Virginia Reckless Driving Laws: Explained by our Award Winning Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer
Case Results Sample
- CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE.
- CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.
- NO ATTORNEY CAN PROMISE OR GUARANTEE A PARTICULAR OUTCOME.
Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer Sample case results:
This page is brought to you by our award winning local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer, and is an ideal place to begin research if you have been charged. The first question: are you charged with one of the following forms of Reckless Driving in Virginia?
- Reckless Driving by Speed
- Reckless Driving: Failure to Maintain Control / Faulty Brakes
- Driving too Fast for Conditions (Reckless)
If so, you may wish to go directly to those pages by clicking (or tapping) the links above. Otherwise, continue to the Virginia Reckless Driving Information Page below. For consultation requests, see our contact page. For a free phone discussion, call 703.665.3719 at any time.
Laws, Penalties, and What to do
Vincenzes Law founder and Principal, Brent Vincenzes, has represented residents and non-residents, students, government employees, teachers, lawyers, police officers, and countless other professionals upon a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, reckless driving. Fairfax County General District Court hosts far more reckless driving cases than other counties, due in-part to local law enforcement measures; numerous 55 mph zones, and a large population of workers with stressful, lengthy commutes.
Reckless driving in Virginia is a a relatively common offense, but in most cases, a lawyer is recommended. How severely penalized one will be depends upon the severity of the offense.
One of the main reasons why many people choose to hire a local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer is due to the fact that conviction means a permanent arrest record, for life.
In cases involving high speeds or drivers with poor records, jail time is a reality. Even a driver with a perfect record could go to jail. Technically, Virginia General District and Circuit Court judges are authorized by statute to impose up to 12 months active jail time. Realistically, most judges only impose jail in certain cases. Keep in mind, speeding is only one of several ways a charge of reckless driving can arise.
Examples of possible jail-triggers:
- speeds in excess of 90 mph in a 55 mph zone
- cases involving an accident (especially if someone else is hurt)
- nearly striking someone or something
- speeds in excess of 30 mph over the limit
Reckless driving is not just a speed-related offense. Reckless driving by speed is the most common.
Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer Explains:
Reckless Driving by Speed Charge
This page serves the community of Fairfax County as a resource guide for those charged with Reckless Driving in Fairfax County. The focus of this entire page is: Reckless Driving by Speed. It is published by Vincenzes Law, PLLC, and our highly recognized, award winning Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer and Northern Virginia Criminal Attorney, Brenton D. Vincenzes.
While there is some locality-specific information, this page may be helpful if your charge is pending in another county or city in Virginia, such as Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington, or Alexandria. The most generally applicable part of the page is likely the sections discussing defenses to radar, laser radar, and PACE method speed determination.
Why is reckless driving in Fairfax County such a talked about, feared, and even debated offense?
- People who live outside of the Commonwealth are often surprised to learn that they face a criminal charge for an offense that, in their home state, likely only would constitute a regular speeding infraction (non-criminal).
- According to recently released weekly arrest records in Fairfax County (late October, 2014) there were approximately 850 arrests reported and about 50 of those for reckless driving.1
- Reckless driving is a frequently charged offense in Fairfax County, Virginia. It is a criminal charge, and can result in jail, license suspension and/or a hefty fine.
Our Northern Virginia Criminal Attorney and local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer covers important material about this charge, and most significantly, Fairfax-specific tips, guidance, and information.
3 Tips for Newcomers: About Fairfax County General District Court (Fairfax County Traffic Court)
If you have never had an occasion to visit the Fairfax County General District Court, then there are some things you should know before your court date. We have an entire page dedicated to the Fairfax County Traffic Court, but below you can read the top 3 things to know if you have never been to the courthouse, located at:
4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, VA (the location of the courthouse).
You are allowed to bring your cell phone in with you.
Many jurisdictions limit possession of cellular devices to attorneys and court staff. But Fairfax is different. As a Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer it is nice to know clients can send a text message if they step out of the courtroom for some reason (i.e., to use the restroom, calm a child, etc.; have trouble finding the right courtroom; or need to reach me for some other reason).
Your phone has to be on silent, and you may not use it when you are in a courtroom. Important: do not text or call anyone, including your Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer, while you are in the courtroom. Ask your lawyer if he or she has entered their appearance. If so, then the judge will not call your name, and you can excuse yourself into the hallway to make any necessary calls or texts.
Depending on the judge who hears your case, the judge or deputy will announce that all phones must be turned off. If your phone rings while court is in session (and when you are in the courtroom, not merely the hallway), it is highly likely your phone will be confiscated until the end of the business day (4 pm).
2. There is a public parking garage: not free
- arrive well ahead of your court time (e.g., if your hearing time is at 9:30 AM, you may want to plan on arriving at 8:30 or earlier);
- there will be a long line to get through security…our Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer suggests allocating about 30 minutes for this alone;
- you should make sure you have cash or a credit/debit card. The last time we checked, the fee was $2.00 per hour for parking. See this county page for the most up-to-date parking fees.
If you are running late, you should call or text your Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer. If you do not have an attorney and you do not arrive to the courtroom prior to the judge calling your name, then you will most likely be found guilty in absentia or even charged with a separate crime. In some cases, a bench warrant (for your arrest) may be issued as well. When it comes this, be very careful. Even if no warrant is issued, judge’s tend to sentence people very harshly when they do not appear.
3. The judge will not call your name if you have hired a Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer.
The judge will call your name if you:
- Do not have an attorney; or
- Your attorney has not entered his appearance (to notify the court he or she is representing you).
Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyers and all criminal attorneys, for that matter, should always try to enter their appearance with the court as soon as possible after being hired. Attorneys can use a relatively new online system to file their appearance as late as 3:30 PM on the date before your court hearing. This means that if you have waited until the last minute to hire a lawyer and the case is tomorrow, your attorney can still enter his or her appearance (if it is before 3:30 pm), ultimately meaning the judge will not call your name. If your attorney does not enter the notice of appearance beforehand, he or she may still do so the morning of your hearing. The only risk is that if he or she does not arrive on time and you are also late, then the judge may call your name and not realize an attorney is handling the matter, thus resulting in a finding of guilt. If this happens, there are steps that may be taken to correct the situation (motion to rehear/reopen/appeal), but it is better to avoid such a scenario.
A note on the importance of hiring local counsel
When you have a criminal charge of any sort, it is a wise decision to speak with and/or hire an attorney with much experience in the county or city where the case is pending. The law is the law, but it is especially helpful to the attorney if he or she has worked with the prosecutor in the past.
In my opinion as a Fairfax reckless driving attorney who has had cases in nearly every Northern Virginia jurisdiction, it is helpful when I already have knowledge of:
- personality type;
- tendencies at trial or in negotiations;
- typical plea offers or sentencing; and more.
This is a critical (but sometimes overlooked) factor to the decision making process when trying to choose the right Northern Virginia or local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer.
Unlike most jurisdictions in Virginia, there are so many prosecutors in Fairfax County that for a Virginia criminal lawyer to get to know each one, takes dozens if not hundreds of cases. It might be a good idea to ask any potential lawyer you talk to, how often he or she is in Fairfax County Traffic Court each week.
