Reckless Driving, Fairfax, Virginia

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by | March 23, 2017

Reckless driving in Fairfax, Virginia and throughout Virginia is a criminal offense that is defined as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. It is punishable by confinement in jail for up to 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.00. There is a mandatory $250.00 fine if the person convicted is using a “handheld personal communications device” when the crime is committed

The Reckless Driving Statute: § 46.2-852 of the Virginia code.

Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.

What does it mean in plain English?

First of all, “highway” in this case doesn’t mean “highway” as most people use the term. Most people think of a highway as the interstate. For example, I-495 and I-95 are “highways” to most people. But that’s not what the statute means. Under Virginia law, a highway is basically just any street or road. Virginia Code § 46.2-100 defines a “highway” as the entire space between the boundary lines of “every way” open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.

The phrase “irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law” means that the speed limit on the particular street doesn’t matter. You can be convicted of reckless driving for going 25 mph on a 35 mph street if the circumstances are such that your driving endangers the life, limb or property of any person. For example, think of someone driving 25 mph down a street that is crowded with people on the street during a protest or festival.

The essence of the offense.

The key here is that if you’re charged with reckless driving, the police officer thought you were driving dangerously. There are many driving behaviors that might qualify. They include, among other things: passing two vehicles abreast or passing with your view obstructed; failing to yield the right of way; passing a stopped school bus; failure to yield the right of way; and racing.

Picture of what is not Reckless Driving

But the most common way to get a reckless driving ticket is through excessive speed. In Virginia, driving 20 miles per hour over any posted speed limit is considered reckless driving. In addition, driving faster than 80 miles per hour is always reckless driving. That means 56 in a 35 mile per hour zone is reckless driving. And if you’re going faster than 80, the posted speed limit doesn’t matter. You will get a reckless driving ticket for going 81 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone even though it is only 11 miles over the speed limit.

I got a reckless driving ticket in Fairfax, Virginia–what can be done?

There are many possible defenses. Since it is a criminal charge, the Commonwealth of Virginia has the burden of proving all the elements of the crime. For example, in speed based cases it must prove that the radar gun was properly calibrated.

In some cases, the prosecutor may also be willing to reduce the charge to a traffic infraction. Both simple speeding or “improper driving” might be options. (Improper driving is a lesser form of reckless driving.) A skilled attorney will evaluate all the facts of a case to get the best possible outcome.

If you’re facing a reckless driving charge, you should consider consulting with an attorney to determine whether there are any possible defenses you can present.