Most of my clients who’ve been charged with reckless driving in Virginia are shocked to learn that not only do they have to appear in court to answer the charge, but they are also facing jail time and the loss of their license. How is this possible, they ask – “I was just speeding! Can’t I just pay the ticket?” In Virginia, the answer is no.
The facts are usually something like this: you’re late for work, cruising down I-264 with the flow of traffic (of course), which is about 75 miles per hour that morning. And then you see the trooper. And for a moment things move so slowly you feel like the trooper makes eye-contact with you. You frantically look in your rear-view mirror as you pass thinking “don’t pull out, don’t pull out”. But, of course, he does. No problem, right? He’s probably going after someone else. But when he pulls behind you and activates his lights, you pull over. Turns out you were going 76. Now you’re really going to be late for work.
Speeding tickets are common; we’ve all had one at some point. But in Virginia, driving more than 20 miles over the speed limit is more than just speeding – it is reckless driving, which is a class 1 misdemeanor. You will have to appear in court on your scheduled trial date and will be facing a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a suspension of your driver’s license. Additionally, you will pick up 6 negative points on your driving record and likely see your insurance premiums increase.
Virginia Code section 46.2-862 defines reckless driving by speed as “(i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.”
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are things you can do before you go to court that can help. First, get your vehicle speedometer calibrated. Often the speedometer in your car is not working properly. That means that when the trooper clocked you going 76, the speedometer in your car was only reading 74. That may only be a 2 mile difference, but those 2 miles will reduce the charge from reckless driving to speeding or maybe even defective equipment! Either of those is merely an infraction and would result in fewer points on your license and less risk of an insurance premium increase. There are several calibration centers to choose from and the relatively low cost of the calibration is well worth it. But be very careful – the calibration may hurt rather than help. That is, when you got clocked doing 76, your speedometer might have been reading 78! If that’s the case, toss it in the trash.
Another good idea is to consider doing a driver improvement course. Several places, such as AAA, offer such courses. This will give you 6 “positive” points on your driving record and will show the Judge that you take the matter seriously – that’s always a good thing.
Finally, it helps if you have a good driving record, of course. Good luck, and leave earlier next time.