In the news: Brenton Vincenzes was featured in this WUSA9 article and news story about dash cams and how they can be useful to drivers – originally aired November 25, 2014 on CBS.
Fairfax County Reckless Driving Frequently Asked Questions
Please note: our Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyers’ answers to the frequently asked questions below are not to be taken as literal advice to your specific case. Each case is unique. Depending upon the facts and circumstances surrounding the charge, the answers could differ. These are only meant to provide a rough, generalized overview, so please contact one of the many excellent Fairfax reckless driving attorneys rather than rely on information online.
Below, you can view the list of questions currently answered on this page. To view the answers, scroll down (below the initial list), and click on the question.
- Do I need a lawyer if my speed is alleged to have been only 20 mph over the limit?
- Do I have to say anything?
- I was driving too fast. I’m guilty. Do I really need a lawyer?
- Will I lose my license / will I be suspended?
- Am I looking at jail time?
- How much does a Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer charge?
- If my license gets suspended, how will I get to work?
- Can I do anything before my court date to help my case?
- Will the judge order me into a driving school, and then reduce or dismiss my charge?
- Will I have a chance to talk to the officer or the prosecutor (Assistant Commonwealth Attorney)
- How long will I be at the courthouse if I do not want to go to trial? How long if I do go to trial?
- Does it cost extra if a case is continued, and my Fairfax reckless driving attorney has to appear more than once?
- Do I have to show up if I hire an attorney?
Do I need a lawyer if my speed was about 20 mph over the limit?”
The short answer is, yes, you do, because reckless driving in Virginia is a criminal Class 1 misdemeanor.
The goal most people have — when it comes to cases involving drivers with a clean record and speed around 20 mph above the limit — is to first and foremost avoid a conviction on their permanent criminal record. By avoiding conviction, the charge may be eligible for expungement.
The secondary goal in cases that are not extremely serious tends to be to mitigate DMV demerit points. In the less-serious cases, jail time is not likely. You should always talk to a local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer to find out whether or not your case facts, prior record, and any other factors would give rise to the likelihood of jail upon conviction.
If you are found guilty, you will not be eligible to expunge the record of the arrest. Even if you were told to come to court with a Summons (as opposed to going to jail at the time of the offense), it is considered an arrest record. If you have a relatively clean driving record and positive point balance, your Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer may be able to reach an agreement to reduce the criminal charge to a mere traffic infraction). To see some of our own Fairfax reckless driving attorney results, see the results page or scroll down to the bottom of this page.
If you do not hire an attorney, you will be called up by the judge and asked how you plead: guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will probably be found guilty. If you plead not guilty, it will be your word against the officer (or Trooper). You will be allowed to ask questions, but most of the time the judge finds the defendant guilty and then imposes a sentence. The sentence may range from:
- a modest fine to a fine in excess of two thousand dollars;
- no license suspension to suspension for six (6) months; and,
- no jail time to twelve (12) months.
The relative facts of the case (from the officer’s point of view) and your prior record, including driving history, will help the judge decide your fate.
In other situations, a driver may have accumulated demerit points in Virginia before the current charge, and given that reckless driving in Virginia comes with six (6) points, a reckless charge alleging just 20 mph above the posted speed limit could result in license suspension.
For non-Virginia licensed drivers: your state may have laws that impose license suspensions upon drivers who incur an out-of-state conviction for speeding. For example, North Carolina licensed drivers must be particularly careful.
“Do I have to say anything?”
Generally speaking, you will not need to say anything if you have an attorney to represent you. If you do not, then the judge will call your name and you will be asked to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
If your lawyer reaches an agreement with the Commonwealth (prosecution), then he or she will fill out a blue sheet (a sheet for the court file indicating the agreement between the Commonwealth and Defense), and take it to the front of the courtroom while you are still sitting down. The judge will then call your name aloud, and you will stand and make your way to the podium. Your lawyer should be there already, and any clarification of the plea agreement will be explained by your attorney to the judge. Some judges are talkative and friendly, and may make small talk with you. Others will be very quick.
“Do I need a lawyer for reckless driving in Virginia if I know I am guilty?”
It is a common misconception people have, that if they were stopped by an officer who registered their speed using a radar device or laser (LIDAR), then there is little hope to contest the charge. After all, what could possibly be a defense in such a case?
First, even if you were speeding and were in the category of reckless driving, it is very possible you can still walk away with a non-criminal traffic infraction. As a Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer who is at the General District Court in Fairfax County most mornings, most cases do get negotiated down to traffic infractions, even when the radar or LIDAR device was properly calibrated by the officer.
Reckless driving by speed cases typically result from an officer or trooper determining speed by using one of the following:
- Stationary radar (such as a hand-held radar gun)
- Moving radar (in the police cruiser)
- LIDAR (a laser device that works differently than radar)
- PACE method (officers use their training to determine the speed of a car they are following)
Each of the above methods for determining speed gives rise to different possible defenses. Without getting too in-depth for purposes of this page, (you can learn more below), a Fairfax reckless driving attorney should examine the officer’s calibration documents for a radar device; cruiser speedometer accuracy if a moving radar was used; setup and accuracy testing before and after use of a laser or radar device; and, if necessary, should ask the correct questions to pick apart testimony regarding the PACE method.
Many people think reckless driving by speed is a mundane, fairly simple charge. The best Virginia reckless driving attorneys know how to attack a case from every angle possible…and when it comes to reckless driving by speed cases, scientific and technical defenses are often used. These defenses require extensive technical knowledge of how radar and LIDAR devices work, how and why they fail, and the laws covering their upkeep and usage by the police. Even more information can be used, such as department protocol and FCC rules.
“Will I lose my license / will I be suspended?”
Regardless of the state where you are licensed, and regardless of the jurisdiction in Virginia where your reckless driving charge is to be heard, your privilege to drive may be suspended, because the law gives judges authority to do so.
In reality, it depends on the facts of your case. Below are a few general guidelines, but to have the best understanding of the probable/possible outcomes, you need to discuss the case with a local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer (note: our own award winning Fairfax reckless driving attorney will talk to you in-person, on the phone, or via email…all at no cost).
If you are a Virginia-licensed driver:
You need to be concerned with several things. First, the facts of your case (such as how fast you were traveling) are critical. Second, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend you even if the court does not. It is important to find out how many points you have on your driving record. Assuming you have no other legal issues, if you accumulate 18 demerit points in one year, or 24 in two years, your license may be suspended. Reckless driving convictions will result in six (6) demerit points (the most possible in Virginia).
If you are licensed in another state:
If you are convicted and your license is suspended by a judge in Virginia, then you will almost always suffer the consequences in your home state, too. An interstate compact, or agreement, known as the Driver License Compact (DLC), is the legal authority that allows states to exchange data regarding traffic violations (infractions and misdemeanors) and license suspensions.
“Am I looking at jail time?”
Jail time is always a possibility. No lawyer can promise otherwise, because it is technically the law. However, whether or not you will be sentenced to jail by a judge (or offered a plea agreement requiring you to serve some jail time), depends on the facts of the case.
We cannot overstate how important it is to talk to a local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer to find out his or her opinion.
