Questionable Transgression: Answering Your Concerns About Criminal Charges and Defense
When you see the blue party lights in your rearview mirror, the "oh, no" feeling gradually turns to frustration and a sense of helplessness. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, we're here to help. Here are some frequently asked questions from our clients. Please remember, every case is different, so call us today for your free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case.
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Can I refuse to take a sobriety test in Virginia?
Under Virginia law, field sobriety tests are considered completely voluntary. If you're not comfortable participating, you have the legal right to refuse to do so. However, refusal is not necessarily without consequences.
Potential Reasons for Refusing a Sobriety Test
Field sobriety tests typically measure coordination, balance, and focus, and there are several different tests that can be used. An officer may ask you to balance on one leg while counting to ten or take nine heel-to-toe steps and make a 180 degree turn to walk back toward your starting point. These tests are considered controversial because they can be difficult for some people who are completely sober to perform. For example, someone with an inner ear infection could have temporary troubles with equilibrium and balance. Past neurological damage, skeletal and movement disorders, or poorly controlled diabetes can also make it difficult to pass a sobriety test.
The Breathalyzer Preliminary Alcohol-Screening (PAS) test is also considered a type of field sobriety test. It estimates your blood alcohol level (BAC), but it can be thrown off by medications you've been taking, conditions such as acid reflux, a slower than average metabolism, or having recently vomited.
How a Test Refusal Impacts Probable Cause
Although you're not required to submit to field sobriety tests, refusing to do so can be weighed as part of the overall determination of probable cause. On its own, a refusal to submit to a sobriety test can't be considered probable cause. However, if there is other evidence to suggest you've been drinking, such as erratic driving behavior or the smell of alcohol on your breath, the officer can use your refusal to determine probable cause for an arrest.
How a Test Refusal Impacts DUI Sentencing
When you appear in court, your refusal to agree to a field sobriety test does not increase the potential penalties associated with the DUI charge. You face the exact same penalties you would if you had agreed to the test initially.
If you've been charged with a DUI, building an aggressive defense is essential. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
Will a reckless driving conviction affect my ability to keep my CDL?
A valid CDL is a requirement for many different types of positions throughout Virginia. However, a reckless driving conviction can result in a CDL suspension or disqualification.
When Your Regular Driver's License Is Suspended
A CDL is essentially a higher level version of a regular driver's license. You can't have a valid CDL unless you've already received a basic Class D Virginia driver's license for operating passenger vehicles.
Whenever your regular driver's license is suspended for reckless driving, you'll be unable to legally drive a commercial motor vehicle. The restricted license that some drivers are able to get for work-related purposes won't allow you to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
CDL Disqualifying Offenses
Virginia considers certain acts to be disqualifying offenses for a CDL. This includes:
- Reckless driving (in any vehicle)
- Speeding 15 mph or more above the speed limit (in any vehicle)
- Improper or erratic lane change (in any vehicle)
- Tailgating (in any vehicle)
- Moving violations related to a fatal crash (in any vehicle)
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a valid CDL
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without the proper CDL class and/or endorsements
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL in your possession
- Texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle
Two serious violations in a three-year period results in a 60-day CDL disqualification. Three or more serious violations in the same timeframe results in a 120-day CDL disqualification.
Your Employer May Have Special Rules
Aside from the penalties Virginia assesses for reckless driving, your employer might have rules about who is allowed to continuing operating vehicles in its fleet. Even if you were operating your personal vehicle at the time and have no previous disqualifying offenses on your record, your employer may choose to discipline you or terminate your employment because of a reckless driving conviction.
Charles V. Hardenbergh Can Help
If you depend on your CDL to earn a living, you need an aggressive defense against a reckless driving charge. Call to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
Can I get a restricted license if I’m convicted of reckless driving?
Losing your license due to a reckless driving conviction can present significant hardship. However, you may be able to get a restricted license if you petition the court.
Applying for a Restricted License
Restricted licenses are not granted automatically. You must specifically ask for a restricted license when you appear before the court, and the judge has the authority to grant your request at the time of your reckless driving conviction. Requests are approved based on a legitimate need for transportation, since a restricted license only allows you to drive for very specific purposes.
