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 get my charge dismissed by attending a Virginia Driver Improvement Clinic?
If you are charged with reckless driving or another traffic offense, you may be able to reduce the penalties associated with the charge by taking a court-approved defensive driving class. However, the success of this tactic depends on the judge. Some place no value in Virginia’s driver improvement clinics. Others have very specific requirements about what type of clinic can result in a reduction.
Virginia's Driver Improvement Clinics
If you are required by the court to complete a driver improvement course, you will have 90 days to pass the final exam. No extensions are allowed unless you are attending college outside of Virginia or are a member of the military/military dependent and stationed outside the state. Here are some other important facts about driver improvement classes:
- There are driver improvement clinics located throughout the state, and you can search for a location near you on the Virginia DMV website. Online options are also available. These courses provide the bulk of instruction from the comfort of your own home, but you'll need to visit a testing site to complete the final exam. No books or notes are allowed during the final exam, and you'll be required to show proof of identity before you begin.
- The cost of a driver improvement clinic varies according to the provider, but Virginia caps the fee for court-approved defensive driving school at no more than $100.
- Drivers under age 20 or those who committed their offense while under age 20 can't use an online course to satisfy a DMV or court requirement. They are limited to using driver improvement clinics with in-person classroom instruction.
Other Benefits of Defensive Driving School
Even if taking a defensive driving class won't get your charge reduced, completing this course may still be beneficial. These courses cover various defensive driving techniques that can keep you safe on the road. You can also earn safe driving points on your driving record and potentially receive certain auto insurance discounts.
Seeking Legal Assistance Following a Reckless Driving Charge
To learn more about your options following a reckless driving charge, contact Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh to schedule a free consultation.
Can a Virginia court suspend my out-of-state license?
If you're an out-of-state resident charged with a DUI or reckless driving in Virginia, don't assume that the court has no authority to suspend your license. Virginia judges can suspend your privilege to drive in Virginia, even to get home from court. This can result in a reciprocal suspension from your home state.
About the Driver License Compact
License suspension for out-of-state residents convicted of a DUI or reckless driving is the result of the Driver License Compact. This is an interstate agreement to exchange information concerning license suspensions and traffic violations. As a result of the agreement, your home state treats out-of-state offenses as if they were committed in your home state. For minor offenses, this can mean points assessed on your driving record. For serious charges such as drunk driving, this can involve fines, license suspension, and jail time.
The goal of the Driver License Compact is to create a system with "one driver, one license, one record." Previously, drivers convicted of serious offenses resulting in suspension would simply apply for a license in another state.
The Driver License compact includes every state in the United States but the following:
If you have a license in one of the five states that don't abide by the Driver License Compact, don't assume this means you're off the hook. Many of these states share driver information through other means. For example, Massachusetts shares information on license suspensions through the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Consequences for Out-of-State Residents
Even if the Virginia Court does not suspend your driving privileges, some states impose automatic suspension for certain types of serious charges. This is allowed under the terms of the Driver License Compact, since out-of-state residents are to be treated as if the offense occurred in their state of residence.
Representing yourself in court is never a good idea, and if you’re an out-state-resident, it’s extremely risky. To protect yourself, it's vital that you seek representation from an attorney who is familiar with this subset of the law.You can] use our reckless driving sentence estimator to see the results we've achieved for other drivers here. Contact attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh to learn more by calling 804-835-5127 or filling out a contact form here.
Is there any way to make jail time more convenient?
If you're charged with reckless driving, it's important to be prepared for any possible outcome. This includes jail time. If your sentence requires time spent in jail, your attorney may be able to make that time a little more manageable. It’s important to know some options available to help with your sentence.
What Is a Suspended Sentence?
In the best-case scenario, any incarceration is suspended or credited as time served. If you successfully complete all of the requirements the Court asks, you won't need to serve the suspended portion of the sentence. However, if you fail to follow instructions, the Court can require you to complete the original sentence in full.
Can I Schedule Jail Time?
If jail is ordered, judges often ask the sheriff to take defendants into custody on their trial date. This default option can cause the unprepared defendant to panic, but it's important to keep in mind you do have options even if your case gets this far.
Delayed reporting is the most common method of handling jail time. This means you request time to return home and get your affairs in order before being required to turn yourself into the authorities within one to two weeks. When you have a skilled attorney who is familiar with the local court system, it's often possible to have your sentence served at a time that best fits your work schedule or other important commitments.
Another option is to have your attorney initiate an appeal bond to delay your sentence. This will essentially put your case on pause until your appeal is processed, giving you a month or two to get your affairs in order.
