Getting a Reckless Driving Charge Dropped or Reduced in Virginia
How Serious is Reckless Driving
In Virginia, reckless driving is a serious matter that can potentially get you into some hot water. Thats why it's important to get a lawyer and take the charge seriously. Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor which means it carries the possibility of 1 year in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, and a loss of license. We have written extensively on the differences between reckless driving and a routine speeding ticket. You can read that article here. Its important to note that if you drive well-over the speed limit, its not out of the ordinary for a judge to sentence you to a weekend in jail. Thats why its critical to understand the ways to get your reckless driving charge dropped or reduced.
First Option: Get the Reckless Driving Reduced to Improper Driving (3 DMV Points)
There is an important caveat in Virginia law that drivers should be aware of and try to take advantage of. Virginia law allows a prosecutor or judge, in their discretion, to find an accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving. This distinction is important, because unlike reckless driving, improper driving is not a Class 1 Misdemeanor and it won't go on your criminal record. VA Code § 46.2-869. Instead, improper driving is a simple traffic infraction punishable by up to a $500 fine. Improper Driving is appropriate in situations where you can show that the "degree of culpability is slight." VA Code § 46.2-869. It carries a loss of three (3) DMV demerit points, as opposed to six (6) for reckless driving.
Second Option: Reduced to Failure to Pay Full Time and Attention (0 DMV Points)
Failure to Pay Full Time and Attention is often referred to as the holy grail of traffic offenses. Thats because it is a county ordinance (in most counties in Northern Virginia) that has no equivalent charge in the Virginia Code. This means the charge does not carry any points with DMV or go on your DMV record. For example, in Fairfax, the local ordinance states:
"No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of this County without giving his full time and attention to the operation of the vehicle. (3-13-63; 1961 Code, § 16-85.)." Section 82-4-24.
In most cases, failure to pay full time and attention is the best outcome you can hope for other than an outright dismissal. However, because failure to pay full time and attention is a county ordinance, it can change from county to county or may not exist in your county. That is why it's important to consult with a lawyer beforehand.
Third Option: Getting the Reckless Driving Reduced to a Speeding Infraction
The next option is to get the reckless driving knocked down to a more routine speeding ticket. Va Code § 46.2-870. The loss of DMV points will depend on the speed you are convicted of going. For example, Speeding (1-9 MPH above the limit), carries a loss of three (3) DMV Demerit points. Speeding (10-19 MPH above the limit) includes a loss of 4 points. Finally, Speeding (20 MPH above the limit) is a loss of 6 points. Thats why it's critical to have an experienced attorney who can get the speed of your ticket struck down. This will help you avoid a misdemeanor conviction and limit the amounts of points you lose on your DMV record.
Fourth Option: Getting an Outright Dismissal
We always save the best for last. Getting an outright dismissal is always the best option. However, its not always the most realistic. It is usually reserved for situations in which there is a flaw in the Commonwealth's case or evidence. This can include situation's in which the arresting officer isn't present or doesn't have the proper calibrations for the Radar machine that was used to make the stop. When a dismissal does occur it is because of pressure applied by a seasoned traffic attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney will not be afraid to take the case to trial and win. This can put pressure on the Commonwealth to nolle prosequi the charge against you. Nolle prosequi simply means decline to prosecute and can be done upon motion of the Commonwealth for good cause shown. VA Code § 19.2-265.3.
How to Get These Results
The short answer is hire a good attorney. An experienced traffic attorney knows what the prosecution is looking for in order to cut you a break. This can include a range of proactive steps before court including getting your speedometer calibrated, completing a safe driving class, finishing an aggressive driving class, or doing some amount of community service. The important thing is that you do not want to wait and show up without a lawyer. Judges do not have the power to create legal fictions and amend charges on their own and, in most county's, prosecutors will not speak with you if you do not have an attorney.
Safe Driving Courses in Virginia
Our firm usually refers clients to the Virginian aggressive driving course done through AA Driving Academy and the the Safe Driving class through IDriveSafely. However, there are a whole host of excellent and local driving classes that can be found on the DMV's website. You can be sure that these classes are DMV approved.
How We Can Help
The Pickett Law Group, PLLC is an experienced law firm with two generations of former prosecutors, who have fought from both sides of the courtroom on all types of legal issues including Reckless Driving charges. Our firm has fought to successfully protect the driving records of those convicted of Reckless Driving. Contact us today and we will begin fighting on your behalf.