Restricted licenses are issued to ensure you have access to transportation for activities that the court considers of high importance. This can include:
- Getting to and from work
- Using your vehicle for transportation during working hours
- Receiving appropriate medical care
- Participating in worship services
- Traveling to and from court or a probation program
- Providing transportation for a child who is attending school
- Attending child visitation that has been approved by the court
In Virginia, restricted licenses are typically issued as a green sheet of paper with a list of specific driving restrictions. You must sign the paper, and keep it with you when you're driving.
Violating the Provisions of a Restricted License
It's vital to keep in mind that a restricted license does not allow you to drive for any reason other than what's specifically approved by the court. You can't make any deviation from your route, even if it's as simple as stopping to pick up a friend on your way home from work or grabbing a gallon of milk after school.
If you drive for unauthorized purposes, your restricted license can be revoked. You may face additional fines and added jail time to your reckless driving sentence.
Seeking Legal Representation
An experienced reckless driving attorney can help you build a strong defense against a reckless driving charge, request a restricted license, or file an appeal. Call to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh to learn more about your legal options.
Will a reckless driving conviction impact my military service?
Reckless driving convictions are considered criminal charges, unlike a simple traffic violation such as speeding. This means that a conviction can create problems if you're currently serving in the military or are hoping to enlist.
How a Reckless Driving Conviction Affects Your Ability to Enlist
Each branch of the military has slightly different rules for how a reckless driving conviction affects men and women hoping to enlist.
- Air Force. If you're hoping to serve in the Air Force, keep in mind that reckless driving is a Category 4 moral offense on the same level as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of alcohol or tobacco. You can be disqualified for having two or more Category 4 offenses within the last three years. However, a recruiting squadron commander can sometimes have the disqualification waived if your other qualifications are strong.
- Army. To serve in the Army, you need to consider your total number of misdemeanor convictions. Two or more misdemeanors require a waiver for enlistment, while four or more will disqualify you from service.
- Marines or Navy. For those who want to enlist in the Marines or Navy, misdemeanor reckless driving convictions can be waived at the district level.
Maintaining an Active Security Clearance
Those who are currently serving in the military must report a reckless driving arrest to their commanding officer. The associated penalties for this infraction vary according to branch of service, but maintaining your security clearance may be an issue of concern.
The military assigns three levels to security clearances: confidential, secret, and top secret. As your level advances, the requirements to get or maintain a clearance increase. Reckless driving is not automatically disqualifying, but it factors into your rating for honestly, reliability, trustworthiness, and loyalty.
How a Reckless Driving Attorney Can Help
If you're hoping to enlist or are currently serving in the military, don't simply pay your ticket and accept the consequences. An experienced reckless driving attorney can help you build a strong defense, using strategies such as a speedometer calibration or agreeing to complete a driver improvement clinic. You may be able to have the charge reduced to a lesser infraction such as improper driving or dropped all together. To learn more, call to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
Should I sign the ticket the police officer gives me?
When you receive a reckless driving ticket, you might find yourself wondering if signing the ticket is the same as admitting guilt. The confusion is understandable, but your signature is only a promise to appear in court.
Why You Need to Sign Your Reckless Driving Ticket
Virginia considers reckless driving a criminal charge instead of a simple traffic violation. However, most drivers aren't going to be handcuffed or taken to a police station when charged with this offense.
The ticket the officer gives you after you've been pulled over is considered a legal summons that replaces traditional forms of custodial arrest. Your ticket will show a date, time, and location where you are expected to appear in court. Your signature is considered a promise to appear to address the charge.
If you refuse to sign the ticket, the officer can legally assume that you don't intent to make your required court appearance. As such, he is allowed to take you into custody and book you on the charge.
Regardless of whether you believe you're guilty of reckless driving, signing the ticket is always in your best interests.
The Next Steps
After you receive your ticket, don't panic. Reckless driving carries stiff penalties, but an experienced attorney can help you prepare an aggressive defense against the charge. You may be able to use factors such as a completing community service, attending a driver improvement clinic, or submitting a speedometer calibration to have your charge reduced to a lesser offense or dropped all together.