How Can an Attorney Help?
A reckless driving by speed charge can result in jail time, as well as a criminal record and stiff financial penalties. Hiring a skilled attorney to represent your interests is the best way to minimize the impact of one wrong decision on your future.
Virginia defense attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh offers aggressive, experienced representation for your reckless driving case. You can also use our reckless driving sentence estimator to see the results we've achieved for other drivers here. Call (804) 835-5127, or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation.
Should I get my speedometer calibrated?
It may be hard to believe, but your car's speedometer isn't always accurate. If you've been charged with reckless driving by speed, a speedometer calibration can be used as evidence to help you avoid jail time, licenses suspension, and other penalties.
Causes of Speedometer Discrepancies
Law enforcement officers won't tell you this, but most speedometers come direct from the
factory with a variance of one to three miles per hour. Over time, this variance increases due to general wear and tear. Problems with your car's tires or transmission can also create speedometer discrepancies that make it difficult to determine how fast you’re driving.
Using a Speedometer Calibration to Determine Accuracy
A speedometer calibration certificate can be used as evidence in your case, as long as the certificate comes from an in-state shop. Many calibrations from out of state are inadmissible because they don’t meet Virginia’s authentication requirements.
However, speedometer calibrations carry one significant problem: not all calibrations produce the same result. An unskilled technician can negatively affect test results, as can improper equipment used to perform the test.
For accurate results, a dynamometer should be used to test your speedometer. Your car is placed on the machine with its wheels resting on the dynamometer cylinders. As the wheels turn, the machine indicates how fast your car would be traveling on the road. If there's a discrepancy between the dynamometer reading and your car's speedometer, this can be used to reduce or drop your charge.
Handling a Certificate That’s Not in Your Favor
Some calibrations actually hurt your case. However, if you receive a calibration certificate that indicates you were actually traveling faster than what the officer who ticketed you listed, you don't need to provide this document to the court. If the prosecution doesn't request it, the calibration certificate belongs to you alone.
Building Your Case
Don't let one mistake ruin your future. Attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh has dedicated his career to helping Virginia residents handle their reckless driving cases. Call (804) 835-5127, or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation.
What if I just pay my fine?
While this may seem like the easy way out, simply paying your fine and hoping for the best isn't the smart way to approach your ticket for reckless driving by speed. When you pay your fine with no objections, you're automatically admitting guilt. Don't forget that 100 percent of the people who plead guilty and pay the fine are convicted.
Having a conviction for reckless driving by speed is a serious matter. In most cases, a conviction stays on your record for 11 years. Your conviction can also result in massive insurance increases and license suspension. If your job requires a valid driver's license, this means you might even find yourself unemployed.
Protect Yourself by Appearing in Court
It might seem like fighting the charge is a waste of time and effort, but those who take the time to appear in court to contest a reckless driving ticket are often able to get it dropped. While you can't claim ignorance of the law or argue that your conduct didn't hurt anyone, there are strategies you can use. You may cite an error in the officer's approach or argue that the officer confused your vehicle with another similar looking car in the heavy traffic. Both are plausible defenses. Remember that you're innocent until proven guilty, so it's in your best interests to make the court work to prove its case.
Don't Let Virginia Balance Its Budget Using Your Bank Account
Fines from reckless driving by speed tickets are a highly profitable revenue stream for Virginia's courts. The state is one of the most expensive in the nation in which to receive a ticket. Don't volunteer your own funds to help balance the state's budget. Retaining a skilled attorney to advocate for your interests can result in your reckless driving charge being dropped or overturned.
Attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is committed to helping Virginia residents avoid the hefty fines and negatives consequences of a reckless driving ticket. Call (804) 835-5127, or complete our online contact form to learn more.
If I’m charged with a misdemeanor drug offense, what should I expect for sentencing?
It's never good to be arrested on drug charges, but some charges are definitely worse than others. Depending on the type of drug you are caught with and whether you were simply in possession or in possession with the intent to sell or otherwise distribute the drug, you could face anything from a fine to life in prison. That is why it is important to understand the law in Virginia.
