“…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.
As reported in the Washington Post, the Virginia State Police have been stepping up weekend traffic patrols. They are aggressively targeting and enforcing speeding laws, and have made hundreds of arrests for reckless driving, DUI, and drug possession, as well as thousands of citations for speeding and sear belt violations.
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.
According to an article in the Daily News Record, there is an effort to designate part of Interstate 81 in Page and Shenandoah County as a Highway Safety Corridor, due to some recent serious accidents.
If approved, the designation of a Highway Safety Corridor by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth would impose doubled fines for speeding, reckless driving, and other traffic citations in that area. There is a full analysis process that must be completed before such a designation is approved.
There has been spate of serious accidents along that stretch of I-81, many involving tractor trailers, whose drivers are a primary target of Highway Safety Corridor enforcement penalties.
Reckless driving fines range from $300-$500, so doubling that fine is significant. Of course, a reckless driving offense is also a criminal charge, so the implication of a reckless conviction are far beyond the substantial costs involved.
UPDATE: Another good story on this stretch of -I81 and the rate of accidents in the Northern Virginia Daily here.