Based on experience and observations, it seems a typical reckless driving by speed case in a 55 mph zone in Fairfax County may result in jail time when speed is in excess of (or around) 40-45 mph over the limit (e.g., 90 mph in a 55 mph zone). This broad generalization is just that; a generalization. Upon a plea of guilty, some judges will send a driver to jail for going 90 mph, while others would perhaps not.
“How much does a Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer charge?”
If you have been charged with reckless driving and a week or two has passed, you may have been the recipient of a dozen or more solicitations from lawyers. Our Firm does not send junk mail like other firms, because we respect people’s privacy. We also are able to rely on our reputation instead of mass mailings, and as a result, we can pass the money saved on to our clients. Again, the price will depend on the specifics of your case, but expect price quotes in the range of several hundred to one or two thousand dollars.
“If my license gets suspended, how will I get to work?”
If your license is suspended, you may be able to get restricted driving privileges on your court date. There is a specific application form your lawyer should fill out with you prior to court, if license suspension is a probable outcome.
Download or view the actual application for a restricted license in .pdf format. Click picture below:
By having this filled out and ready to submit to the judge on your hearing date, it prevents the client from a subsequent court hearing on a motion for restricted privileges.
In Virginia, a restricted operator’s license may be used to get to and from work, school, medical facilities, and to transport dependents in some cases (among others).
“Can I do anything before my court date to help my case?”
In Fairfax County Traffic Court, you will not be able to talk to a prosecutor by yourself. If you have a Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer, he or she may recommend taking certain actions prior to court. See our previous post for details concerning what these actions entail. In short, Virginia DMV driving safety courses are helpful in some situations, as are speedometer calibration certificates in others. But before you do anything we recommend talking to a Fairfax traffic attorney.
“Will the judge order me into driving school, then dismiss my charge?”
Not in Fairfax County. Many people come to Fairfax traffic court from Maryland or another area, and expect the judge to offer them an option to complete a driving safety course to reduce or dismiss the charge. This is not an option in Fairfax. If you have a Fairfax reckless driving attorney, he or she may have you complete a course prior to your hearing, which would then be used to hopefully reach a more favorable plea agreement.
Contrast this with Arlington County, where they have their own in-house driving course (the program representative usually is present at the hearing in that jurisdiction)
“Will I have a chance to talk to the prosecutor? (Assistant Commonwealth Attorney)”
What about the officer who stopped you?
Probably not. It is up to the officer.
The officers and troopers will be in court, so unless you happen to catch one in the hallway, it is virtually impossible to communicate with them on the day of your hearing outside of trial. The Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys from the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office negotiate with attorneys only, so unlike other counties and cities, you will not be able to personally have a discussion with the prosecutor.
“How long will I be at the courthouse?”
The 9:30 AM docket is usually very large. If you do not have an attorney for your hearing date, then you will be sitting in court until the judge calls your name. It is impossible to estimate how long this could take. If you do have a lawyer and the facts of your case are such that a plea agreement in your favor is likely, it may take anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours. On average, expect to be there for 90 minutes. On the other hand, if your case is one in which your lawyer has expressed the likelihood of a trial, you will be there longer. Trials are held at the end of the docket, so expect to be there for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
“Does it cost extra if the case is continued, and my Fairfax reckless driving attorney has to appear more than once?”
We do not charge extra. The fee(s) you pay for a local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer depends on that lawyer/firm policies. Most criminal attorneys in Fairfax County, however, offer a flat fee structure, and do not charge extra if the case is continued. If an appearance is required because you fail to do something — for example, if a person fails to report to court ordered ASAP program following conviction for DWI — then an extra fee is likely.
“Do I really have to show up or can I pre-pay?”
It is mandatory you show up if you do not have an attorney.
If you do have a lawyer to represent you, ask him or her if you can sign a waiver of your appearance, and grant authorization to enter into a plea agreement on your behalf.
Unless your Fairfax reckless driving attorney has this authorization on file and ready to submit to the court, you need to attend. The main factor your attorney will look at is the chance that the Commonwealth will seek a jail sentence. If so, you need to go to court. If not, talk to your lawyer about waiving your appearance, unless you want to attend.
Hypothetical Plea Agreements Based on Speed and Prior Record
The following examples are fictitious and should not be construed as case results. They are not case results or predicted outcomes of pending matters. These examples are merely meant to serve as a very rough overview of the prosecutorial climate at this time in Fairfax County, when it comes to reckless driving by speed charges. Regardless of the plea agreement offered, it is your right to go to trial. Depending on the judge, the prosecutor, and the officer, your Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer may advise you to accept, or turn-down, a plea agreement.
Case A: Perfect record, relatively low speed
- perfect driving record with a positive point balance (no demerits);
- has been driving for 10 years;
- 78 mph in a 55 mph zone;
- no child in car;
- polite conversation with officer;
- pulled over in a safe, prompt manner; and,
- Officer’s radar calibration certificate has no legal issues.
Driver A might receive an offer to plead guilty to a non-criminal speeding violation. Perhaps 74 mph in a 55 mph zone would be a reasonable offer. Not only would she avoid a criminal conviction, but the DMV demerit points assigned for a speeding violation at 19 mph over would not be as high as the maximum six points for a reckless driving conviction.
Case B: Perfect record, relatively high speed
Assume same facts as Case A, except:
- 100-110 mph in a 55 mph zone
There would most likely not be a plea agreement offered that would allow driver B to avoid a jail sentence. Since his record is spotless, the Commonwealth might offer something in the neighborhood of 3 to 30 days in jail, a suspended license for several months, and perhaps a $500 fine.
In some cases, a suspended jail sentence might be possible…but at 100 mph in a 55 mph zone, not to be expected.
Case C: Terrible record, relatively low speed
Assume same facts as Case A, except:
- Driver C has 2 speeding infractions in the past 3 months and numerous other infractions;
- Driver C has a DMV point balance of -15.
- Driver C completed a driving safety course that is Virginia DMV approved, and an aggressive or reckless driving safety course in-person.
Driver C’s lawyer may explain that due to the poor record, it is likely the Commonwealth will only offer an agreement requiring a plea of guilty to reckless driving. Given the hypothetical situation, it would be reasonable to assume no active jail, perhaps a suspended sentence, and a moderate fine. License suspension may or may not be part of the agreement.
Examples of Defenses:
Ways a Fairfax Reckless Driving Attorney can Attack Speed
In the past, our Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer has published posts to cover some of the potentially good, (and conversely, poor defense theories). Fairfax County officers are very busy, and as a result, it has been my observation that they tend to have the proper radar or LIDAR calibration certificates on-hand less frequently than officers from Metro Transit Authority or Virginia State Police (troopers).
Below you can learn about some technical ways (flaws in technology, and operator error):
- Stationary Radar
- Moving-Mode Radar (in a police cruiser)
- Laser Radar (LIDAR)
- PACE Method
Stationary Radar (Radar Gun on Side of Road)
Radar stands for,
Radio Detection and Ranging
…and uses something called,
…to determine speed.
Signals are sent from the radar device, and reflections of that signal are registered back to the device. When reflections increase in frequency, it means the target vehicle is moving closer to the radar…and when the frequency decreases, the opposite is true.
