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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When can failing to signal a turn be considered reckless driving?
Under Virginia law, failing to signal a turn can result in a reckless driving charge even if you weren't breaking any other traffic laws at the time. Even though the majority of reckless driving charges involve someone who was speeding, reckless driving encompasses any behavior that poses a potential safety hazard to other motorists. If you’re charged with reckless driving, retaining experienced legal representation can help minimize the penalties.
Reckless Driving Citations for Failing to Signal a Turn
Technically, a law enforcement officer can issue a reckless driving ticket whenever you neglect to provide “adequate and timely signals of intention to turn, partly turn, slow down, or stop.” In practice, however, this type of citation is relatively rare. Drivers are most likely to be cited with reckless driving when they're speeding or breaking other traffic laws.
If your failure to signal a turn causes an accident, this increases the risk that you'll be charged with reckless driving. Virginia law requires officers to issue a citation after any accident causing injury or property damage, even when you're the only person involved.
Building a Defense
Failing to signal a turn is most often a result of distracted driving. You might be thinking about the items on your to-do list, trying to decide where to stop for lunch, tending to a child in the backseat, or wondering if you'll make it to your next appointment on time. You may have a made a very human mistake, but this doesn't mean you deserve to be charged with reckless driving. Since reckless driving is a criminal charge and not a simple traffic offense, you'll face hefty fines as well as the possibility of jail time and the stigma of a criminal record if you're convicted.
If you receive a reckless driving ticket for failing to signal a turn, Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh can help investigate every potential avenue of defense to have the charge reduced or dropped. This may include options such as community service or completing a driver improvement program. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
Will a reckless driving conviction affect my immigration case?
If you're looking to become a permanent resident of the United States, a reckless driving charge must be handled carefully. Immigration authorities have strict requirements for those who are looking to receiving a green card.
Reckless Driving and Immigration Law
The application to become a U.S. permanent resident asks if you've been "arrested, charged, indicted, convicted, fined, or imprisoned for breaking or violating any law or ordinance, excluding traffic violations." However, a reckless driving charge is considered more serious than a simple traffic violation and must be reported.
Under Virginia law, reckless driving to be either a misdemeanor or a felony that comes with hefty fines as well as jail time. As a criminal conviction, this could very well impact your pending immigration case.
Crimes such as kidnapping, prostitution, drug trafficking, and money laundering will automatically result in a green card application being denied. Lesser offenses such as a reckless driving conviction won't necessarily prevent you from getting a green card, but they can make the process more difficult.
How a conviction affects your immigration case will depend on what behavior resulted in the reckless driving charge, if anyone was injured, and whether or not you have other offenses on your record. For example, a second offense reckless driving charge while you were under the influence of illegal drugs and caused injury to others would be considered more serious than a first offense reckless driving charge related to illegal passing with no other special factors. You'll need to consult an immigration lawyer for details.
Reducing or Dropping a Reckless Driving Charge
The best way to minimize the impact of a reckless driving charge on your immigration case is to have the charge either reduced to a lesser offense or dropped altogether. An experienced reckless driving attorney can investigate options such as speedometer calibration or a medical emergency defense to lessen the penalties associated with your case. Your attorney can also advise you on how community service and/or a driver improvement clinic can be used to demonstrate remorse for your actions and encourage a judge to issue a more lenient sentence. Schedule a free, no-obligation case review with Virginia reckless driving attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh to learn more.
How can I fight a reckless driving charge related to a deer accident?
After an accident caused by a deer, you may be surprised to find yourself with a reckless driving ticket. However, you have several options available to fight the charge.
Single Vehicle Deer Accidents
Virginia generally requires law enforcement officers to ticket drivers involved in a single vehicle accident. Since there aren't many types of charges that fit this situation, drivers most often end up with a reckless driving ticket.
If you were involved in a single vehicle deer accident caused because you swerved or lost control after a deer ran into the road, you'll need an attorney who can present the facts in a favorable light. Even if there's no evidence to prove there was a deer in your path before the accident occurred, judges have discretion in deciding how to handle these types of cases. If the area is a noted spot for deer sightings and you have a safe previous driving record, there's a very good chance you'll be able to get the charge reduced or dropped. If you hit the deer, you'll be less likely to be charged with reckless driving simply due to the readily visible proof that the accident was caused by an act of nature.
