VA Code 46.2-853 Explained by Virginia Reckless Driving Attorney

Virginia Code 46.2-853 explained:

46.2-853 Fairfax Va reckless driving attorney This post covers one of the less-frequently charged forms of reckless driving in Virginia:
Failure to maintain control.

Virginia Reckless Driving Laws punish a number of prohibited driving actions: from strict speed limitations, to racing, to charges often associated with accidents. This post covers one of the laws often filed following a single car accident — failure to maintain proper control, or having improperly adjusted/inadequate brakes  (VA Code 46.2-853).

To read about reckless driving as a result of driving too fast for conditions, please go here. For more on reckless driving generally, please see our main Virginia Reckless Driving Page. At the end of this post, find numerous other articles relevant to reckless driving in Virginia.

Virginia Code 46.2-853 | The law:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control or which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes on any highway in the Commonwealth.  Read VA Code 46.2-853 here

VA Code § 46.2-853. Driving vehicle which is not under control; faulty brakes

It is often understandable when drivers charged with this form of reckless driving are upset and surprised.

Some common questions we get:

  • How can the police charge me with reckless driving, when the officer did not even see my accident?
  • What evidence could the police have against me?
  • What are the chances I will lose my license (face license suspension)?
  • If convicted, will I have a criminal record for life?
  • Can I plead guilty to a traffic infraction instead of the criminal violation?
  • Will the criminal or traffic case influence a later lawsuit against me?
  • What if I do not recall why my car was involved in an accident?
  • Will I lose my job or security clearance, considering this charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor?
  • What — if anything — can I do to help achieve the best possible outcome?

Most of these questions are easily answered within 10 or 15 minutes. Each case is different; thus, the information on this page is only general in nature, and does not amount to a consultation or legal advice. Please contact us to schedule an appointment (by phone or in-office).

Reckless Driving Defense:
Possible Defense Theories in Reckless Driving / Failure to Maintain Control Cases

Each case is so different — factually, and between defendants — that any hypothetical defense theory on this page or anywhere on our website is only for educational, informational purposes and no way intended to be applied to any case.

The Driving was Appropriate and Suitable

The law above does not use the words “appropriate or suitable” to describe the level of control one must maintain; it uses the word, “proper.”

But as case law has developed and evolved over the years, courts interpreted “proper” to mean “suitable” or “appropriate,” rather than choose to impose a duty on the driver to maintain complete control. The distinction is subtle, but potentially legally significant, in some cases.

Evidence to Corroborate Driver’s Version of Facts: Dash Camera Footage or Testimony from Passenger or Passerby

If a driver is innocent, it will be helpful to the judge to provide as much evidence as possible to corroborate the driver’s version of the facts. While it is possible to win a case without testimony or evidence offered by the defense, when it exists, it should be ready in the event the prosecutor does not offer a plea agreement acceptable to the defendant/client; and/or the case proceeds to trial and the prosecution meets the initial burden alleging the elements of the offense. Aside form the driver, what evidence may be used at trial? The two most obvious examples: Dash camera footage and eye-witness testimony.

If the officer who issued the Summons was not a witness, then there may or may not be statements made by others involved. If a driver’s version (testimony) of the facts is aligned with the the testimony of the passenger-witness or passerby-witness in court, then it may be helpful to the overall case. In some cases, a reckless driving attorney may ask the judge to sequester the witnesses. In other words, witnesses who are to testify will wait in the hall and not be present while others testify on the same matter.

Similarly, if the driver utilized a dash-camera device, a Virginia reckless driving attorney may wish to obtain a copy of the footage. This is helpful if the accident was not the drivers fault. In other cases, the officer may have been behind the driver when the accident occurred. There may or may not be footage available from the police cruiser.  Recently, wusa 9 News (Washington, D.C.), aired a story on dash cams and reckless driving defense, and featured Fairfax reckless driving attorney and criminal lawyer, Brent Vincenzes.