Although arresting officers have quite a bit of discretion in issuing reckless driving tickets, judges have an even greater authority. If you are polite and respectful during your court appearance and have representation from a skilled attorney, there's no reason to believe one simple mistake will cost you your future.
Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is dedicated to helping drivers build the strongest possible defense for their reckless driving cases. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
How much discretion does a police officer have when making a reckless driving arrest in Virginia?
In most cases, reckless driving is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. This is a criminal offense that carries a fine of up to $2,500, jail time of up to 12 months, and six demerit points on your driving record. It would be a grave mistake to simply accept these consequences without a fight, given the amount of discretion officers have in deciding whether to charge you with this offense.
Officer Discretion in Reckless Driving Cases
Reckless driving encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including:
- Driving 20 miles or more above the speed limit
- Speeding in excess of 80 miles per hour regardless of the posted speed limit
- Driving too fast for adverse weather conditions
- Driving with an obstructed view
- Not signaling a turn
- Operating a motor vehicle with faulty brakes
- Passing two vehicles abreast
- Passing at the top of a hill
- Passing at a railroad crossing
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Passing an ambulance or other emergency vehicle
Additionally, an officer has the authority to charge you with reckless driving if he thinks you are driving in a way that endangers the safety or property of yourself or others. This might include aggressive driving, distracted driving, or mistakes made due to a lack of experience on the road. Even drivers who swerve to hit a deer and get into an accident as a result can be charged with reckless driving if the officer deems it appropriate.
The Effect of Judicial Discretion
Although officers have a great deal of discretion to decide when a reckless driving charge is appropriate, judges have the authority to consider mitigating factors when determining if you'll be convicted of the charge. These might include:
- A past safe driving record
- Willingness to complete a driver improvement clinic
- Demonstration of remorse by completing community service
- If your conduct was related to a medical emergency
Charles V. Hardenbergh Can Help
Enlisting the eservices of an experienced reckless driving attorney is the best way to ensure that one mistake doesn't ruin your future. Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh has extensive experience helping Virginia drivers build an aggressive defense to reduce or drop a reckless driving charge. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.
Do I have to report a reckless driving conviction on a job application?
A reckless driving conviction is considered a criminal charge, unlike a simple traffic violation such as speeding. Because of this, a conviction must be reported on any job application that asks whether you have a criminal record. If you're searching for a new job, this can make it more challenging to find a suitable position.
Reporting a Reckless Driving Conviction on a Job Application
As part of the initial screening process, it’s becoming increasingly common for employers to ask whether an applicant has a criminal record. A reckless driving conviction is typically a misdemeanor, but it still must be reported unless the application specifically asks for only felony convictions. If you fail to include it on your application, you could be terminated at a later date if your employer discovers the deception.
Virginia law does not allow crimes, even those classified as misdemeanors, to be expunged. This means that your reckless driving conviction will appear on your criminal record indefinitely. However, applications typically only ask about convictions from the last seven to 10 years.
How Convictions Affect Employment Prospects
Whether or not a reckless driving conviction will prevent you from being offered the job depends on a few different factors. If the job doesn't require driving and the employer treats each conviction on an individual basis, the reckless driving conviction might not be a deal breaker. However, if the job requires a clean driving record, it's likely that a recent reckless driving charge will cost you the job. Corporate insurance policies usually have specific requirements for the types of employees who can be covered to operate company vehicles.
Protecting Your Rights
Since a reckless driving conviction can make obtaining employment significantly more difficult, it's a mistake to simply pay the ticket and accept the consequences. Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is committed to helping drivers who've been charged with reckless driving use defenses such as speedometer calibration or options such as completing a driver improvement program to get the charge reduced or dropped. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.
Does Virginia have an open container law?
A violation of Virginia's open container law is punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor, the least serious type of criminal charge. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $250, but no jail time. Drivers can be cited for an open container violation as a single offense or with a more serious charge such as a DUI.
About Virginia's Open Container Law
Virginia's open container law makes it illegal to consume alcoholic beverages while driving a motor vehicle. The statute creates a rebuttable assumption that you've violated the law if the following terms apply:
- There is an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment, missing the original factory seal.
- The container of alcohol is not 100% full.
- You do or say something that suggests you've been drinking such as having the smell of alcohol on your breath, slurring your words, or driving erratically.
