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Virginia is known for being hard on drivers who fail to obey the law. The Commonwealth has laws that criminalize behavior that in many other jurisdictions, would result in a simple administrative ticket and points on your license. In other words, in Virginia you might end up spending time in jail for something that in another state would result in a fine. Reckless driving is one such violation that Virginia often treats very harshly.

Virginia’s Reckless Driving Law

Virginia has a very broad definition of what constitutes reckless driving. It is defined as driving in a reckless manner or at a speed that endangers the life, limb or property of another person. There are 13 (yes, 13!) laws that criminalize specific driving behavior. They include:

  • Passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle that is displaying its lights
  • Racing
  • Operating a vehicle that is not properly under control or has inadequate brakes
  • Driving a loaded vehicle that impairs the driver’s vision
  • Passing two vehicles abreast
  • Driving two abreast in a single lane in the same direction
  • Passing on a curve or crest of a hill
  • Passing at a railroad crossing
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Exceeding the speed limit by 20 miles per hour or in excess of 80 miles per hour regardless of the posted speed limit
  • Failure to give an adequate signal when turning, slowing down or stopping

There are many things you can do as a driver to be cited for reckless driving. Just think how many times you have been behind someone and they failed to use a signal to make a turn. If you drove today, you probably witnessed it more than once. The driver could have been cited for reckless driving.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

It surprises many to learn that reckless driving carries the same punishment as a DUI conviction. Reckless driving is considered a Class One misdemeanor. A conviction creates a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. As for the actual legal penalties, they are quite severe. A Class One misdemeanor carries potential jail time of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2500. You can also lose your license for up to six months.

Think about it for just a second: You could conceivably spend a year in jail and have to pay $2500 for failing to use your turn signal! It seems that maybe even the Commonwealth feels like the penalties may be too stiff and the definition overbroad since the Virginia Crimes Commission studied easing some of the criminalized behaviors and reducing the penalties in 2011.  Regardless, however, the law is still the law.

The original question, though, is do you need a lawyer if you are charged with reckless driving?  After looking at Virginia’s laws, the answer is undoubtedly yes. Most people agree that when potential jail time is on the table, solid representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney is a must. Jad Sarsour has been defending Northern Virginians against reckless driving charges for a decade. If you have been cited for reckless driving, give him a call today at (571) 261-7314 to set up your free consultation. Just remember, there is no such thing as a simple reckless driving ticket in Virginia!

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