Vehicle Defect

If there existed a then-unknown vehicular steering defect or other related issue, it may be argued by a local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer to lead a judge to find the driver should not be found guilty…however, if the driver has any prior notice the vehicle had a defect related to control of the vehicle, then that would probably be another story

Understanding How to Plead

It is well-founded that a driver of a motor vehicle owes a duty to others to use a specific level of care when driving, so as not to lose control. The criminal-nature of the offense makes it very serious. A conviction may be taken into consideration in a future accident lawsuit by an injured party, so it is key to understand the effects a plea of not guilty, guilty or no contest will have on an overall situation.

Very Serious Cases – Injuries; Death

In very serious cases, a death or serious injury have tragically occurred. When is reckless driving the appropriate charge, versus the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter? Courts have ruled reckless driving is not a lesser included offense (of manslaughter) so technically, a driver may be charged with both. But whether or not a law enforcement official charges one or the other may depend upon the level of risk imposed upon the surrounding drivers and community. .

Reckless Driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor — but punishment varies significantly, depending on the circumstances. It is punishable by up to 12 months confinement, license suspension, and a very substantial fine. Some cases are not difficult: the seriousness may be so relatively slight, that in your jurisdiction, a lawyer’ odds at negotiating an amended charge are high (amended from a criminal charge to a traffic infraction). Before you assume anything about the merits of your case (and potential outcomes), discuss the case with a local Northern Virginia reckless driving defense attorney.

More from our Northern Virginia, Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer

Some drivers involved in accidents do not recall anything. In other cases, the driver is able to remember exactly what happened. Regardless of memory of the event, if another person was injured as a result of the accident, it is important to tell your attorney at the beginning of the discussion.  Unlike the more common form of reckless driving in Virginia (due to speeding in excess of 80 mph, or 20 mph above the limit), the arresting officer is often not an eyewitness. Your reckless driving attorney will explain the potential sources of evidence in your case.

Virginia Traffic Law Cases on topic

Rhoades v. Meadows, 189 Va. 558, 54 S.E.2d 123 (1949).

Mayo v. Commonwealth, 218 Va. 644, 238 S.E.2d 831 (1977).

Kennedy v. Commonwealth, 1 Va. App. 469, 339 S.E.2d 905 (1986).

Meeks v. Hodges, 226 Va. 106, 306 S.E.2d 879 (1983); Kennedy v. Commonwealth, 1 Va. App. 469, 339 S.E.2d 905 (1986).

image courtesy: freedigitalphotos. net-Vehicle Upside Down: by B. Longshaw
;Driving Hands on Wheel: by Toa55

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Brenton D. Vincenzes is a lifelong Fairfax County resident and Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer. He is a member of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National College of DUI Defense, NORML, and has been awarded the following in 2014-15: Top 100 Trial Lawyer (National Trial Lawyers) Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer (National Trial Lawyers) Nationally Ranked Top 10 Under 40 Defense Attorney (National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys) 10 Best in Client Satisfaction for Criminal Defense (American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys) Nationally Ranked Top 1% Attorney Award Recipient (National Association of Distinguished Counsel) As a local leader, Mr. Vincenzes mentors troubled youths, volunteers his time to serve at his church, takes select pro bono clients, and strives to improve the community. Mr. Vincenzes represents men, women, and juveniles through zealous and diligent advocacy, strategic planning, and skilled trial work preparation. Mr. Vincenzes' areas of criminal law practice are broad, and include most felonies and misdemeanors such as: reckless driving, DUI & DWI, drug offenses, assault and battery, domestic violence, assault on an officer, destruction of property, alcohol offenses, firearm offenses, larceny, shoplifting, embezzlement, fraud, and other theft offenses, and moving traffic violations among others. His private legal services are available in most Northern Virginia jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, Arlington County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Stafford County, Alexandria, Manassas, Leesburg, South Riding, and other cities and towns.



  1. I’m really glad that you explained the right way to plead when going to court for wreckless driving charges. You’re right, the effects of either a not guilty, guilty, or no contest plea will affect my situation when I stand trial. I was accused of wreckless driving when the accident that I was in wasn’t my fault at all. Hopefully, my plea of “not guilty” will play a positive role in my court ruling.

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