The first line of defense when it comes to radar or LIDAR cases is often the device’s calibration certificate.2 The Code of Virginia lays out specific requirements, and case law has made it clear what needs to be included for the calibration certificate to be admissible as evidence. We have posted about this extensively in the past.
Aside from calibration certificate deficiencies, what are some other issues with radar technology?
Radar technology is not new, but to properly operate a traffic radar unit, an officer must undergo requisite training. And on another level, he or she must understand – fundamentally – how the device works. To challenge a radar or laser radar operator’s use of the device, similar knowledge and understanding is required of the Fairfax reckless driving lawyer.
Today, all stationary traffic radar devices are able to measure the speed of traffic coming towards the device (oncoming). Only certain models are able to measure vehicles traveling away from the device.
Without going into excessive technical detail, there is something called,
The Cosine Effect.
An experienced Fairfax criminal lawyer or reckless driving attorney may bring up this dizzying mathematical argument at trial in rare cases. The speed alleged by the officer should be in proportion to the cosine of the angle (the angle between the radar and the target vehicle). The wider the angle, the lower the measured speed reading (ought to be) and vice-versa. The Cosine Effect is why officers set the radar as close to the road as possible. If it is not close enough, the device might try to correct the error and the result may be an inaccurately high speed.
Yet another way to attack a radar device or laser unit:
the minimum threshold range of the device.
If a unit’s minimum range is, for example, 50 yards, anything it tracks inside of that range should not be considered accurate. If you are traveling down the road and an officer targets you 40 yards (inside the minimum range for the model), it is possible that another vehicle 60 yards away (outside of the minimum range) is what is showing up on the device…but the officer might attribute the speed of the other vehicle to yours.
The patrol officer using a traffic radar should ensure it is working properly by following certain steps. Questioning of an officer or trooper’s use of a traffic radar device might be along these lines:
- Officer, you testified you used the device’s auto-test (or self-test) function before you used it to track my client’s speed. But you did not test it after you finished that day, did you?
- Officer, as you know the radar must be calibrated using a tuning fork, but isn’t it true used only one fork? (Note: to check a device with a tuning for, a moving-mode radar device requires two forks for two speeds).
- Officer, your device has a function that enables you to check for interference, correct? But you did not use the receive-only mode that day, did you?
- Officer, you said the device used on this day in question was tested against a moving patrol car, but you do not have anything to show as to the calibrated speedometer of that patrol car, do you?
When police officers use radar while in their cruiser, it is said to be radar in moving-mode. Moving-mode radar uses the patrol car’s speed to determine the target vehicle’s speed. There are some important differences which may play a role in formulating a defense.
For starters, unlike stationary radar, the speed of the law enforcement vehicle is relevant. Thus, moving radar type cases involve an additional layer to attack. If the police cruiser’s speedometer is not verified as accurate, the results of any moving-mode radar device should be considered inaccurate.
Another way to attack a moving-mode radar reading depends on the model, but has to do with the speed of the police cruiser. If the cruiser was not moving at a certain speed, the results are not considered accurate.
While not all stationary radar units can measure the speed of a vehicle moving in the opposite direction, moving-mode radar devices can (almost across the board). Some cruisers have a special type of antenna that allows them to measure the speed a vehicle heading in the opposite direction and in an opposite lane. The antenna(s) fitted on a moving-mode radar cruiser might be installed on the rear only, front only, or front and rear. When moving-mode radar is used to determine speed of a vehicle in the same lane as the patrol car, there is a minimum differential acceptable between the patrol car and target vehicle (2 mph).
Have you ever wondered whether or not an officer really knows which vehicle he or she is tracking, when a group of vehicles are together and only one driver is stopped? Many radars use a beam of about 10 to 25 degrees. This is a wide angle, and could easily cover multiple lanes of traffic. No technology is perfect, and it is possible (especially the wider the beam) that a larger vehicle behind a smaller vehicle may be tracked, but the officer operating the device would not be able to tell the difference.
To accurately determine the speed of a vehicle, the patrol car must also be measured by the device. How does this work? An echo off of the ground originates from the front of the police car (at an angle of zero degrees). Echoes coming from the side of the patrol car result in a lower measured speed for the patrol car (due to the aforementioned Cosine Effect). Why does this matter? If the type of radar is a same-lane device, this lower patrol reading would result in a lower speed reading for the driver who is targeted…however, the same is not true for situations when the targeted driver is moving in the opposite direction. Due to the Cosine Effect, if a patrol car is measured 5 mph less than its true speed, then the alleged speed computed by the device (for the driver of the vehicle) will be 5 mph above the true speed.
How would an attorney convince a judge or jury there could be an issue with an improper origination ground echo angle?
- Large objects can cause the ground echo angle to be affected for more than just a small fraction of a second. Examples include highly reflective large objects such as guardrails, objects at a construction site, V-DOT vehicles parked on the side of the road, trees, hills, and so on.
- Moving objects can result in an improper origination ground echo angle. For example, if a vehicle is moving slower than the patrol car and in the same direction, there may be an inaccurate reading attributed to a car moving in the opposite direction.
Sudden Change in Speed
Moving-mode radar units may inaccurately determine speed if there is a sudden change in speed of the patrol car. This is because the units do not instantaneously and simultaneously update the target-vehicle’s speed and the patrol car speed. In other words, if the police car changes speed, then it is possible that the radar device was actually utilizing old data for the patrol car, which would cause an error – or in the context of a trial – potentially raise enough doubt.
LIDAR – Laser Radar
Laser is an acronym for:
Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation
The word LIDAR comes from:
Light Detection And Ranging.
Laser (LIDAR) differs from standard radar. Standard radar measures reflected frequencies (Doppler-shifts) while laser devices use pulses of light. Also unlike radar devices, laser units are always stationary (recall how radar units may be stationary or in a patrol car, called moving-mode radar).
How can laser radar, or LIDAR, be attacked by a Fairfax reckless driving attorney and Virginia traffic lawyer? First, there are many ways the police officer can make an error and render the reading inaccurate. Second, as with all technology, LIDAR units are vulnerable to inherent flaws.
Police Officer Error
Just like with radar units, laser radar units must be kept properly and calibrated. Additionally, a calibration certificate must be dated within six months of the date of the offense. Unlike regular radar devices, tuning forks are not used to calibrate laser. Our Fairfax criminal lawyer and reckless driving attorney has published posts on calibration certification requirements in recent months, for those interested.
Testing the Device at Start / End of Shift
Just like some of the more recent radar units, most laser radar devices have a self-check, or auto-test function. This should be no problem for the officer to do prior to using the device, and when the shift ends. Failure to do so indicates not only laziness, but leaves an argument for the defense attorney that accuracy cannot be said beyond a reasonable doubt.
The beam emitted by the LIDAR device should be aligned properly along both horizontal and vertical axis. Typical protocol also suggests officers test the device using an object that is of a known distance, as well as several different vehicles with calibrated speedometers. Other issues that may lead to problems with the device, and ultimately, the reading and outcome of a case, has to do with damage to the device: scratches, markings, and other scuffs on an optical surface may damage the laser.