Multiple Vehicle Deer Accidents
When there are two or more cars involved in the accident, you'll likely have witness testimony to verify that there was a deer in the area even if you didn't actually hit the animal. Whether or not you're convicted of reckless driving will depend on if you were obeying all other traffic laws at the time of the accident. Although you can't be held at fault for an act of nature, you can be held responsible if you were speeding, texting while driving, or otherwise acting in an unsafe manner.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
A reckless driving charge is different from a simple traffic violation. It's considered a criminal charge under Virginia law, leaving you with fines, the possibility of jail time, and the stigma of a criminal record if you're convicted. There's no reason to accept these harsh consequences as punishment for a deer accident. To learn more, call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review with Virginia reckless driving attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
Will a reckless driving charge keep me from getting into medical school?
A reckless driving charge carries a fine and possible jail time; however, a conviction could have serious consequences for your future if you're getting ready to apply to medical school.
Reporting a Reckless Driving Charge on Your Medical School Application
In many cases, a criminal conviction is required to be reported on your medical school application. Some schools only require you to report felonies, while others ask for a list of misdemeanor convictions as well. The Association of American Medical Colleges also performs national background checks for its participating schools.
Although all criminal charges aren't equal in severity, any black mark on your permanent record can cause problems if you're seeking admission to a competitive program. It's not uncommon for prestigious medical schools to have several thousand applicants for less than 200 open slots, which means admissions representatives are forced to make cuts based on seemingly minor distinctions between applicants.
Medical school admission is based on a number of factors, including your academic record, essay, MCAT scores, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and previous experience in the healthcare field such as part-time or volunteer work. If you're a top-notch candidate in every area, a charge may not be the deciding factor in whether you're offered admission. However, if your test scores are only average or your previous experience in the healthcare field is limited, a criminal conviction may very well keep you from being chosen for an open slot.
Don't Let One Mistake Ruin Your Future
Everyone makes mistakes, but you don't need to let one bad decision sabotage your dream of becoming a doctor. After you've been charged with reckless driving, you'll want to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney who can investigate strategies to reduce or drop the charge. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review with Virginia reckless driving attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
Can a police officer search my car after pulling me over?
If you've been pulled over by a police officer, it's important to recognize that there are specific rules regarding when law enforcement can search your vehicle.
The Fourth Amendment and Vehicle Searches
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable police searches, but it doesn't specifically state what type of search is against the law. However, searches conducted without a warrant fall into one of four general categories:
- Consent to search. If you allow the officer to search your vehicle, no warrant is needed. Consent must be given voluntarily and without coercion to be valid. If the officer coerces you into granting permission to search the vehicle, any resulting evidence can't be admitted in court.
- Searches conducted based on probable cause. If an officer has probable cause to believe there is incriminating evidence in your vehicle, the search is allowed. For example, smelling the odor of marijuana would classify as probable cause to search for drugs and related paraphernalia.
- Searches considered incident to arrest. If you're being arrested, the arresting officer can search your vehicle to look for weapons if you're within reaching distance of the vehicle at the time of the arrest. This is considered a valid safety precaution.
- Inventory search of an impounded vehicle. If your vehicle has been impounded, officers are allowed to search as part of an inventory of the contents. The main reason for this type of search is to make sure all personal items are returned to you after the vehicle is released, but any incriminating evidence found as a result can be used against you.
Challenging the Validity of the Search
When you are stopped by a police officer, it's best to remain calm and avoid physically attempting to interfere with the officer's work. If you believe a search of your vehicle is being conducted illegally, you should retain an attorney who can challenge the validity of the evidence when your case goes to court.
Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh has extensive experience helping drivers handle both reckless driving and DUI cases. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Can I appeal my reckless driving conviction?
Reckless driving in Virginia carries stiff penalties, including substantial fines and the possibility of jail time. However, you can appeal the outcome of your case and receive a new trial with a different judge.
