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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Is a DUI a misdemeanor or felony in Virginia?
In most cases, a DUI offense in Virginia is a misdemeanor offense. However, in some situations, a person can face a felony charge. Whether you are being charged with a felony or misdemeanor for drunk driving, it’s important to retain an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible to help with your defense.
When You Can Be Charged With a Felony DUI
In limited circumstances, a DUI is charged as a felony in Virginia. You may face a felony charge in the following situations:
- If you were convicted of a DUI twice within the last 10 years, you could face a Class 6 felony DUI charge.
- If you caused someone to suffer injuries or death as a result of your drunk driving—even in a first offense—you may face Class 6 felony charges.
While a Class 6 felony is the lowest level felony, a conviction can result in harsh penalties. You may face a prison sentence of between one and five years. However, the judge or jury has the discretion to sentence you to jail instead of prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500. The following are mandatory minimum sentences:
- 90-day minimum jail sentence for a third conviction within 10 years
- Six-month mandatory jail sentence if the third conviction occurred within five years
- Mandatory fine of $1,000
In addition, your driver’s license could be revoked indefinitely.
You can also face harsh penalties if convicted of a misdemeanor DUI. This can include a mandatory minimum $250 fine, possible mandatory jail sentence, and a driver’s license suspension. As with a felony conviction, you would have a permanent criminal record that could limit your ability to obtain a job and affect other aspects of your life long after you complete your sentence.
You Need an Experienced DUI Attorney
You need a skilled DUI attorney who can help you build a strong defense, so the charges might be dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To learn about our experience fighting for the rights of our clients charged with a DUI and how we can assist you, start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.
Can I be arrested for reckless driving if the police didn’t see me driving?
You can be charged with reckless driving in Virginia even if the police did not see you driving. When the police are called to the scene of a car accident, they will often try to determine the cause of the crash, and in many cases, will charge the alleged at-fault driver with reckless driving. This is not the same as getting a traffic ticket. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense in Virginia, and a conviction can result in a permanent criminal record.
Common Reckless Driving Offenses
There are at least 15 separate offenses that can lead to a reckless driving criminal charge. Two are general reckless driving laws that police use to charge individual with reckless driving following an accident. If you are charged with reckless driving in this situation, it could be based on one of these laws:
- Endangerment. It is reckless driving to drive in a way that endangers a person or property. If there were serious injuries to victims of the accident or significant property damage, the police may conclude that you must have been driving recklessly.
- Lack of control. It is also reckless driving to drive with faulty brakes or when a person cannot maintain control of his vehicle. If your brakes failed or your vehicle skidded on wet pavement causing an accident, you may be charged with reckless driving.
Penalties for Reckless Driving
If you are convicted of reckless driving based on either of these grounds, you face the same penalties as if you were charged under other reckless driving laws. You could face up to jail for up to one year, a fine not to exceed $2,500, a driver’s license suspension for up to six months, and six demerit points on your driving record.
Just because you were charged with reckless driving following an accident does not mean that you were in fact driving recklessly. You may have strong defenses to the charges you face—especially given that the officer did not witness the accident. However, you will need the assistance of an experienced reckless driving attorney to prove your case.
Attorney Charles Hardenbergh is dedicated to fighting for the rights of individuals charged with reckless driving. To learn about his experience and how he will aggressively fight the charges you may face, call our Petersburg office today to schedule your free consultation.
Can I be charged with reckless driving in Virginia if I live in another state?
If you are a resident from out-of-state traveling in Virginia, it’s important to understand the state’s reckless driving laws and possible charges. There are at least 15 separate offenses for reckless driving in the state of Virginia. While some of these involve speeding over 80 miles per hour or 20 miles over the posted speed limit, you could also face these charges for more minor offenses. Some of these include failing to yield the right of way or failing to use your turn signal. Even if you’re an out-of-state driver, you can be charged with reckless driving in Virginia.
What to Know: Reckless Driving If You’re an Out-of-State Resident
Because Virginia treats reckless driving as a significant offense, you need to take the charge seriously, even if you live in another state. Here are important things that you need to know about this charge if you’re an out-of-state resident:
- It’s a misdemeanor. A reckless driving charge is not a traffic ticket for speeding or another traffic violation. It is a misdemeanor offense, and you could have a permanent criminal record if convicted. This could affect your ability to obtain a job or a loan.
- It involves harsh penalties. You could face a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine if convicted. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to six months, and you may have six points placed on your driving record—which could increase your auto insurance costs significantly.