Operator Error (not having to do with testing of device)
Stepping away from the device itself, how can an officer use a laser device improperly (assuming it is calibrated and working fine)? One common error occurs when a large, spanning surface is scanned (even for a split second). If this happens (e.g., officer admits on stand that it is possible a large containment wall or guardrail was scanned for a brief moment prior to scanning the defendant’s vehicle), an argument can be made because laser radar devices measure distance to compute the speed of the target vehicle. The accidental scanning of a guardrail or other endless surface can have an effect on the range, thus impacting the speed reading. When the officer testifies to having used the device at a relatively far distance (range), then the beam could be so wide that the ground (a continuous surface) is obviously scanned.
A second way the operator can accidentally render a speed reading inaccurate is by improperly aiming the device. The beam width of radar as opposed to laser radar is huge. Laser devices emit a narrower beam. As a result, an officer without nearly perfect steadiness can produce a false reading. The laser has to be aimed at the target vehicle, and the target vehicle alone. The width of the laser units pulse has a lot to do with the device’s ability to separate targets. For example, a laser radar with a pulse width of X might not be able to tell a difference between vehicle-targets if they are closer than Y feet. There is a mathematical formula to determine this calculation, but the data needed includes the pulse width (measured in nanoseconds) and speed of light. Without spelling out the formula, it is as follows: Range Separation (the distance that 2 targets must be separated by for the device to distinguish them as separate) is calculated by multiplying the pulse width by the speed of light. Divided by two (number of targets), one can arrive at a number that tells us the device’s range resolution, or, ability to distinguish targets.
A third way the operator can skew results, intentionally or unintentionally, has to do with the way the laser scans across the vehicle. This can occur when the laser beam initially scans or reads the vehicle’s rear, and then moves to the front. If this happens, the reason an argument may be made as to the accuracy of the speed reading is because the movement creates a change in distance, which then results in a calculation of speed higher than the true number.
Flaws in Technology
The first and most obvious technological flaw across the board of all devices is, margin of error. For most laser radars, the margin is about 1 mph. Sometimes, an officer will have used a model with a margin of error negatively correlated with speed: the higher the speed, the greater the margin of error.
Believe it or not, the weather can have a significant impact on a laser radar device’s detection range. Ideally, the device’s detection range is at its best when the weather is clear, mild, and dry. As you can imagine, the presence of precipitation or humidity can influence the unit’s target detection range.
Shooting Laser Beam through Glass at Target
An inexperienced officer may think sitting in the cruiser (or through the cruiser side window) while attempting to obtain a speed reading of a target vehicle is no problem. In actuality, glass can alter the laser’s beam. Just like light rays shining through a window in your home sometimes bend, or take on alternative angles, the same is true for laser radar units and patrol car glass. A local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer with much experience might dig deep into this on cross examination of the officer, especially if the windshield has sun glare reflective coating, curved glass, or tinted windows.
It is not extremely common, but our Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer does see cases from time to time in which the officer used solely the PACE method. Often, when something is not up-to-par with the radar or laser unit, an officer will also attempt to pace the target if possible, so he or she can secure a conviction and the Commonwealth is not forced to drop the charge or lose at trial. But in terms of a pure PACE case, how can a lawyer challenge the evidence?
First, what is pacing?
Pacing is when a patrol officer follows a vehicle at a specific distance. The distance cannot change, or the method fails. The officer will try to follow the vehicle at that same range for as long as possible. It sounds rudimentary and simple, and it is. The officer’s cruiser’s speedometer reflects the speed of the properly paced vehicle. Of course, the speedometer of the patrol car must be calibrated (and evidence, such as a certificate of calibration, should be produced at trial by the officer). And if there are any problems with the certificate, it should be objected to.
How to attack what seems like a shut-and-lock case?
First, although uncommon, an officer who paces a vehicle while in front of that vehicle (e.g., officer drives at specific speed, while the target vehicle is behind). The obvious issue is that it would be hard for the officer to truthfully testify that the vehicle behind his patrol cruiser did not change speed, and maintained a constant distance. This may be a situation when a local Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer considers suggesting his client testify.
A second way the pace method can be rendered inaccurate has to do with tire pressure. If the tire pressure has been changed (or if a spare tire is on a cruiser – or even recently replaced tires since the last speedometer calibration – there may be serious issues to raise at trial.
Finally, if the cruiser has undergone repair, including axle work, there may be serious issues to raise at trial.
 See the Fairfax County Police Weekly Arrest List, (available at, http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police/crime/arrest.txt)
 Virginia Code § 46.2-882 2
More Virginia Reckless Driving Information: Non-Speed Related
Recent Reckless Driving Case Results
About Plea Bargains
Reckless Driving in Virginia: Criminal?
Types of Virginia Reckless Driving Charges
General Reckless Driving
Reckless Driving by Speed in Virginia
Failure to Maintain Control
Over a Dozen Reckless Driving Laws in Virginia
Which Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer?
How Much Do Reckless Driving Lawyers Charge?
Fairfax County Traffic Court Tips
Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer
Fairfax County Reckless Driving Page
Our Northern Virginia and Fairfax reckless driving lawyer represents both juveniles and adults faced with Fairfax County reckless driving charges, as well as in many other Northern Virginia localities.
Perhaps you are here because you already understand how serious the charge is, and if you were stopped in Northern Virginia, there is a good chance that you may be searching for a Virginia or Fairfax reckless driving lawyer. You may wish to read about some of the common misconceptions when it comes to reckless driving laws in Virginia. Also potentially of interest: 6 defenses to reckless driving, and 5 common excuses (that do not usually help) when made in court by unrepresented individuals charged with reckless driving in Fairfax.
Fairfax Reckless Driving Lawyer Explains: Reckless Driving in Fairfax County and Virginia is a Criminal Offense
As a Class 1 misdemeanor, reckless driving in Virginia is surprisingly on the same “level” as a first DWI! Our Fairfax DUI lawyer mentions this to clients who are faced with either charge. With that said, the potential consequences do vary, practically speaking. This means that if convicted, an adult’s criminal record will forever reflect the violation of this law.
Reckless driving is both a moving traffic violation as well as a criminal offense. This means that there are at least two main penalizing entities: the court system, and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Virginia law authorizes judges to punish Class 1 misdemeanors by:
- up to a 12 month jail sentence;
- a $2,500 fine; or,
Whether or not a specific individual will face such a harsh sentence depends upon many factors, including prior record, nature of the offense, and others. If charged in Northern Virginia or are facing a Fairfax County reckless driving charge, then our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer will explain how severe he believes your case may be (based your unique facts, his experience in Virginia, and his knowledge of various judges’ tendencies) during your initial in-office free consultation or internet case evaluation.
Once DMV is notified of the conviction by the court, then it will assess “demerit points” to the individual’s driving record. Aside from these penalties, drivers should know that all criminal offenses, including reckless driving offenses, will remain on an adult’s criminal record forever. A criminal record can have a negative impact upon future employment-related endeavors. The good news is, charges can be expunged (eliminated from the record), but the bad news is, generally only if there is no guilty verdict (meaning, the charged driver is not found guilty nor does he or she enter a guilty plea).
