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Reckless driving is a criminal misdemeanor in Virginia and is therefore a serious traffic offense. Unlike traffic infractions, punishments for reckless driving can include restriction or suspension of your driver's license, probation, and even jail. A conviction for reckless driving can also impact your insurance. If you have been charged with reckless driving, you should contact a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your case and determine your best course of action.

Categories of Reckless Driving

There are several categories of reckless driving. If you have been charged, the "code section" listing the appropriate part of the Virginia Code will appear on your ticket.

General Reckless Driving This is most often used for accidents and other general driving. It states that regardless of the speed limit, any person who drives recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving. Virginia Code § 46.2-852.

Reckless Driving by Speed Even if there is no other illegal driving, a driver in Virginia can be found guilty of reckless driving if he or she drives (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more faster than the speed limit or (ii) eighty miles per hour or faster, regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit. Virginia Code § 46.2-862. In addition, a driver can be found guilty of reckless driving if he exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of the posted speed limit. Virginia Code § 46.2-861.

Specific Reckless Driving Virginia law also specifically lists certain acts of driving as reckless driving. These include:
  • Driving a vehicle which is not under proper control. Virginia Code § 46.2-853.
  • Driving with inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes. Virginia Code § 46.2-853.
  • Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve. Virginia Code § 46.2-854.
  • Driving with driver's view obstructed or control impaired. Virginia Code § 46.2-855.
  • Passing two vehicles abreast. Virginia Code § 46.2-856.
  • Driving two abreast in a single lane. Virginia Code § 46.2-857.
  • Passing at a railroad grade crossing. Virginia Code § 46.2-858.
  • Passing a stopped school bus. Virginia Code § 46.2-859.
  • Failing to give proper signals. Virginia Code § 46.2-860.
  • Failure to yield right-of-way. Virginia Code § 46.2-863.
  • Reckless driving on parking lots. Virginia Code § 46.2-864.
  • Racing. Virginia Code § 46.2-865.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

A driver convicted of a reckless driving shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Punishments include:
  • Confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.
  • The Court may suspend the driver's license for a period of not less than 10 days nor more than six months. For good cause, the court may allow the issuance of a restricted driver's license for certain purposes.
These penalties may be increased if the reckless driving was racing that caused injuries or death, or if the driver did not have a valid driver's license and the reckless driving caused the death of another person. In addition, a driver who kills another driver can under certain circumstances be charged with manslaughter, which is a much more serious felony offense.

Reckless Driving Cases in Court

In Court, the Commonwealth (state) presents its side first, and will present evidence of the driving. This will usually be the officer's testimony, and may also include additional evidence like witnesses, photos, and calibrations of police equipment like radar. The defendant who was charged will then have an opportunity to testify and present his evidence. The Court will rule at the end of the evidence, and typically does so immediately. If he is acquitted - found not guilty - then the defendant will receive no punishment. If he is convicted - found guilty -- the defendant is usually sentenced immediately, after the Court has had a chance to review the defendant's driving record.

In less serious cases of reckless driving, the Court will convict the defendant, but will often limit the punishment to a fine. Although this means the defendant does not go to jail, it is a conviction for reckless driving, a criminal misdemeanor, and can have additional insurance consequences.

For more serious charges, the Court will consider a jail sentence and taking the driver's license.

In appropriate cases, Court may be willing to reduce the charge of reckless driving. If it does so, the Court may find the driver guilty of a simple traffic infraction, which could be Improper Driving, Speeding, or a specific infraction like Failure to Yield.

Our Experience

Our firm has more than 15 years of experience trying traffic cases. Our attorneys also frequently handle misdemeanors and felonies in state and federal courts, both at trial and at the appellate level.

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If you are facing criminal allegations, we are prepared to stand up for your rights. Call us today at 434-972-9600 or contact us online.


Davidson and Kitzmann, PLC
211 E. High Street
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Tel: (434) 972-9600
Fax: (434) 220-0011
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We are a Charlottesville, Va law firm, but our lawyers handle cases in Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Greene County, Fluvanna County, Louisa County, Nelson County, Madison County, Orange County, Richmond, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta County, and across Virginia.

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