Traffic laws are stringent in Virginia, and reckless driving is a serious offense that can have severe consequences. One common question we often encounter is whether driving 20 mph over the speed limit constitutes reckless driving. Here's what drivers in Virginia should know.
What constitutes reckless driving in Virginia?
In Virginia, reckless driving is a criminal traffic violation that involves operating a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. This goes beyond mere carelessness and can include behavior that endangers the driver themselves. In the context of speeding, reckless driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle on any highway in the Commonwealth:
- At a speed of 20 mph or more over the posted speed limit
- In excess of 85 mph, regardless of the posted speed limit
These speed limits apply to highways and any other road or street throughout Virginia. In other words, if you're caught driving 20 mph or more over the posted speed limit on any road in Virginia, you could be charged with reckless driving.
To be convicted of reckless driving, the Commonwealth must typically prove that the person was driving, often at a speed of at least 20 mph over the limit or in a manner that endangered life, limb, or property.
What are the consequences of reckless driving?
Reckless driving is not a minor traffic offense; it is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. The penalties for a reckless driving conviction can be severe and include:
- Possible jail time for up to 12 months.
- A fine of up to $2,500.
- A permanent criminal record.
- License suspension from 60 days up to six months.
- An increase in your car insurance premiums.
- Points on your driving record.
Specific penalties can also vary based on the circumstances of your case, your prior driving record, and other factors. Additionally, if your reckless driving incident involved racing, aggressive driving, or endangering others, the consequences can be even more severe.
Other types of reckless driving in Virginia
Speeding 20 mph over the speed limit isn't the only thing that constitutes reckless driving in the Commonwealth. Other types of reckless driving here include:
- Driving with an obstructed view or impaired control
- Driving two abreast in a single-lane
- Passing two vehicles abreast
- Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions
- Passing a stopped school bus
Defending against reckless driving charges in Virginia
Reckless driving charges are common in Virginia, often targeting high-speed drivers. Many people, particularly those from out of state, are surprised to learn that certain speeds can almost guarantee a jail sentence, even for first-time speed-related offenses.
Whether it's a standalone misdemeanor or related to a felony charge, a reckless driving conviction comes with severe consequences. If you're facing reckless driving charges in Virginia for driving 20 mph or more over the speed limit, seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial. While the consequences of a reckless driving conviction can be serious, there are potential defenses that an attorney can explore, including:
- Challenging radar or speed measurement devices.
- Questioning the officer's observations.
- Demonstrating that your speed wasn't necessarily reckless.
- Negotiating reduced charges, such as a speeding violation rather than reckless driving.
- Seeking driving school or defensive driving courses to mitigate the penalties.
The attorneys at Welch & Wright, PLLC have a wealth of knowledge of the state laws and extensive experience handling reckless driving cases. If you're facing reckless driving charges, contact us to schedule a free case evaluation. We'll go over the details of your charges and explore avenues to build a strong defense. We proudly serve clients in the Norfolk and Hampton Roads areas.