What exactly is considered “Recklessly Driving?” Most people are aware a person may be charged with reckless driving for speeding a certain level over the speed limit, or in excess of 80 mph. There are many more ways an individual may find themselves charged with Fairfax County reckless driving: there is a very general law to be aware of. For starters, we have somewhat of a “general rule” from the Code of Virginia:
“. . . any person who drives . . . recklessly or . . . speed[s] or [in any other way] . . . so as to endanger [a person’s] life . . . [a person’s health] . . . or property [belonging to another person] . . . shall be guilty of reckless driving.” [i]
As you can probably imagine, the language above can be applied in many situations… it may be used by Virginia and Fairfax County law enforcement as a means to charge a driver with recklessly driving when, in actuality, another lesser traffic infraction could very well be appropriate as well, given the circumstances.
Think about it: if someone changes lanes a bit too quickly or without a proper signal, should that be a reckless (criminal) offense, or a mere traffic infraction? Your guess is as good as mine, because we are talking about a hypothetical scenario. In real life, the officers making the judgment calls…and they may or may not be correct. I have nothing against police officers: in fact, I am good friends with many. I would say, every good defense attorney is friends with, or friendly with police officers. But you know what?
Police officers are human beings. They are capable of making mistakes. Most are good, honest men and women. They make mistakes. And I will go so far as to say any quota system is downright outrageous. As a Commonwealth, we cannot, and should not “manufacture” crime. If a person is charged with general reckless driving in Fairfax County, then the Commonwealth has to prove:
- The driver was driving in such a way so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of another person(s); or
- The driver displayed a general irrelevance to the safety of others (life, limb, or property); and,
- The driving behavior was intentional.
If you face a Fairfax County reckless driving charge, strongly consider contacting a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer located in Fairfax, because your case will be heard at the Fairfax County General District Court. A lawyer who has familiarity with not just the area, but with the prosecutors, judges, and court staff is important. If charged by Virginia law enforcement outside of Fairfax County, we may still be able to handle your case if the alleged Virginia reckless driving offense occurred in the Northern Virginia general vicinity. For certain cases, our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer has traveled as far as Richmond.
Other than the fairly common form above (the “General” reckless driving statute), you can be charged with reckless driving by speed. This form of a Virginia or Fairfax County reckless driving charge is, perhaps, even more common.
There are two ways, by law, one can acquire a Virginia reckless driving charge by way of traveling a certain number of miles per hour (either over, or in sum). For example:
- If a driver in Virginia travels “in excess of 80 miles per hour;” or
- travels 20 miles per hour above the posted speed limit, regardless of the speed limit; then,
he or she can be charged with reckless driving.
For example: the speed limit on some Virginia highways is 70 miles per hour, but a person can still be charged under this reckless law if accused of traveling 81 miles per hour. How many times have you heard, “police do not stop drivers for speeding, as long as they are going 10 miles per hour or less over the posted speed limit”?
This is a debated topic, and as some commentators have pointed out, perhaps the speed limit should not be as high as 70 miles per hour if a driver can be found guilty of a criminal offense: allegedly recklessly driving by traveling at a speed of 81 miles per hour. Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer has fielded calls from reporters who seek to make news out of this particular law.
While this point may be debated for years to come, it does not really matter. This is due to the fact that technically speaking, you can also be charged with reckless driving even if traveling 80 miles per hour or less in a 70 mph zone, because of the “General Reckless Driving” statute, or under Virginia Code § 46.2-861 (if the driver “exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions).”
See The Code of Virginia § 46.2-862 – “Exceeding speed limit,” for the letter of the law with regard to reckless driving by speed. Every form of reckless driving in Virginia is not covered on this page, however, several more of the most common forms are discussed, such as reckless driving due to an alleged failure to maintain proper control. As a matter of fact, our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer has seen such a case arise following a single car, no passenger accident….one in which not only did the officer not witness anything, but neither did anybody else.
When an accident takes place, law enforcement may very well arrive to the scene long after the crash. In such a situation, Virginia police have been known to still charge drivers with reckless driving under The Virginia Code § 46.2-853, even when no incriminating statements were made by the driver nor any other people nearby (in fact, in this real-life example, there were none):Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer reported one such instance not too long ago. Essentially, this law states:
It is considered reckless driving to fail to maintain proper control of a vehicle, or to operate a vehicle with “inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes.”
Sometimes, charges are wrong or unjustly filed. This law is one such statute we have seen unjustly used to charge a driver (though we are not stating the police officer had an improper motive or intent). After all, police officers are not required to go to law school, take the Virginia Bar Exam, or participate in the same continuing legal education classes each year like every practicing attorney in the Commonwealth.
As we discussed above, we have known police in Virginia to charge drivers under this Virginia Code section following a single-person, single-car accident with no witnesses and no injured parties other than the driver himself. The possibilities are endless when no eyewitness or other evidence exists; it is conceivable that a driver suffered from a previously unknown medical condition, or may have had to swerve to miss a person or other driver illegally in their lane.
The good news is that if you are faced with what you believe to be an unjust Fairfax County reckless driving charge (or a charge arising from another county in Northern Virginia), then our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer can speak with the Commonwealth Attorney (the prosecutor) before trial to advocate for you.
While this page is not meant to cover expungement (a future page will) it is worth including the basic eligibility requirements (but note: this is not comprehensive — see our expungement page for more in-depth information, when it is available). In the most basic sense, in order to be eligible for expungement:
- the arrest/charge must not have led to a guilty verdict of any sort, or
- the court must find that the public record of the arrest is presently causing, or could result in, a “manifest injustice.”
A petitioner’s (person with the record seeking expungement) opinion as to what constitutes a manifest injustice may not even come close to a court’s definition. It is best to speak with a knowledgeable Fairfax criminal defense attorney if you seek an expungement from a charge in Fairfax County.
Even if the circumstances of your case are not as “unjust” as the previous single-car, no witness example, your local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer may be able to negotiate a positive outcome, nonetheless. A person facing a Fairfax County reckless driving charge who does not hire an attorney will be in a situation where it is their word against the officer’s. The police do not negotiate with non-attorneys. As a result, having an attorney handle your reckless driving charge usually does make a difference.
“Reckless” is the key word to understand what may or may not constitute reckless driving. While it is true, reckless driving may be charged based solely on speed: A Fairfax County reckless driving charge, as well as any reckless charge arising in Virginia, can be charged in other circumstances, not necessarily related to speed. The “general” reckless driving law discussed on this page near the beginning mentioned the main rule:
when life and/or limb or property of another are at risk…or, if the driver disregards consequences of actions, essentially intentionally expressing an “indifference” to human life or limb.
Aside from speed-related reckless driving and the very generalized type just above, there are over a dozen ways one can be charged with a Fairfax County reckless driving charge. Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer explains and lists many of these laws below. You can skip right to that section by clicking here.
We believe that the Virginia reckless driving laws — and of course, the reckless charges we deal with the most frequently — Fairfax County reckless driving, are not inherently bad. After all, they are intended protect everyone traveling on our roadways and to deter drivers from posing a threat to other drivers and their families. Sometimes, however, justice is only truly served if the accused driver is not found guilty. Broken speedometers, unforeseeable and unintentional driving reactions, and officer errors have led to criminal charges (and unfortunately, many convictions, too). We know the criminal justice system is far from perfect. But we are reminded of Martin Luther King Jr., who said:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
There is a good reason why people in Virginia and Northern Virginia hate Fairfax County reckless driving charges
Since the potential ramifications are severe, they all should be considered when deciding whether or not to hire a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer.
