Virginia Law Enforcement takes Reckless Driving very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that Reckless Driving is not merely considered a traffic infraction, but it is treated as a Class 1 Misdemeanor (on the same level of offense in Virginia as a DUI/DWI charge, an assault and battery charge, or a larceny charge). Virginia’s Reckless Driving laws are some of the most severe in the country.
What is Reckless Driving? In Virginia, some of the most common reasons you may receive a
Reckless Driving charge are:
- Driving at a speed in excess of 20 MPH of the posted speed limit
- Driving at a speed in excess of 80 MPH (regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit)
- Driving in a manner generally endangering the life, limb, or property of others
- Improperly passing a stopped school bus
- Driving at speeds too fast for traffic conditions regardless of the speed limit
- Reckless driving in a parking lot
- Failing to give a proper turning or stopping signal
- Driving with faulty brakes and driving while vehicle not under proper control
- Overtaking, passing, or failing to yield to an emergency vehicle
- Street Racing
- Passing a vehicle at the crest of a hill, on a curve, or on a grade
- Overtaking or passing another vehicle at a railroad grade crossing
- Failure to yield right-of-way to other vehicles when merging onto a highway
What methods do law enforcement use to measure my speed? The three most common methods by which law enforcement measures the speed of a vehicle are:
RADAR (Radio Detecting and Ranging)
It is the most widely used method among law enforcement to measure the speed of a moving vehicle. The RADAR system is a reliable way of measuring speed, but it is far from perfect.
- Radar Certification – Is the officer certified as a radar operator?
- Certification Date – When was the last date the officer received training on the radar system?
- Tuning Fork Calibration – When was the last time the tuning forks were certified?
- Weather – What were the weather conditions when you were cited for speed?
- Local Structures – Were there any large buildings around where you were cited?
- Surrounding Vehicles – Were there large vehicles around when you received the ticket, such as a large tractor-trailer?
- Police Vehicle Calibration – If the officer was using a moving radar, he must produce documentation that the speedometer on his vehicle was recently calibrated.
- Maintained Eyesight – Did the officer ever lose sight of your vehicle?
- Curves – When you were cited for speeding, was your vehicle traveling around curve?
- Unit Test – Did the officer test the radar before he started his shift and when he ended his last shift?
LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) – It is the latest technology for measuring the speed of a vehicle.
- Vehicle confusion – Due to the nature of the laser used, the target vehicle and it’s neighboring vehicle will both be considered.
- Unsafe laser – The frequency used in a LIDAR gun has a potential threat to humans.
- Natural factors – Rain, fog, and snow have a negligible impact on the LIDAR gun.
- Obstruction by the Sun – Shooting at targets which have sun in the background can prevent the LIDAR gun from achieving an accurate result.
- Sweeping Error – This is the most common error committed by officers. It occurs when the officers hand sweeps from the target to the vehicle which is forward to the target – this movement makes the LIDAR reading inaccurate.
- Radio or Microwave Interface Error – When there is a radio or microwave in the surrounding area, these could interfere with the infrared waves and produce inaccurate results.
- Mechanical Interface Error – If there is any moving object (such as a rotary sign, or fan blade) other then the target vehicle then the LIDAR gun produces results of the moving object, not of the target vehicle.
PACE (Not a scientific method and therefore prone to error) – This is one of the most inaccurate ways of measuring the speed of a moving vehicle.
- Measuring the speed of a vehicle by pace means that a police vehicle follows behind your vehicle for a certain amount of time in an effort to match and calculate your speed.
- It is almost impossible to be exactly accurate using this method and the margin of error could be in excess of 1-6 MPH, which could be critical if you are cited for Reckless Driving by PACE.
What are the penalties for Reckless Driving? The maximum penalties in Virginia for a misdemeanor Reckless Driving conviction consist of:
- Up to a 12 month jail sentence
- Up to a $2500.00 fine
- Up to 6 months suspension of your drivers license
- Up to 6 demerit points on your DMV record
- Conviction can remain on your driving record for up to 11 years
First time Reckless Driving offenders receive consideration for their lack of speeding history during sentencing and plea bargaining negotiations. It is important to be aware of the fact that prior speeding tickets (especially if they are recent) and an overall poor driving record are regularly used by the Commonwealth Attorney and/or Judge to elevate penalties for someone charged with Reckless Driving.
Why should I consult an attorney? Due to the serious nature of a Virginia Reckless Driving offense, it is important to fight the ticket in court, instead of just simply pleading “guilty” or “no-contest.” The best thing you can do after you receive a Reckless Driving ticket is to consult an attorney who is familiar with the jurisdiction where you are facing the Reckless Driving charge. Remember that Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor that, if found guilty, will haunt you for many years to come!
If you have been charged with Reckless Driving, contact The Paracha Firm immediately for a no-fee consultation.