The Commonwealth of Virginia has some of the most aggressive Reckless Driving laws in the country. Any speeding offense that is either 20 miles per hour over the limit or above 80 miles per hour (regardless of the speed limit) can be charged as Reckless Driving, no matter how carefully you were driving. Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2500, suspension of your driver’s license, and in the most serious cases, a jail sentence of up to 12 months. In addition, many clients report to us that their auto insurers raise their rates if they are convicted of a Reckless Driving Offense. In addition to these concerns, if you are convicted of Reckless Driving, the Department of Motor Vehicles will assess 6 points against your driver record, and the offense will remain on your record for 11 years.
In short, if you are charged with a Reckless Driving offense, you face fines, points on your license, suspension of your driving privileges, and even jail. Many people accused of Reckless Driving are surprised to learn that their offense is not pre-payable, and that they have to go to court to defend themselves. All too often, people charged with Reckless Driving go to traffic court in Virginia General District Courts without having talked to an attorney first. In some Northern Virginia courts, prosecutors will not speak with people charged with crimes before court begins, meaning that defendants without lawyers have no opportunity to work out plea agreements. All too often, defendants who choose to represent themselves on Reckless Driving offenses are convicted of more serious offenses than they should be, resulting in costly appeals, blemishes on their traffic records, and license suspensions. If you are charged with a Reckless Driving offense, you should always speak to a lawyer before going to court.
A more traditional Speeding ticket does not require you to come to court, meaning that you may choose to prepay the ticket rather than hiring an attorney to fight it. Speeding offenses are merely infractions, meaning that you cannot go to jail if you are convicted, nor can the court suspend your license. For Speeding offenses, the maximum fine is $250. However, a conviction for a Speeding offense will result in either 3, 4, or 6 points being assessed (depending on the speed alleged), and all Speeding offenses remain on your traffic record for 5 years.
While the Court cannot suspend your license for Speeding, the DMV can in some cases. Points can become a real problem if you are convicted of multiple traffic offenses in a short period of time: 18 points in one year or 24 points in two years will result in an automatic suspension of your license, while 12 points in one year or 18 points in two years results in the driver being placed on probation. If your driver’s license is suspended by the DMV, you will not be able to drive for any purpose until it is reinstated. Some drivers prepay one or two tickets, only to find themselves with a bad record and in danger of an administrative license suspension by the time their third or fourth ticket ends up in court. In some cases, it is not necessary or cost-effective to hire a lawyer for a Speeding charge, but in some cases, keeping your record clean and avoiding increased insurance premiums or administrative license suspensions is preferable.
At Zinicola, Blanch & Overand, we will be happy to talk to you about your Reckless Driving or Speeding case for free, whether by phone or in person in our offices. If fighting the ticket is likely to be unproductive or more costly than prepaying it, we will tell you so, and won’t charge you a penny for the advice. On the other hand, if you need a lawyer in court, we will let you know that, too, and then you can decide whether we are the right lawyers for you.