As written, this statute makes it easy for officers to obtain a conviction. If you've been stopped on suspicion of a DUI and there is alcohol in your car, there is an excellent chance you'll end up with an open container violation, as well. However, drivers who aren't legally impaired can still find themselves in trouble. For example, consider this scenario: You go out to dinner with a friend, order a bottle of wine, each have one glass, the waiter recorks the bottle, and you put the bottle in your car. Even if your BAC is under the legal limit when you're pulled over, you could still be charged with an open container violation if the officer finds anything unusual about your behavior.
Protecting Your Rights
The safest course of action is to always carry open containers of alcohol in your trunk or in the last upright passenger seat of an SUV or van. However, if you've already been charged with an open container violation and/or a related DUI charge, it's a mistake to simply plead guilty and accept the consequences. Having a criminal conviction on your record can affect job opportunities, security clearances, and credit applications. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
What happens at an arraignment for reckless driving?
For most people who've been charged with reckless driving, an arraignment is their first experience with a criminal proceeding. Virginia uses the term arraignment to refer to a first court appearance, and the purpose of an arraignment is to go over issues that need to be settled before trial.
Your reckless driving ticket will state if your case is set for arraignment or trial. However, you can also learn this information by calling the court clerk's office.
An arraignment is an administrative hearing that goes over the following issues:
- Charges. The judge will state the charges against you and ask if you understand them.
- Legal representation. Since reckless driving carries the possibility of jail time, the judge will inform you that you have a right to be represented by an attorney. You have three options: hire your own attorney, waive your right to an attorney, or ask for a court-appointed attorney. To receive a court-appointed attorney, you must meet the state's low-income requirements.
- Next step. If you've decided to waive your right to an attorney, the judge may ask if you want to go ahead with the trial that day. Otherwise, the next step is to schedule the date for your trial.
Having an Attorney Appear on Your Behalf
If you have already hired a reckless driving attorney to prepare your defense, you may not need to be physically present for the arraignment. Some courts allow the attorney representing you to appear in court on your behalf, while others simply ask for a formal notice that the attorney is representing the accused. It's typically safest to assume that you should plan on appearing in court for the arraignment unless your attorney informs you otherwise.
Charles V. Hardenbergh Can Help
The penalties associated with a reckless driving conviction are stiff, and obtaining skilled representation is the best way to keep this charge from ruining your future. Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is committed to helping drivers build the strongest possible defense for their reckless driving cases. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.
What is the difference between reckless driving and aggressive driving?
Under Virginia law, certain types of behaviors can be charged as either reckless driving or aggressive driving. Which citation you receive will depend on the perceived intent behind your actions.
Comparing Reckless Driving to Aggressive Driving
Reckless driving can encompass the following behaviors:
- Excessive speed
- Driving too fast for road conditions
- Passing on a grade or on a curve, passing two vehicles abreast, passing a stopped school bus, or passing at the railroad crossing
- Driving with your view obstructed
- Driving two abreast in a single lane
- Not using proper signals
- Failure to yield
- Drag racing
Aggressive driving is a charge that involves behaviors intended to “harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct” other motorists. This can include:
- Ignoring traffic signs or signals
- Driving on the wrong side of the road or outside designated lanes
- Improper passing
- Failure to yield
- Stopping on a highway
The primary difference between reckless driving and aggressive driving is that reckless driving only requires that you engage in unsafe behavior. Aggressive driving requires unsafe behavior with the intent to harass or scare other drivers—similar to what’s referred to as road rage.
Both reckless driving and aggressive driving are typically considered misdemeanors. This means they are criminal charges, unlike a simple traffic violation such as a speeding ticket.
Legal Representation Is Essential
Reckless driving and aggressive driving convictions carry stiff penalties, including fines, jail time, and the stigma of a criminal record. A conviction will result in higher insurance rates as well as difficulty passing a pre-employment background check. Drivers who are in the military, applying to medical school, or seeking a green card to become a permanent U.S. resident will also find that a conviction can cause problems for many years to come.
Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is committed to helping drivers beat both aggressive driving and reckless driving charges. His skilled representation draws on his past experience as a JAG officer, law professor, and federal prosecutor. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.