- It involves a court appearance. Because reckless driving is not a traffic ticket, you cannot just pay a fine like with some traffic violations. In Virginia, you must attend a court hearing if you are charged with reckless driving—even when you live in another state. However, if you retain an experienced reckless driving attorney in Virginia, he may be able to attend the hearing on your behalf, so you don’t need to take time off work and pay travel expenses to come back to the state.
- It’s part of the interstate compact. Most states have entered into the Interstate Driver License Compact, agreeing to share information with other states about an individual’s driver’s license suspensions and traffic violations. These states also agree to treat the ticket conviction and penalties as if they occurred in their own state and apply the same penalties. If you are convicted of reckless driving, Virginia would send its information on your conviction to your state, where you may face the same penalties.
If you are an out-of-state resident who has been charged with reckless driving in Virginia, you need the assistance of an experienced reckless driving attorney who understands Virginia law. Van can build a strong defense and help get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our office to schedule your free initial consultation.
How can a criminal defense lawyer help me fight a reckless driving charge?
If you are charged with reckless driving, you may be tempted to plead guilty, or you may try to defend yourself at your court hearing to save money on attorney fees. However, reckless driving is a serious offense in Virginia, and not hiring an attorney is a big mistake that could have far-reaching, life-long consequences.
Why You Need an Attorney When Facing Reckless Driving Charges in Virginia
There are approximately 15 different offenses that constitute reckless driving in Virginia. For example, speeding over 80 miles per hour or driving 20 miles over the posted speed limit are just a few of the ways you could violate this law. You could also be charged with this crime for driving too fast for conditions, failing to yield the right-of-way, and failing to use your turn signal. Thus, it’s important to retain an attorney who knows how to defend against reckless driving charges. Here are some ways an attorney can help you:
- Avoid harsh penalties. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in Virginia and not a traffic ticket. If you are convicted, you could be sentenced to up to one year in jail, assessed a fine of $2,500, have your driver’s license suspended for six months, and have six points placed on your driving record. An attorney can help you avoid these harsh penalties.
- Avoid permanent criminal record. Because reckless driving is a misdemeanor, you would have a permanent criminal record if convicted. This could affect your ability to obtain employment, housing, and a security clearance.
- Provide defenses. Even if you believe you are guilty of reckless driving, you may have strong defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with less severe penalties. An experienced reckless driving attorney will be able to identify the defenses you can raise given the circumstances surrounding your arrest and help you obtain the evidence you need to prove them.
- Represent you at court. You will be at a serious disadvantage if you try to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecutor on your own and may be treated differently by the judge if you do not have an attorney represent you. In some cases, your attorney may be able to attend the court hearing on your behalf, so you do not need to take time off work to go to the hearing.
When retaining an attorney, it is important to hire one who is experienced in both entering into plea agreements and trying reckless driving cases. An attorney who handles other types of cases such as car accidents, probate matters, or divorces will not have the skill you need to help you effectively fight the charges you face.
If you’ve been charged with reckless driving in Virginia, we are here to help you aggressively fight the charges you face. To learn what you can expect in your criminal proceedings, fill out our convenient online form to schedule your free consultation.
Can I be charged with reckless driving if my brakes failed?
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are approximately 16 different offenses that are considered reckless driving. One of these is driving with faulty brakes. If you’re charged with reckless driving due to problems with your brakes, you need the help of an experienced reckless driving attorney. He may be able to raise a strong defense that results in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Virginia’s Law on Faulty Brakes and Reckless Driving
Under Virginia Code § 46.2-853, it is considered reckless driving to drive a vehicle which is not under control or has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes on a highway in Virginia. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and if convicted, you would have a permanent criminal record. Penalties include the following:
- $2,500 fine
- Jail sentence of up to one year
- Driver’s license suspension for six months
Possible Defenses for a Reckless Driving Charge Involving Faulty Brakes
You will need the help of an experienced reckless driving attorney to identify the defenses you can use against a reckless driving charge for inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes. Defenses that may help include:
- No knowledge of defect. Problems with brakes are often apparent to the driver, and a warning sign such as a squeaky or grinding noise usually gives notice of an issue. However, if you genuinely did not realize your brakes were inadequate or improperly adjusted, this may be a defense. This defense could be a strong one if you recently had maintenance done on your vehicle and no problems with the brakes were discovered. Similarly, if your vehicle recently passed a state inspection, this could substantiate your defense that you had no knowledge of your inadequate brakes.
