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 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.
Is there a difference between a DUI and a DWI in Virginia?
A DUI and a DWI are both serious offenses in Virginia, but it can be confusing to try to understand the differences between them. If you have been arrested for drunk driving, it is important to understand which offense you have been charged with and what it really means.
What Are the Differences Between a DUI and a DWI in Virginia?
People often use DUI and DWI interchangeably when discussing drunk driving. Practically speaking, these offenses are the same in terms of the punishment. However, they are defined differently, and what the prosecutor must prove to establish your guilt is different. Under Virginia law, they mean the following:
- DWI. DWI refers to driving while intoxicated. You can be charged with this if you drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, whether or not you appear intoxicated.
- DUI. This means driving under the influence of alcohol, and you can be charged with this offense no matter what your BAC content is if your alcohol consumption impairs your ability to drive.
What Are the Penalties for a DWI and a DUI in Virginia?
In some states, a DUI is a less serious offense than a DWI, but this is not the case in Virginia. These offenses are equally serious, and you face the same penalties. You could face these sentences for a first DWI or DUI offense:
- Jail sentence of up to 12 months, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five days if your BAC was at least 0.15 percent and 10 days if your BAC was .20 or higher
- Fine of between $250 and $2,500
- Driver’s license suspension for up to one year
If you were charged with a DUI or a DWI in Virginia, let our experienced criminal defense attorneys help you fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Can I have my reckless driving record expunged?
In Virginia, being charged with reckless driving is not the same as getting a ticket for failing to yield or another minor traffic violation. You are being charged with a misdemeanor offense that carries serious penalties that include a jail sentence, fines, and a possible license suspension. A charge and conviction can have long-term consequences because you will have a permanent criminal record with limited options to have your criminal record expunged.
When Are You Entitled to an Expungement in Virginia?
Expungement is the process of removing all record of a person’s arrest and conviction from his criminal record. If a criminal record is expunged, all record of the arrest and conviction are removed from the Virginia Criminal Information Network and the National Crime Information Network. This prevents any public access to a person’s criminal record by employers, educational institutions, and state agencies and allows the person to treat the arrest as if it never occurred.
However, your right to an expungement in Virginia is very limited. You are only entitled to have your record expunged in these circumstances:
- Acquittal. You were acquitted of the reckless driving charge either by a jury or judge.
- Nolle prosequi. This is a Latin term that refers to a decision by the prosecutor to not prosecute the case where he asks the judge to dismiss the case against you.
- No plea. If you never entered a plea before the charges were dismissed, you may be entitled to an expungement.
Because of the limitations for when a reckless driving conviction can be expunged, you will still have a criminal record in these situations:
- You pled guilty to or were convicted of reckless driving.
- You entered a plea of nolo contender, which means that you do not admit or deny the charges that you face.
- You entered an Alfred plea, where you asserted your innocence but admitted that the prosecutor probably had sufficient evidence to convict you.
- There was sufficient evidence to convict you, even if the judge dismissed the case.
- Your sentence was deferred or dismissed after the successful completion of your sentence.
Because your right to obtain an expungement is very limited, it is critical that you retain an experienced reckless driving attorney to build a strong defense, so the charges against you are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To learn about our extensive experience helping clients facing reckless driving charges and how we can assist you, call our office today to schedule your free case evaluation.
Will a reckless driving conviction impact my government security clearance?
Many people charged with reckless driving are surprised to learn that this is a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense. As such, the ticket has the potential to affect your government security clearance in addition to leaving you with hefty fines and the possibility of jail time.
Receiving a Security Clearance
A security clearance is often a prerequisite for military service, employment in the government, or a position as a government contractor. There are different levels of security clearances that affect what level of information you have access to.
Standards for security clearances vary, but in general, a single conviction won't affect your ability to get a clearance. However, if you have other misdemeanor offenses or red flags in your record, you may encounter problems. Security clearances are awarded based on confidence in your overall character, but multiple convictions can cast doubt on your judgement.
Maintaining a Security Clearance
If you currently have a security clearance, you should consult your employee handbook to learn about specific reporting requirements. Some companies may only require that felony convictions be reported, which means you don't need to report a misdemeanor reckless driving conviction. Others will require that all offenses, even if you've only been charged and not convicted, be reported.
Failing to abide by your employer's reporting requirements may result in disciplinary action or termination of your employment. Even though you might be reluctant to discuss pending legal action with your supervisor or company HR representative, it’s important that you do so.
Charged With Reckless Driving? Your Security Clearance Could Be At Risk
Since a reckless driving conviction can be considered a potential black mark on your application for a security clearance, it’s in your best interests to obtain skilled legal representation to help you build an aggressive defense against the charge. Virginia reckless driving attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh can help you use tactics such as obtaining a speedometer calibration or providing proof of radar calibration issues to have the charge dropped or reduced to a lesser offense. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Should I appeal my DUI conviction?
