“…a separate section of the code with a lesser fine would be more appropriate.”
One clever defendant and his attorney found a crazy loophole to beat a specific type of Virginia reckless driving charge.
“A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.”
Virginia State police have announced increased police patrols and presence on the highways from now until the end of the holiday weekend.
The speed limit on 680 total miles of Virginia highway is set to increase from 65 to 70mph this year, but most of the change will be on rural parts of the highway system, and not I95 or I64 in metro areas.
Governor McDonnell signed into law a change that will allow maximum speed limits on Virginia Highways from 65 to 70mph.
But, “Not so Fast” is the watchword for Virginia motorists looking to shave a little time off their drive, or have a little extra cushion before speeding violations and even reckless driving citations become a threat.
The law as written allows the VDOT to review certain stretches of highway and decide if they deem them safe for a speed limit increase, but no speeds have been raised as yet. The Virginia Department of Transportation has said it intends to heavily scrutinize and study any eligible stretch of highway before making any changes.
If, eventually, some parts of I-81 are raised to a new 70mph limit, some legislators have indicated they would be open to making changes to parts of Virginia’s tough reckless driving laws. Current law makes it a class 1 Misdemeanor criminal offense to drive over 80mph. Another section of the reckless driving law makes it a crime to drive 20 mph over any posted speed limit.
Logically, most people would agree just 10 mph over the legal limit shouldn’t be a criminal and jail-able offense.
It’s still all speculation, but it is good news that the Commonwealth is at least considering some rational changes to our speeding and reckless driving laws.
As we noted before, I-81, especially near Page and Shenandoah counties is a dangerous road. This has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and today’s comments about a reckless driving charge for a truck driver who fell asleep add some extra food for thought.
Due to budget cuts, rest areas have been closed, and it is illegal to pull over on the side of the road to sleep. This may have been a significant factor in the accident after the driver fell asleep at the wheel.
Fortunately, there was no one was harmed in this incident. But when you take roads that VDOT and the Virginia State police know to be dangerous, and make them more dangerous due to short term budget constraints, you are toying with public safely in a disturbing way.
A judge in Richmond is under fire for allowing a reckless driving charge for a commercial bus driver to be dismissed after completing a driving school program. That bus driver is facing new charges for reckless driving after hitting and killing a pedestrian with her bus.
Under the law, if a person has a commercial driver’s license in Virginia, they are ineligible for a reckless driving offense dismissal after attended driving school, under a law passed in July 2008. The original reckless driving incident occurred in May of this year.
Though the defendant clearly checked off that she had a commercial driver’s license, the judge still allowed her to take a Second Chance Driving Improvement Clinic. After satisfying the terms of the driving class, on Sept 10th, the reckless driving charge was dismissed on Sept 30th.
The defense attorney quoted indicated that is it not uncommon for judges to miss laws that have been recently passed, especially when the facts of those laws come up infrequently.
If the reckless driving offense had stood, and she had not been allowed the opportunity for the dismissal, she likely would have lost her job as a driver for the GRTC Transit System. However, she also violated company policy by not notifying her supervisor of the reckless driving charge.
It is certainly possible that she would have been fired from her job if she had followed that procedure, and if the judge had refused to allow for the dismissal, she would have lost her driver’s license and not been driving.
Whenever there is a tragedy like this, people are always looking for someone to blame. It is impossible to say what would have happened in either of those cases, but it is clear that multiple administrative failures led to a circumstances where someone was killed.
Via VALawyersweekly, the Virginia Court of Appeals determined that Improper Driving is not a lesser included offense of Reckless Driving, and therefore it was legal to charge the person with both reckless driving and improper driving.
In the Appeals Court case, the attorneys argued that the woman should not have been charged with both offenses, since as a lesser included offense, it would be like being charged twice for the same action. For example, you can’t be charged with both grand larceny and petite larceny for stealing the same item.
The court rejected that argument, saying the law was specific and clear that reckless driving by speed is merely the act of driving over 80mph, and improper driving requires “slight culpability”, which reckless does not. They stated that it was entirely possible to be charged with reckless, but not be driving “improperly”.
This ruling has no particular bearing on the common plea bargain in reckless driving cases where a judge allows a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser, non-criminal offense of improper driving.
Many people faced with reckless driving wonder if it is worth the money to hire an attorney.
For the least serious reckless citations, (reckless by speed / speeding over 80mph), the ticket is probably $500 or less by itself. However, you can also expect points on your license, and possibly several thousand dollars in insurance hikes.
Not to mention the personal cost to you and future impact on your life that admitting to a criminal conviction may have.
And for some reckless driving offenses, there is a real risk of jail time in many counties and courts in Virginia, including Fairfax.
An attorney can, in many cases, get criminal charges dropped to civil penalties. The difference between a misdemeanor reckless charge and a civil improper driving citation and fine could save you thousands. And you may just be able to get your charges completely dismissed.
Another cost savings is that we can often appear in court on your behalf, without you needing to show up, and take time off from work. This is especially a huge consideration for many of our out of state clients who happen to get nabbed while driving through the Commonwealth. And we know that the VSP is a big fan of out of pulling over drivers with out-of-state plates.
Of course every case is different, and no attorney can guarantee you any result. But we will give you an honest assessment of what we think your chances will be in court.
We’ll run the numbers with you, quote exact legal fees, and estimate our chances of successfully fighting your case, and what that could save in your wallet.
After a free consultation, you can decide for yourself if you think having an attorney fight your reckless driving charge is a smart investment.
Here is a well written and clear explanation of what is commonly refereed to as the “Move Over/Slow Down” law in Virginia.
This confusing and commonly misunderstood law says that if there is an emergency vehicle with lights flashing in the right lane/breakdown lane on a highway, a driver must move over one lane unless unsafe to do so, in which case he must “proceed with due caution”.
Merely “slowing down” is not sufficient, and may result in a criminal charge of reckless driving under Virginia statute § 46.2-921.1 if a police officer questions your decision. Whether or not it was “unsafe” for you to move over will be a decision for a judge, and the wrong decision could result in jail time, license suspension, and a criminal record.
Very few Virginians truly understand this complicated distinction, and the consequences and serious criminal penalties that can result.
The word to the wise is – make every effort to always Move Over a lane on the highway with a police car on the side of the road. If you don’t, your judgment can always be questioned. You don’t want to be in a position of depending on the temperament of the officer and the judge in court, since those calls won’t always go in your favor.
And, of course, you’ll want a good reckless driving defense lawyer on your side if you find yourself in court.