We have already mentioned some of the following penalties:
- Class 1 Misdemeanor (same as a first offense DWI!): it will remain on your record for life, if convicted as an adult;
- Up to a $2,500 fine; and,
- Up to a 12 month jail sentence.
Not to mention a fourth possibility: if convicted, you could lose your driving privileges for up to six months.
Note to readers: some portions of the VA Code have been edited for easier reading[ii].
Speeding is Dangerous, Especially in Northern Virginia
Speeding is one of the most commonly known forms of reckless driving in Virginia. However, many of the back roads are so dangerous at high speeds, that driving 20 mph or more over the limit is extremely dangerous.
Many deaths have tragically occurred in or around Manassas, Prince William County, Fairfax County, and other areas you may be familiar with. One prime example is Clifton, Virginia. Around this quiet, quaint town, the roads span miles through scenic pastures, forests and hills. They careen into valleys, and in some areas they transition from suburbs-to-forests very quickly. Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer is well aware, as he drives on these roads every work day. It seems that at least once every year or two, a life is tragically cut short as a result of an accident.
There are many potential answers, but it may have to do with the proportion of drivers actually committing this crime compared with the numbers of drivers committing other forms. Similarly, it could be that this is a fairly easy crime to commit inadvertently. Or, it could be a result of the modern technology officers have at their disposal (radar guns, for one). A traffic infraction for driving “a little too fast” vs. a criminal charge of reckless driving is a very thin line in some cases. One strategy your local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer might discuss with you is the possibility of negotiating a plea bargain advising you to plead guilty to a non-criminal speeding charge.
3 tips to stay safe and avoid a Virginia ‘reckless driving by speed’ charge
- Do not travel above the speed limit, even if you are on an open road or highway.
- Do not ever travel over 80 mph, regardless of where you are or what the speed limit is.
- Pay particular attention to your speed if you are traveling through a work, school, or safety zone.
- Calibrate your speedometer if you suspect it is inaccurate.
- Speed, as mentioned above if:
- Driving “recklessly” (endangering life, limb, or property of others) as mentioned at the start of this page (the “general rule” section of the Code).[iv]
- Driving a Vehicle Not Under Proper Control or with Faulty Brakes: “[Driving] a vehicle which is not under proper control or
which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes . . .”
- Passing another vehicle when on, or approaching, the crest of a curve (or hill), and when the driver’s view along the road is obstructed as a result of such a location. This does not apply if the road has more than one lane in the direction the driver is traveling, nor does it apply on “designated one-way roadways or highways.” [vi]
Example: It is a two lane road. As you approach the top of a hill (one that you cannot see over), a driver from your rear crosses over the double-solid yellow lines and speeds up to pass you. Since you cannot quite see what is over the crest, the driver passing you surely cannot safely see (most likely). If there is an oncoming car in that driver’s lane, he will possibly hit them in a head-on collision.
- Driving a vehicle that is so loaded with objects, or with so many people in the front seat, that the driver has an obstructed view. It could interfere with his/her control over the steering wheel (or other driving mechanism used to safely drive).[vii]
- Passing two other vehicles “abreast” (meaning, side by side and in the same direction) unless on a highway with three or more lanes in each direction, or on a “designated “one-way street” or highway.”[viii] (Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer recommends not using the shoulder to pass other cars, or a reckless charge could result).
- Driving side-by-side (or “abreast”) with another vehicle in a single lane – or a lane designed for one motor vehicle.[ix]
- Passing at a railroad grade crossing.[x]
- Improperly passing a stopped school bus (but see the code section in its entirety).[xi]
- Failing to give proper signals.[xii]
- Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions.[xiii]
- Failure to yield right-of-way.[xiv]
- Driving recklessly on parking lots, church lots, business, government property, etc.[xv]
- Racing (note: there is a special penalty section contained in this code section).[xvi]
If I have a Fairfax County Reckless Driving Charge – Do I Really Need a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer?
We strongly believe that any person charged with reckless driving in Virginia, regardless of the specific law involved, is best served by hiring a Virginia or Fairfax reckless driving lawyer, depending on their location.
We understand why some drivers tend to dismiss the seriousness of a Fairfax County reckless driving charge, especially when the charge arises from speeding just a few miles per hour over the reckless threshold of 80 miles per hour, or 20 miles per hour over the posted limit. We may be able to defend your case and save you a lot of money, but you will not know until you talk to a local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer.
The bottom line is that the potential consequences could be financially devastating. In many cases, a defendant found guilty will not be ordered directly to jail. However, depending on the severity of the charge and other factors (such as a previous record), jail time may be a likely consequence. It really is something not to be left to guesswork.
If you would like a free case evaluation from a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer, then please so request one via our homepage. Virginia traffic laws can be tricky; the bottom line is, it has been reiterated on this page numerous times that reckless driving is a criminal charge (as opposed to a mere traffic citation).
To begin with, you should carefully consider what your stance is. You may not know what your position is until you speak with a lawyer familiar with reckless driving, criminal defense, and other traffic rules. Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer has seen many people make these logical excuses without an attorney. Often they fail. Do you think you have a possible defense?
As pointed out previously, there can be significant repercussions and you may rightfully seek to defend your case, or at at the very least, make an attempt to reach a “deal” so you can avoid the harsh potential penalties.
Oftentimes, a skilled local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer can persuade the trier of fact or prosecutor to reduce a charge to a lesser-offense, such as a non-criminal offense. (For example: “improper driving.)”
If the judge finds a charged individual guilty of “improper driving,” or if that is the charge plead to, then the most he or she would be required to pay is a $500 fine. Moreover, fewer DMV demerit points are issued compared to a reckless driving conviction. Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer offers a free case evaluation online, or consultation in-person.
You may wish to read the “Virginia Reckless Driving FAQ page,” as it contains answers to questions such as, “How can I find out how much money would have to spend for a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer?” “How can a lawyer help me with my Fairfax County reckless driving case?” And, “How likely is it that I will have to go to jail?” among others.
Virginia-serving Fairfax reckless driving lawyer can explain potential defenses, strengths, and weaknesses of a case
Maybe you are concerned about potential jail time, and what that could mean to you, your family members, and your livelihood.
To stay in touch with our firm, you may be interested in joining our newsletter. We send our newsletter out once per two weeks, so there is no need to be concerned with us cluttering your inbox. In fact, there are significant advantages to subscribing, whether or not you face a charge at the present moment:
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Sometimes, a person charged with reckless driving can reach an agreement so the charge is prosecuted as an offense carrying with it a lower magnitude of consequences. Some common examples include improper driving and speeding. Unlike reckless driving, these two offenses (and other less serious traffic violations) are not criminal in nature and as a result, will not potentially lead to jail time or thousands in fines. Will insurance companies view one’s driving record more favorably if there is a speeding conviction vs. a criminal reckless driving conviction? Possibly.
