The answer is both yes and no. This is because reckless driving is based on how you are driving at a given time while DUI involves your condition while you are driving. Both charges are incredibly serious in Virginia and deserve discussion. Below, you will find examples of situations where both can be charged and where only DUI can be charged.
What is a Lesser Included Offense?
A lesser included offense is typically defined as one where an offense (the lesser) is also committed when the greater offense is committed. An example of this is manslaughter and murder. Many of the same elements must be proven for both, but you ordinarily cannot be punished for both manslaughter and murder even though you must commit manslaughter for a charge to rise to the level of murder. As a caveat, the Supreme Court has said you can be found guilty of both charges but you cannot receive double punishment. This is important because many people mistakenly believe that reckless driving is a lesser included offense of DUI. In Virginia, as with most states, it is settled law that it is not.
When Can DUI and Reckless Driving Be Charged Together?
In Virginia, reckless driving is either driving in a manner that shows a reckless disregard for life or property, driving 20 or more miles per hour over the posted speed limit, or driving over 80 miles per hour regardless of the posted speed limit. DUI is defined as operating a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol content (BAC) over .08%. For example:
If you are observed by a police officer passing a stopped school bus that has its lights flashing and you are pulled over, you will most likely be cited for reckless driving in Virginia. If, during the traffic stop, the officer develops probable cause to suspect that you are intoxicated (such as a strong smell of alcohol coming from you or you are glassy eyed and slurring your words), you can also be cited with DUI along with your reckless driving citation.
If your BAC is a much higher number, say .25%, the argument could be made that simply getting behind the wheel with such a high degree of impairment is, in and of itself, enough to constitute both reckless driving and DUI and could be charged accordingly.
When Are Reckless Driving and DUI Exclusive?
In the beginning we discussed that reckless driving is about how you drive while DUI is about your condition while you drive. It is very possible to be charged with DUI while showing no apparent or outward impairment in your driving ability. You may be driving serenely down the road staying between the lines and obeying all traffic laws and still get pulled over for a busted taillight, for example. You can still be charged with DUI if your BAC is over the legal limit. However, you cannot be charged for reckless driving for a busted taillight.
There are endless permutations of situations wherein DUI and reckless driving can be charged at the same time and an equally endless number where they cannot be. Both carry potential jail time and hefty fines. If you find yourself in a situation where you are charged with either one or both of these, you need to make sure your rights are protected by engaging quality representation. Jad Sarsour has helped thousands of clients in these types of situations. He is experienced and has the ability to assess your case and quickly determine the best course of action based on the facts. Please give him a call now at (571) 316-2639 to schedule your free consultation to begin building your defense immediately.
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The Fairfax Criminal Defense Law firm of Jad Sarsour, represents clients throughout Northern Virginia and regularly appears in all courts, including: Fairfax County | Fairfax City | Prince William County | Arlington County | Alexandria City | Loudoun County | Federal Court (Eastern District/VA)