The Virginia Appeals Process
If you want to appeal your reckless driving conviction, you must file the appeal within 10 days. Initiating the process is quite simple. After you inform the General District Court clerk that you want to appeal, he will have you complete and sign a Notice of Appeal form.
The Notice of Appeal form will list a date you must appear in Circuit Court to either have a second trial or pick a new trial date. It's vital that you make the scheduled court appearance, since failing to appear is a misdemeanor that could result in additional jail time on top of your reckless driving conviction.
The trial itself will be conducted in the same general fashion as your first trial. However, you will be allowed to request a jury trial with the understanding that you'll pay the court costs for this option if you're convicted.
Appealing After a Guilty Plea
A driver who has already pleaded guilty to reckless driving is generally not able to appeal if he later decides that the plea was not in his best interests. Since reckless driving is considered a criminal offense instead of a traffic violation, it's never advisable to simply plead guilty to the charge.
Hiring Legal Representation
If you didn't hire an attorney for your first reckless driving trial, retaining legal representation for your appeal may result in a more favorable outcome for your case. An attorney familiar with Virginia’s reckless driving laws can suggest defenses that may work for your circumstances such as obtaining a speedometer calibration, presenting evidence of a medical emergency, or completing community service to demonstrate remorse for your actions.
Attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is committed to helping Virginia drivers build a solid defense for their reckless driving cases. Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Will my reckless driving charge be dismissed if the arresting officer doesn’t show up for court?
There are several interesting myths about how to beat a Virginia reckless driving charge. One is that your case will automatically be dismissed if the arresting officer fails to show up for your court date. Although this would certainly be convenient for you, it's simply not true.
Virginia's Process for Setting Court Dates
Typically, Virginia courts will assign each officer one court day per month. All of his cases will be handled on the same day, which makes it easier for officers to avoid missing appointments. However, officers may still be occasionally unavailable for court appearances due to illness, injury, or family emergencies. When an officer can't make the court date, he will usually request that the case be continued until the next month. This ensures that the officer can present all of the necessary evidence.
If the officer doesn't show up for court, doesn't have a valid excuse for the absence, and ignores attempts to schedule a new court date, your case may be dismissed. However, this almost never happens. Law enforcement officers know that appearing in court is not optional, and they can be disciplined by their employer if they fail to perform this responsibility.
A Better Way to Handle Your Reckless Driving Case
It’s not prudent to simply hope that the arresting officer will forget your court date. Doing so is likely to leave you with substantial fines, the possibility of jail time, sky high insurance rates, and a criminal record. The best way to handle the situation is to work with a skilled attorney to build a solid defense.
To reduce or drop a reckless driving change, you have several different options. For example:
- Attend a driver improvement clinic
- Complete community service
- Have your speedometer calibrated
- Present mitigating factors such as a medical emergency or roads that weren't clearly marked with speed limit signs
Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is committed to helping Virginia drivers handle both misdemeanor and felony reckless driving charges. Schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation to discuss the best way to proceed with your case.
Can I use a medical emergency defense in my reckless driving case?
The medical emergency defense isn't often used, but it can be an option if your behavior was the result of a potentially life-threatening medical condition. If you or a passenger in your car suffered an acute injury or an immediate health risk, you may be able to use this as a defense for driving recklessly.
Defining a Medical Emergency
It's important to keep in mind that a medical emergency defense will only work if your condition is beyond your control and/or requires immediate medical care. The following are examples of a genuine medical emergency that could get your reckless driving charge reduced or dropped:
- Heart attack
- Blacking out
The following are not examples of a genuine medical emergency:
- You were running late for a routine doctor's appointment.
- You wanted to get to the hospital to see a friend or family member who had been admitted.
- You needed to find a restroom.
- You feel asleep at the wheel after working a double shift.
- You were distracted because you were sneezing due to a bad allergy attack or coughing because of a cold.
Going Against Doctor's Orders
If you want to use a medical emergency defense for a reckless driving charge, you'll need to submit proof of your health condition. If you previously knew of your condition and your doctor advised you not to drive, this will disqualify you from using the medical emergency defense.