- Parts defects. Although not a common defense, you may be able to raise the history of defective brakes in your vehicle’s make and model as an argument. In order for this to work, you would need to show that you had no prior knowledge of the defective brake parts.
- Private property. You must have been driving on a highway, which is a public road in Virginia. If you were charged while driving in a parking lot or on a private road, this could be raised as a defense that may result in the charges being dismissed.
Depending on the facts of your case, there may be additional defenses to the reckless charges you face. To learn more about how we can help you raise a strong defense, call our office to schedule your appointment today.
Is it reckless driving to pass someone at a railroad crossing in Virginia?
When people think of reckless driving, many consider this a traffic offense for excessive speeding. However, in Virginia, reckless driving includes 16 misdemeanor offenses, and passing another vehicle at a railroad crossing is one of them. If you have been charged with reckless driving for this, you should take the charges seriously and retain an experienced reckless driving attorney to help you build a strong defense.
Reckless Driving for Passing at a Railroad Crossing in VA
Virginia’s reckless driving law governing railroad crossings provides that a person is guilty of reckless driving if he overcomes or passes another vehicle in the same direction at a railroad grade crossing or at an intersection of highways. A few exceptions to this law exist if the road:
- Has two lanes of traffic going in the same direction
- Is marked as a passing zone
- Is a one-way street or highway
It is also considered reckless driving if you pass another vehicle while a pedestrian is passing or about to pass in front of either of the vehicles unless a police officer directs a driver to do so or a traffic light permits this.
Passing at a railing crossing is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face these penalties:
- A jail sentence of up to one year
- A fine of up to $2,500
- Suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months
You could also face other long-term consequences if you are convicted of this offense. You will have six demerit points placed on your driving record that will remain there for 11 years. This can cause your auto insurance rates to increase. In addition, you will have a permanent criminal record that can affect your ability to obtain a job, security clearance, and a loan.
While passing another vehicle at a railroad crossing may seem like a minor offense, this is not the case in Virginia. Let Charles Van Hardenbergh help you fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our office to schedule your appointment to learn more about your legal options.
Is passing a stopped school bus reckless driving in Virginia?
Under Virginia law, reckless driving is a much more serious offense than a traffic violation. There are approximately 16 offenses that constitute reckless driving, and passing a stopped school bus is one of them. A reckless driving conviction for this reason is a misdemeanor offense, and you will have a permanent criminal record.
The Law on Passing a Stopped School Bus
Virginia’s reckless driving statute provides that drivers must stop their vehicle when approaching from any direction a stopped school bus that is on a roadway, private road, or school driveway for the purpose of letting on or discharging students, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons. A motorist is required to remain stopped until the persons getting on or off the bus are clear of the roadway, private road, or school driveway and the bus is moving. Violation of these requirements is considered reckless driving.
Penalties If You’re Convicted of Reckless Driving for Passing a Stopped School Bus
Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. You could face the following penalties if convicted:
- Up to one year in jail
- Fine of up to $2,500
In addition to these penalties, a conviction could have long-term consequences in your life after you have successfully completed your sentence. These include:
- Criminal record. Because reckless driving is a misdemeanor, you will have a permanent criminal record if convicted of this offense that can affect your ability to obtain a job and obtain a loan.
- Demerit points. You will have six demerit points on your driving record for two years, which can result in the increase in your automobile insurance rates.
- License suspension. Your driver’s license could be suspended for up to six months.
- Security clearance. If you need a security clearance for your job, you may lose this clearance if you are convicted of reckless driving—jeopardizing your job, as well.
The Commonwealth of Virginia and some schools take the offense of passing a stopped school bus very seriously. Some school districts are installing cameras on their school buses which are activated when the school bus stops and can record a video of a passing vehicle. The video is sent to the police department, and after being reviewed, the vehicle’s owner can be sent a reckless driving citation.
Given these harsh consequences, you need to build a strong defense if you are charged with reckless driving for passing a stopped school bus. Let Charles V. Hardenberg, PC, help fight the charges you face, so you achieve the best outcome. Find out more about how we can help. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.
What if I have a child in my car when I’m arrested for a DUI?
Being charged with DUI in Virginia is always a serious matter. You could face harsh penalties that include a jail sentence, hefty fine, suspension of your driver’s license, and a permanent criminal record. However, the consequences could be even harsher if you are arrested for a DUI with a child in your vehicle.
What Is DUI Child Endangerment in Virginia?