If you've been convicted of a DUI in Virginia, it's often in your best interests to file an appeal. A DUI is normally tried in the General District Court of the area where the crime was committed, but an appeal is handled by the Circuit Court of Virginia.
Reasons to Ask for an Appeal
You can appeal whenever you're unhappy with the result of your DUI case, even if you originally pled guilty in General District Court. When your appeal is processed, the prosecutor won't be allowed to mention your guilty plea.
Common reasons people may appeal include:
- Missing evidence
- New witness testimony
- Change in legal strategy
- No legal representation at original trial
How Do I Ask for an Appeal?
The process of filing an appeal is quite simple, but you must appeal within 10 calendar days of your conviction. If you wish to appeal the outcome of your case, all you need to do is file a Notice of Appeal in the General District Court clerk’s office. The clerk will complete the form on your behalf, so only your signature is necessary.
Do I Still Need to Pay My Fines If I Appeal?
If you're appealing your case, this provides a temporary stay of judgements against you. This means, you don't have to pay your fines, serve jail time, or surrender driving privileges until the appeal is complete. If you later withdraw your appeal, however, the original sentence will stand.
Can I Get a Different Attorney for My Appeal?
It is your right to change legal representation at any time, so you can seek a different DUI attorney to handle your appeal if you believe your case wasn't presented appropriately the first time. You can also obtain representation for an appeal if you didn't have a lawyer during your original trial.
Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is dedicated to providing aggressive representation for clients, using a variety of techniques to reduce or drop a DUI charge. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Are online BAC charts accurate?
It may seem that consulting an online blood alcohol content (BAC) chart would be a good way to help you drink responsibly, but these charts aren't always accurate. Online BAC charts are intended to estimate your level of impairment. They are not an indicator that you are always safe to drive. Some factors that can influence the accuracy of these charts include:
- Rate of alcohol consumption. Sipping a drink minimizes the effects of alcohol, while rapidly gulping down drinks increases intoxication because the liver can't keep up. BAC charts are calculated based on a standard rate of one drink per hour.
- Serving size. BAC charts assume that one beer is 12 oz. with 4.5% alcohol content, one glass of wine is 4 oz. with 15% alcohol content, and one shot of hard liquor is 1.5 oz. with 40% alcohol content. If you're not paying close attention to these serving sizes, you can seriously underestimate your level of impairment.
- Past drinking habits. Someone who regularly drinks alcohol will likely have a higher tolerance than someone who seldom or never drinks.
- Genetics. Some people have a low genetic tolerance to alcohol due to a lack of enzymes necessary to break down a drink. Having a condition that gives you a higher or lower than average metabolism can also affect the accuracy of an online BAC chart.
- Time of last meal. If you haven't eaten in quite some time, you'll be impaired much more quickly than someone who recently had a big meal.
Accuracy of Sobriety Tests
While online BAC charts are not 100% accurate, it's also worth pointing out that the sobriety tests a law enforcement officer uses during a DUI stop are not infallible either. Having low blood sugar, taking certain prescription medications, or recently suffering from an inner ear infection are just a few examples of special circumstances that can lead to inaccurate test results.
Protecting Your RightsIf you've been charged with a DUI, it's essential that you seek the assistance of a qualified attorney to prepare an aggressive defense. Call Charles V. Hardenbergh today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Can I drive to work after a DUI conviction in Virginia?
If you need to drive to get to work, losing your license due to a DUI conviction can present a major challenge. However, it is sometimes possible to be granted restricted driving privileges by the court.
Receiving Restricted Driving Privileges Following a DUI
If you’ve received your first DUI conviction, the court has the authority to automatically grant you restricted driving privileges. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll receive a restricted license immediately, however. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you might be required to complete a substance abuse evaluation or treatment program first.
If you've had a prior DUI conviction in the last 10 years, the court does not have the authority to grant restricted driving privileges immediately. You will have to wait between four months and three years to receive a restricted license, depending on how many times you've had prior convictions and how long ago they occurred.
Regardless of how many prior offenses you've had, you'll need to get an ignition interlock device installed before you will be granted restricted driving privileges.
How a Restricted License Works
A restricted driver's license allows you to drive only for the specified purposes that are approved by the court. Most people use a restricted license for transportation to and from work, but attending classes, medical appointments, worship services, and child visitation are some other examples of driving purposes the court may approve.
Your restricted license is typically printed on a green piece of paper. It has your specific restrictions, an expiration date, and your signature. You must keep the license with you at all times.
You are only allowed to drive for the purposes listed on your restricted license. If you deviate from the approved route and/or driving times, your vehicle can be impounded, and you can be charged with driving on a suspended license.
The Value of Legal Representation
An experienced DUI attorney can help you build an aggressive defense to avoid the negative consequences associated with a conviction. However, if you are convicted of a DUI, your attorney can assist you with the process of obtaining a restricted license. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.