If your reckless driving charge is the result of your efforts to transport a family member or friend to the hospital, your eligibility for the medical emergency defense will depend on the seriousness of his condition, whether other transportation alternatives were available, and if anyone was hurt as the result of your conduct.
Finding Legal Representation
Under Virginia law, reckless driving carries substantial fines, as well as the possibility of jail time and the stigma associated with a criminal record. Anyone facing a reckless driving charge is strongly advised to seek legal representation.
Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh has extensive experience helping clients find the best way to handle a reckless driving ticket. If you believe your case might qualify for a medical emergency defense, please call to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
If I Hire an Attorney, Do I Have to Appear in Court for a Reckless Driving Charge in Virginia?
When you receive a Virginia reckless driving ticket, your signature is typically taken as a promise to appear in court. However, you may be able to avoid a court appearance by hiring an attorney to appear on your behalf.
Avoiding a Court Appearance
When you hire an attorney to handle your reckless driving charge, you can be confident that your case will be presented in a way that may get the charges dropped or reduced. Another important benefit of retaining legal representation is that you typically won't need to show up in court. Your attorney can simply appear on your behalf.
While this option is most beneficial for out-of-state residents, it's also helpful for people who can't easily take time off work for a court appointment or stay-at-home parents who don't have access to suitable childcare.
Exceptions to the Rule
Although an attorney can typically appear on your behalf to handle a reckless driving ticket, there are some circumstances that still require you make a court appearance. For example, if you were arrested for traveling over 100 miles per hour or have previous reckless driving convictions, you'll need to appear before the judge in person regardless of whether you have an attorney.
If you're required to appear in court, your attorney will go over the details of your case with you beforehand and let you know what to expect from the process. If you are disabled or will require an interpreter, make sure your attorney knows this ahead of time, so the necessary accommodations can be made for your appearance.
Special Rules for Underage Drivers
Juvenile drivers charged with reckless driving who are required to make a court appearance must appear with a parent or guardian. Although the court appearance for an adult driver is handled in the General District Court, underage drivers will typically have their cases handled by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
An Attorney Can Represent You In Virginia Court
If you've been charged with reckless driving, Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh can help protect your rights. Please call to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Are reckless driving penalties different for teen drivers?
It’s not uncommon for teen drivers to feel invincible behind the wheel of a car. But youth, new found independence, and inexperience can be a recipe for risky behavior and accidents. Virginia's reckless driving laws don't look kindly on teens who take chances behind the wheel.
Reckless Driving Penalties for Teen Drivers
Although the penalties for reckless driving are technically the same regardless of age, many judges are less inclined to offer leniency or reduced sentences for teen drivers. Their belief is that harsh punishment is necessary to deter future bad behavior.
Penalties for reckless driving include:
- License suspension for six months
- Fine of up to $2,500
- Six demerit points on your driving record
- Up to 12 months in jail
Underage drivers are automatically required to complete a driver improvement clinic whenever they receive demerit points on their driving record. Drivers age 17 and under are tried in the Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts, unless the offense resulted in death or serious bodily harm.
Other Consequences for Teen Drivers
In addition to the court system’s penalties, you’ll face a number of other consequences if you’re convicted of reckless driving.
- As a teen driver, you're already paying higher insurance rates than older drivers. However, a reckless driving conviction adds points to your record that will make your rates spike even higher.
- A reckless driving conviction leaves you with a criminal record that can affect your ability to seek employment in law enforcement, government, and any field that requires a background check.
- If you're hoping to enlist in the military, a reckless driving conviction is considered a moral offense. Depending upon whether it's a misdemeanor or felony charge, you may be barred from enlisting.
- Selective colleges may enquire about the charge if they conduct background checks or disqualify anyone who has been subject to juvenile delinquency proceedings.
- When it's time to rent an apartment, your conviction will show up on your background check. A reckless driving charge won't necessarily prevent you from getting your own place, but it may make it more difficult.
Protecting Your Rights
If your teen has been charged with reckless driving, enlisting qualified legal representation is the best way to prevent having one mistake sabotage his entire future. Please contact Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.