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. Police discretion and reckless driving

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
  • Racing
  • 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.