The fees for each case differ depending on many factors, and while some attorneys still charge by the hour for criminal cases, we do not. When paying by the hour, the total cost of representation may be uncertain, or you may be forced to choose between one particularly complex (time-consuming) defense and a reasonable fee. We believe a better option is the less ambiguous “flat-fee” structure. Our flat-fee and free consultation policies allow charged Virginia drivers to know exactly what the legal expense will be, prior to spending a penny. We also offer many generous discounts.
For the following questions and more, just click (or tap) to read:
How Will a Lawyer Help Me if Charged with Reckless Driving?
How Likely is Jail Time if I am Found Guilty?
Reckless Driving Charge: On Your Record for a Decade?
Jail vs. No Jail – Reckless Driving
If Charged, Some Facts May Work in Your Favor (Sentencing)
Jail for Reckless Driving is a Possible Consequence: True or False?
If Found Guilty of Reckless Driving in Fairfax County, can I Appeal?
What if I Think My Speedometer is Broken?
Do I Need to Bring Anything to Meet My Lawyer?
Can a “Driver Improvement” Class Help?
Northern Virginia and Fairfax County Traffic Court Resources
Visit the page covering practical tips when appearing before the Fairfax County General District Court (or, Fairfax County Traffic Court). We have included sections to provide helpful information, such as parking, directions, phone numbers, links to check case status, and more.
A good starting point for more knowledge: the court’s website
Also, be sure to view our references and resources page.
Do not miss our Fairfax County Traffic Court main page, here.
- Circuit Court
- General District Court
- Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court
- Emergency Management
- Family Services
- Health Department
- Homelessness, Office to Prevent and End
- Housing and Community Development
- Human Rights and Equity ProgramsNeighborhood and Community ServicesPolice
- Public Affairs
Other jurisdictions/locations will be coming soon. If charged in Northern Virginia, whether or not in Fairfax County, we strongly urge you to contact a Virginia or our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer as soon as you can.
The Code of Virginia
[i] § 46.2-852
[ii] When quoting sections of the Virginia Code: the author on this page purposely edited some language for easier reader comprehension. Vincenzes Law, PLLC nor Brenton D. Vincenzes, Esq. assumes any liability for any use of the information provided in on this page of our websites, websites linking to us, or sites to which we have linked.
[iii] § 46.2-862.
[iv] § 46.2-852.
When charged drivers learn about the process ahead of them and what their options are, most want me to negotiate the best possible plea agreement with the police officer and prosecutor. By doing so, they:
- avoid a criminal conviction on their record;
- usually incur far fewer DMV demerit points;
- avoid jail;
- keep their driving privileges; and,
- do not risk a $2,500 fine.
Sometimes it is absolutely critical to avoid negotiating a plea agreement requiring a client from another state to plead guilty to a specific infraction in Virginia, due to the way their state interprets that offense. Or, if the client is a Virginia licensed driver and has so many points on their record they cannot possibly afford any more demerit points, it may be important to only accept a plea agreement including an infraction with zero demerit points. The alternative? Trial.
The case results below show whether or not the reckless driving charge was amended to a non-criminal traffic infraction. For every charge that was amended, it was amended to one of the following:
Failure to Pay Full Time and Attention
Most Northern Virginia jurisdictions have some type of county ordinance similar to this one: failure to pay attention (or some other variation). Fairfax County’s version is: Fairfax County Ordinance: 82-4-24.
This is an ordinance violation, not a Virginia Code section. Thus, only a Fairfax County police officer may write this ticket. A Virginia Trooper is not permitted to do so. This means that if your Virginia reckless driving charge occurred in Fairfax County but a Virginia Trooper pulled you over, you will need to talk to your Fairfax reckless driving lawyer about whether or not this is an option. It probably is not. Even though the prosecutor is the one who makes the decision to amend your charge when you have a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer representing you, if the officer did not have the ability in the first place to make a certain charge, then the prosecutor is not able to amend the charge as if it were a county officer instead.
If this offense — failure to pay full time and attention — is on the table as an option, it is usually one of the best. The DMV does not assess points upon conviction, and the fine is relatively low ($30). To have a realistic chance at this infraction as an option, talk to your attorney about what you may be able to do before court. I regularly tell my clients to do specific things, depending on their residence, record, and case facts.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Improper Driving”][vc_column_text]
Improper driving is a non-criminal traffic infraction that carries DMV demerit points, but not as many as reckless driving. Whether or not improper driving is the best possible outcome in your case will require a discussion with your local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer — or Prince William, Stafford, or Loudoun reckless driving lawyer, as the case may be.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Speeding”][vc_column_text css_animation=”appear”]
Speeding is the most obvious traffic infraction that would seem to fit the bill, when selecting an offense similar to, but not nearly as serious as reckless driving. Speeding can be serious, or not-so-serious. It depends on speed.
Speeding 19 mph over the limit is a mere non-criminal traffic infraction, and for some clients, it is a great outcome. But the problem for Virginia drivers with this type of plea agreement is the DMV demerit points. Speeding 19 mph is still going to sting your driving record and probably have an affect on your insurance premiums, assuming your state is like Virginia, and the DMV assesses full demerit points. Keep in mind, a drivers safety course may be something you can take to cancel out some negative points as well as gain favor with the prosecuting attorney. Talk to your local Northern VA and Fairfax traffic lawyer for more in this regard.
For reckless driving by speed cases, plea agreements involving speeding infractions tends to be one of, if the not the most frequently offered and accepted kind of deal.
The fact that there are no DMV points assessed upon conviction of this charge may make it attractive to many clients. It is quite often the charge the prosecutor will be willing to amend the reckless violation to, when the defendant is able to provide his or her local Northern Virginia or Fairfax reckless driving lawyer with a speedometer calibration report and that report indicates a speed variance. Even if the difference between the actual speed and speedometer reading is not enough to bring the speed out of the illegal or even reckless definition, depending on a number of factors, it may be possible for a local and experienced Virginia traffic attorney or local Fairfax reckless driving lawyer to reach such a deal.
Many clients’ goals have been to obtain an acceptable agreement with the Commonwealth. Sometimes, a trial is necessary to achieve the client’s goal(s). No matter what the expectation might be the day before a case, a good defense attorney will prepare for trial regardless of the chance a deal will be worked out.
IMPORTANT: in Fairfax County, only attorneys are able to discuss a case before the defendant is called before the judge.
If you are here because you have a pending charge, schedule a free, no obligation consultation. Even if you do not hire us, we will give you an explanation of the strengths, weaknesses, possible penalties, and potential defenses to your charge.
If you face a criminal charge in Virginia, I would be happy to talk to you personally. We do things a little different at Vincenzes Law, PLLC, Northern Virginia traffic defense and criminal law firm. We are here to help, call us anytime: 703.665.3719
Brenton D. Vincenzes, Principal Attorney and Founder
Vincenzes Law, PLLC
[vi] § 46.2-854
[vii] § 46.2-855
[viii] § 46.2-856
[ix] § 46.2-857
[x] § 46.2-858
[xi] § 46.2-859
[xii] § 46.2-860
[xiii] § 46.2-861
[xiv] § 46.2-863
[xv] § 46.2-864
[xvi] § 46.2-865
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“Traveling At Speed Of Light” by digidreamgrafix
*(this is not legal advice. Submitting the contact or case evaluation form does not automatically create a prospective attorney-client relationship)
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