Child endangerment is generally considered placing a child who is under 18 years old in danger of injury or death due to a willful act, omission, or refusal by a parent or other adult to provide necessary care to the child. As is true in many other states, driving under the influence of alcohol is considered child endangerment in Virginia. If you are arrested for a DUI with a child in your vehicle, you could also be charged with DUI child endangerment, which is a separate offense with its own penalties. Upon conviction, you may be sentenced to the following:
- Fine of between $500 and $1,000
- Mandatory prison sentence of five days in jail
- For a second or subsequent offense, 80 hours of community service in addition to other penalties
If you’re convicted for a DUI and DUI child endangerment, you will have a permanent criminal record. This can have long-term consequences on your life, including your ability to obtain a job, get a security clearance, and become a citizen. In addition, a conviction for DUI child endangerment may affect your custody or visitation rights.
Are you being charged with a DUI or DUI child endangerment? Given the harsh consequences that you face, you cannot afford to try to represent yourself in your criminal proceedings. You need the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney who can build a strong defense against the charges you face. Even if you believe you are guilty, you could have defenses that will result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To learn more, start an online chat to schedule a free case review.
Can I be held accountable for a reckless driving law I didn't know about?
Virginia has harsh reckless driving laws, and you can be charged with reckless driving whether or not you know about the laws. If you drive in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you are expected to know and follow its laws. This is true whether you live in Virginia or are an out-of-state resident traveling in the state. The state’s reckless driving laws can be confusing because some offenses that would be considered traffic violations in other states are considered reckless driving in Virginia.
There are approximately 16 separate offenses that constitute reckless driving in Virginia. Some of these violations include:
- Driving too fast for highway and road conditions regardless of the posted speed limit
- Driving 20 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit or over 80 miles per hour
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Failing to use proper signals
- Driving with faulty or improperly adjusted brakes
- Illegal passing such as on the crest of a hill or slope, at a railroad crossing, a stopped school bus, and when pedestrians are present
What Are the Penalties for Reckless Driving?
If you are charged with reckless driving, it is not the same as receiving a traffic infraction ticket and can mail in the fine. Even if you plead guilty, you are required to attend a court hearing to be sentenced. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and a conviction will result in a permanent criminal record. Penalties for this offense include:
- Six points on your Virginia driving record
- Fine of up to $2,500
- Jail sentence of up to one year
- Suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months
A conviction could also result in the increase of your insurance rates. Because of the harsh consequences you face, you need the assistance of an experienced reckless driving attorney. He knows the appropriate defenses to use to potentially get the charges dismissed or reduced. In addition, he may be able to attend your court hearing on your behalf without the need for you to be present.
Have you been charged with reckless driving? Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenberg is here to aggressively fight for the best outcome in your criminal case. To learn more, call our office to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
Is texting while driving considered reckless driving in Virginia?
Texting when driving is an unsafe driving practice that can result in motor vehicle accidents causing victims to suffer catastrophic injuries or death. In Virginia, texting while driving is a traffic infraction; however, reckless driving is a more serious misdemeanor offense, and a conviction can result in a permanent criminal record. If you have been charged with reckless driving for texting while driving, you may have strong defenses against the charges you face because texting while driving is not necessarily reckless driving.
Why Texting While Driving May Not Be Reckless Driving
Texting while driving and reckless driving are two separate offenses, and being convicted of either requires different types of proof. This means, you could be convicted of violating the law on texting and driving without violating the reckless driving law or vice versa.
Under Virginia law, it is unlawful for a person to drive and use a handheld personal communications device to manually enter multiple letters or text to communicate with another person or to read an email or a text. Violation of this law is a civil infraction. The penalty is a $125 fine for a first offense and $250 fine for a subsequent violation.
There are at least 14 separate offenses that are considered reckless driving in Virginia. The elements of the offense—which are very different from the texting and driving law—must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for you to be convicted of reckless driving. Here are some of the grounds for charging you with reckless driving:
- Driving over 20 miles per hour over the speed limit
- Driving over 80 miles per hour no matter what the posted speed limit is
- Driving a vehicle recklessly or in a manner that endangers another person or property
- Driving too fast for weather conditions
- Passing an emergency vehicle when it has its lights or siren on
- Failing to properly signal
- Failing to yield when required to do so
A conviction for reckless driving can result in a sentence of up to one year in jail, a fine not to exceed $2,500, and driver’s license suspension for six months.
If you have been charged with reckless driving for driving while texting or other reasons, there are strong defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To learn how we can help you avoid the harsh consequences of a reckless driving conviction, call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.