that determination? I will answer all of these improper driving questions, and more.

What are the differences between reckless driving and improper driving in VA?

Virginia reckless driving:

  • punished as a class 1 criminal misdemeanor
  • jail time up to one year
  • license suspension up to six months
  • fine up to $2500
  • often has employment issues for people, because it shows up on background checks
  • immigration issues
  • leaves you with a permanent criminal record if you are convicted

What are the consequences for Improper driving VA?

Improper driving VA

Improper driving VA

The consequences for improper driving VA are much less severe in Virginia than reckless driving. Unlike Virginia reckless driving, the judge cannot suspend your driver’s license for improper driving in Virginia. Believe it or not, even some judges do not know this.

Example: A judge once reduced a reckless driving accident case in Virginia for my client, but the judge purported to suspend the driver’s license for 30 days. Judges cannot exceed their authority, and they are bound to the law. The DMV refused to recognize the suspension, and notified the court that Improper driving VA does not carry any potential suspension in Virginia.

Here is a list of consequences for Virginia licensed drivers convicted of improper driving VA:

  • traffic infraction and not a misdemeanor
  • fine amount $0-500
  • no potential license suspension for improper driving, it cannot happen
  • no potential jail time
  • no criminal record since it is a traffic infraction

What are the Improper Driving Insurance Issues? Will Improper Driving Raise my Insurance Rates?

Improper driving Virginia insurance issues

Improper driving Virginia insurance issues

There are many questions related to this, such as “how will improper driving effect my insurance?” Everyone wants to know exactly how improper driving will impact insurance rates in Virginia, and for our of state improper driving. Here is some information for how insurance works, and how your rates will be impacted by Virginia improper driving:

Improper driving is a simple traffic infraction. It is not reckless driving. It will not get reported like reckless driving in Virginia. However, insurance is a private contractual matter in Virginia. There is no statutory framework in Virginia where if you get a certain ticket, or a certain number of points, that you insurance SHALL go up. In other words, it is up to your own individual insurance company to find out about your Virginia improper driving ticket, and determine whether or not to raise your rates.

Insurance companies all have their own policies on how often they check your driving history, and even if they ever check it. Many insurance companies will check your driving record if you change your policy, or when your policy renews but there is no set time.

In addition, some insurance companies will not raise your rates for Virginia improper driving. Every insurance company is different in this regard. Your insurance company should have given you a policy manual, or you should be able to access one. This manual often provides a guide for how your individual insurance company will treat a ticket like improper driving VA.

Finally, keep in mind that if your insurance company DOES increase your rates due to improper driving in Virginia, you can always CHANGE insurance companies and find one that doesn’t care. I had to recently change insurance even though I never got a ticket. My insurance company just kept raising my rates, for no reason. So I changed companies for my car insurance, and I saved a lot of money.

Does Improper Driving VA Give you Points?

Improper driving VA

Improper driving VA

As always, the answer is that it depends. If you are licensed in Virginia, then improper driving gives you the lowest number of points you can get, and the conviction stays on your Virginia driving record for the least amount of time possible. So for Virginia drivers convicted of Virginia improper driving, under VA Code 46.2-869 the answer is yes, it does give you points but they are minimal.

For out of state drivers, the answer is not clear. Improper driving VA is a charge that frequently does not transfer into other states. Many states do not have an improper driving law similar to Virginia. If that is the case, there is a very good chance you will NOT get any points. In some states, this will DEFINITELY not give you any points, such as Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and others.

Improper Driving VA Defined

Improper driving in Virginia is NOT a lesser included offense. And this has VERY important legal consequences that you need to be aware of. Here is the legal definition of improper driving VA:

§ 46.2-869. Improper driving; penalty.

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this article, upon the trial of any person charged with reckless driving where the degree of culpability is slight, the court in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving. However, an attorney for the Commonwealth may reduce a charge of reckless driving to improper driving at any time prior to the court’s decision and shall notify the court of such change. Improper driving shall be punishable as a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $500.

How Does Improper Driving Get Charged in Virginia?

Improper driving does not get charged in Virginia. It is a unique law, and it is ALWAYS reduced from the original Virginia reckless driving charge. That means that the Virginia police or prosecutor will bring a charge of Virginia reckless driving. Then, it will get reduced by either the judge or the prosecutor. This is where it gets more interesting. A jury cannot reduce this charge. The text of the Virginia improper driving law states that only the judge or the prosecutor has the discretion to reduce this.

When Does a Virginia Reckless Driving Charge Get Reduced to Improper Driving VA?

Improper driving VA

Improper driving VA

Improper driving in VA can get reduced before trial by the prosecutor, or at any point before the judge or jury convict for reckless driving. The law states that the prosecutor SHALL be able to amend. Therefore, if you have a plea agreement with the prosecutor to amend a reckless driving charge to improper driving it is not subject to approval by the judge.

The judge, on their own, has the ability to convict for improper driving in Virginia IF the judge finds culpability is slight. You see this on many reckless driving accident cases where it is a single vehicle accident and there are no serious injuries or damage. The judge may hear the evidence, and he or she may determine that culpability was slight and reduce the charge to improper driving.

Improper Driving VA is NOT a Lesser Included Offense of All Virginia Reckless Driving

Virginia Code 46.2-869 defines improper driving as being an offense where there is SLIGHT CULPABILITY. Virginia appellate courts have been clear that Virginia improper driving is NOT a lesser included offense of reckless driving by speed in Virginia. So if you are charged with any reckless driving by speed offense, improper driving is technically NOT a lesser included offense of reckless driving by speed. Therefore, judges and prosecutors are not technically supposed to amend the charge to improper driving.

However, many judges and prosecutors will still amend the charge to improper driving VA. This is known as a “legal fiction.”

A Virginia Jury Cannot Reduce Reckless Driving in Virginia to Improper Driving VA

Improper driving VA

Improper driving VA

In Virginia, a criminal defendant may have the jury be instructed about the elements of the offense charged, and also any lesser included offenses. This gives the Virginia jury the option to convict someone of either the greater charge, or the lesser included offense.

Virginia courts have been clear that juries CANNOT be instructed about improper driving VA. Therefore, a defendant charged with Virginia reckless driving has no right to instruct the jury about improper driving VA. This is not good, because it leaves the jury an all or nothing decision. There is no middle ground.

The reason for this is the Virginia Court of Appeals, and how they have interpreted the Virginia improper driving law. The text of the law itself says that only the JUDGE or the PROSECUTOR has the ability to reduce this. Since the statute leaves out the word JURY, the Virginia Court of Appeals interpreted this to mean the legislature intended that only the prosecutor or judge can reduce reckless driving to improper driving in Virginia.

Leavitt & Martin Are Traffic Specialists and We Can Help

At Leavitt & Martin, we have successfully defended THOUSANDS of clients charged with reckless driving by speed, DUI, speeding, and other Virginia traffic charges. In some instances, it makes sense to appeal a conviction for improper driving. Some judges will reduce a reckless driving accident case where a vehicle hydroplaned due to water on the road, or snow or ice on the road. That should not happen. If you have a Virginia reckless driving or improper driving charge in Virginia, call us. We can walk you through the process. 804-873-4004

 

 

 

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