Alexandria reckless driving Defense Lawyers
Defending Reckless Driving Charges in Northern Virginia
Our lawyers regularly defend reckless driving charges in all Northern Virginia jurisdictions as well as reckless charges that occur on the George Washington Parkway in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
In Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Va. Code §46.2-868(A). In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, reckless driving charges that occur on the George Washington Parkway are federal petty offenses
In addition to a potential jail sentence and fine, in Virginia state courts, reckless driving may also be punished by a license suspension of up to six months. See Va. Code §46.2-392 and §46.2-393.
The basic reckless driving statute states:
Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving. Va. Code §46.2-852.
Reckless driving has been defined as “a disregard by the driver of a motor vehicle for the consequences of his act and an indifference to the safety of life, limb or property.” Powers v. Commonwealth, 211 Va. 386, ___, 177 S.E.2d 628, 630 (1970). Upon a person being charged with reckless driving, where the culpability of the driver is “slight”, the court may find a defendant guilty of the traffic infraction of improper driving and impose a fine of not more than $500. See: Va. Code §46.2-869. Furthermore, a prosecutor can agree to reduce a reckless driving charge to improper driving as part of plea negotiations.
Reckless Driving By Speed
The most common reckless driving offense is reckless driving by speed. Virginia Code §46.2-862 states that “[a] person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.”
Some general district court judges will reduce a reckless by speed charge to a speeding infraction (see Va. Code §46.2-870) if the speed not too high, and if the defendant has a good driving record. This is practice varies amongst judges in different Northern Virginia jurisdictions.
In many Northern Virginia jurisdictions, prosecutors will reduce reckless driving charges to speeding infractions if the speed is not too high and if the defendant has mitigating evidence in their favor. This type of mitigating evidence can be completion of a traffic school, completion of community service, or a calibration showing that the vehicle’s speedometer was inaccurate.
If the speed is in excess of 90 mph, some Northern Virginia prosecutors will seek a jail sentence and license suspension. Some judges will impose those penalties if you are found guilty at trial. Mitigating evidence such as traffic school, community service, and a speedometer calibration can be used to avoid jail or a license suspension when the speed is above 90 mph.
Other Reckless Driving Offenses
Virginia Code §§46.2-853 to 864, define a number of other traffic offenses as reckless driving including passing a school bus, faulty breaks, two vehicles in the same lane (i.e. motorcycles), and driving too fast for conditions. To speak with our of our traffic attorneys, contact us at (703) 468-8557.
“Powers Case” – Accident Does Not Give Rise to Inference of Reckless Driving
Officers sometimes charge a defendant with reckless driving after the defendant’s involvement in an accident. However, if an accident occurs, and there is no explanation offered for the accident (no defendant admissions or independent witness testimony) the driver should in general not be convicted of reckless driving. Some courts view this situation as a “Powers Case,” requiring acquittal.
As stated in Powers v. Commonwealth, “[t]he mere happening of an accident does not give rise to an inference of reckless driving.”211 Va. 386 (1970). In Powers, the defendant was involved in a serious one car accident. No one saw the accident and no statements of the defendant were offered. A state trooper conducted an accident reconstruction. He testified the:
“Defendant’s automobile left impressions on the road for a distance of over 840 feet before it veered off the east side of the highway, struck and ‘debarked’ two trees which were 20 feet apart, and finally came to rest in a ditch on the west side of the highway. The motor was wrenched from the car, and it was found 36 feet from where the car had come to rest. The car traveled out of control a distance of over 900 feet.”
It was further reported the accident occurred at night, the speed limit was 55 mph, and the highway level, dry, black-top, with a slight curve, with no defects in the roadway and no traffic controls. The night was dark and clear.
The Virginia Supreme Court found the evidence failed to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence and reversed the reckless driving conviction finding of the trial court. The Court commented there was no way from the evidence to determine the accident’s cause—it could have been a stuck accelerator, sudden illness of the driver, a steering problem.
The Court reached a similar conclusion in Bacon v. Commonwealth, 263 S.E.2d 390, 220 Va. 766 (Va., 1980). The Defendant in Bacon stated to a state trooper that he had been run off a country road, which was uncontradicted by the evidence, resulting in his car going “off the right shoulder of the road and proceeded, apparently out of control, to strike a tree, to graze a telephone pole, and then to skid across the roadway where it struck a second tree.” The car “traveled a total distance of 362 feet from the point at which the vehicle first left the highway until it came to rest.” On this evidence, the Court reversed his improper driving conviction as Bacon’s explanation was not at all incredible. Id. (“We cannot say that the defendant’s explanation of how the accident occurred and of what caused him to lose control of his car is incredible on unworthy of belief. The evidence neither excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence nor is it consistent only with the guilt of defendant. The fact that the defendant was found guilty of improper driving, which indicates a slight degree of culpability, is not material. Both reckless driving and improper driving are criminal offenses and to sustain a conviction of either the Commonwealth’s evidence must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”).
Defenses to reckless driving may include technical challenges of the officer’s calibration of his speedometer, radar, or LIDAR as well as factual challenges (e.g. the officer got the wrong vehicle and/or his speed measuring device is inaccurate).
ALCOHOL RELATED RECKLESS DRIVING –WET RECKLESS?
Mr. Ryan Campbell is The Great Lawyer! Very knowledgeable about the law and had my case dismissed!- Eduardo O.
Right from the start, I felt like I was in good hands. I could tell Joe King really cared about my situation and believed me.- Mark T.
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From our initial meeting and throughout the process I had a 100% confidence I had made the right choice. Joe was easy to communicate with, very professional.- J.G.
Mr. Campbell went above and beyond to defend me and I am great-full to have representing me.- Habte Z.
My case became so complex and Evelyn managed to be one step ahead each time. She kept me updated at every step.- Rinku S.
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