Virginia has a very broad definition on the one hand for reckless driving and then also has very specific violations that are also enumerated as reckless driving in no less than 13 behavior-specific laws. Some have opined that Virginia uses its broad reckless driving provision as a catch-all for drivers whose behavior, to law enforcement officers at least, seems worthy of more serious punishment but does not fit into one of the more specific laws. Whether this is true or not is up for debate but it does lead one to consider what defenses are available for drivers charged with reckless driving in Virginia.
Virginia’s Reckless Driving Laws
Virginia has what can be considered two different types of reckless driving laws. The first type is the general law that criminalizes the behavior of drivers who endanger the life, limb, and property of others by driving recklessly. The second type of laws are the statutes which criminalize specific behaviors. There are 13 of them, which include:
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Failure to give an adequate or timely signal when stopping, turning, or slowing down
- Driving with a load that obstructs the view of the driver or prevents proper control of the vehicle
- Driving more than 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or more than 80 miles per hour regardless of the posted speed limit
This is not an exhaustive list, obviously, but gives you the gist of the type of behaviors that are banned. In this article, we will discuss possible defenses to the general law and to a few of these specific behaviors.
This section of the law is the general law that prohibits endangering life, limb, and property by driving recklessly. The typical charge brought under this section usually involves a police officer observing a behavior that he or she deems reckless. Rapid lane changes, aggressive starting or stopping, changing lanes too close to other vehicles and pulling out into oncoming traffic without regard to the traffic flow are often viewed as reckless behavior. Often, the best potential defense is that of necessity. Simply put, this means the driver behaved in a prohibited manner because he or she had to. For example, if you are cited for reckless driving for rapid lane changes, it is a possible defense to say that you were taking a passenger to the hospital and trying to get there as quickly as possible (especially if you were not exceeding the speed limit). Of course, this needs to be the truth to be used as a defense. Another potential defense would be that the roadway was empty and therefore there was no danger to people or property.
Specific Statute Defenses
Some potential defenses to the specific statutes include:
- Not using appropriate signals: If the driver used the appropriate signals which were not operational but this was not known by the driver
- Inappropriate load: The driver actually was using appropriate mirrors that enabled them to see around the load
- Passing a school bus: The bus was not using the appropriate signals or they were otherwise not visible to the driver.
When it comes to reckless driving defense, the appropriate response depends on the situation. Because of the seriousness of the charge under Virginia law, it behooves a driver charged with reckless driving to depend on a skilled defense attorney to determine what the appropriate defense is. Jad Sarsour has been defending Northern Virginians against charges like this for over a decade. Give him a call today at (571)-261-7314 to begin building your defense with a seasoned and dedicated criminal defense attorney.