Misdemeanor Drug Offenses
Controlled substances are categorized by their potential for abuse into "Schedules" from I to VI, with Schedule I drugs including substances with no medical use and a high potential for abuse such as heroin and LSD. In general, possession of a small amount of a controlled substance with a low potential for abuse will result in a misdemeanor charge. Possession, sale, or manufacture of Schedule I and II controlled substances will result in felony charges. The following is a simple guide, based on the Code of Virginia, to misdemeanor charges and possible penalties:
- Possession of a Schedule III controlled substance (e.g., codeine, anabolic steroids): Up to 12 months in jail, up to $2500 fine
- Possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance (e.g., Xanax, Valium): Up to six months in jail, up to $1000 fine
- Possession of a Schedule V controlled substance (e.g., cough medicine with codeine): Up to $500 fine
- Possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance (e.g., inhalants): Up to $250 fine
- Possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance with the intent to distribute: Up to 12 months in jail, up to $2500 fine
- Possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana with the intent to distribute: Up to 12 months in jail, up to $2500 fine
Keep in mind that even a misdemeanor drug conviction is a criminal conviction on your record and can have an effect on your ability to get or keep a job. A misdemeanor charge should not be taken lightly.
Decreasing Your Fine and Improving Your Jail Time Options
If you are charged with a drug-related crime, the best way to improve your odds and avoid a conviction is with the help of an experienced drug law defense attorney. A reliable lawyer can not only help build a strong defense, but he can also help reduce fines and decrease penalties such as jail time.
For more information on drug offenses and your options for a defense, like us on Facebook or contact us directly at (804) 835-5127 to set up an appointment.
If I’m charged with a crime, what are my plea options for defense?
During the criminal process, once you have been accused and charged with a crime but before the actual trial proceedings, you have the option of pleading guilty or not guilty at your arraignment. This plea is extremely important and will influence the rest of the trial—as well as your future. Therefore, it is extremely important that you’re aware of your plea options.
A good defense attorney will always advise that you initially plead not guilty (even if you did commit the crime), as it opens up possibilities for your defense and allows for wiggle room when determining sentencing or acquittals. Otherwise, if you plead guilty from the start, the judge has no option but to sentence you right then and there, without leniency.
However, even though your initial plea should be not guilty, there are several different plea variations that can be used as a defense throughout your trial.
The Right Plea Can Protect Your Future
During the criminal process, you have an option to change your plea depending on how your case is progressing, the evidence presented, and the advice of your lawyer. Depending on the circumstances of your case, any one of these pleas can result in an acquittal or keep you from serving “hard-time” and penalties.
These plea options are as follows:
Non-guilty pleas: completely innocent of the crime
- Innocent until proven guilty. Since the law states that you’re innocent until proven guilty, you can simply plead innocent and hope that the prosecutor is unable to convince the judge or jury that you’re guilty
- Innocent proven by alibi. Pleading innocent on the grounds that you have a reliable alibi, proving that you could not have committed the crime
- Innocent based on reasonable doubt. If you believe that the prosecutor doesn’t have enough reliable evidence, or that your defense attorney can prove doubt in the prosecutor’s case, you should plead not guilty. In order for a conviction to be successful, the prosecutor must prove beyond a doubt that no one but you could have committed the crime. If your defense attorney can show the prosecution cannot meet its burden of proof, you should be found innocent.
Non-Guilty Guilty Pleas: you committed an illegal act but shouldn’t be held liable, accountable, or responsible
- Self-defense. This strategy involves confessing that you committed the crime as a result of protecting yourself. Although this defense can be powerful, it requires you to establish that you were the victim in the situation, not the aggressor.
- Insanity. You claim that although you committed the crime, due to mental instability you didn’t know what you were doing at the time. Since most crimes require a notion of intent, the insanity defense relies on the fact that you didn’t understand what you were doing and therefore couldn’t have had the necessary intent to cause harm
- Entrapment. You committed the crime because a government official induced, forced, or coerced you into doing so. This defense won't work if the judge or jury believes you were predisposed or willing to commit the crime on your own.
- Pleading guilty as a result of a plea bargain. The prosecutor may provide you with an incentive if you agree to plead guilty. These offers may include such things as a reduced sentence, probation rather than confinement, or an option for lower-security imprisonment.
- Cooperative guilty plea. The prosecutor may allow you to plead guilty to lesser charges if you provide information or evidence about other crimes or people. If your information leads to an arrest or another crime being solved, the prosecutor may accept a guilty plea for a lesser charge.
- Pleading guilty for damages but not for crime. Here, you accept liability but refute the criminal charges.
Defenending Against Criminal Charges in Virginia
What are some things that can affect sobriety test results and lead to a false DUI conviction?
When a police officer suspects that you’re driving drunk, his first response will be to pull you over and test your abilities to focus. If you wind up failing his tests, you’ll be accused of driving under the influence (DUI), which can be considered either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. Even a first-time DUI accusation can result in extreme consequences and penalties if you’re convicted.
Unfortunately, the field sobriety tests (FST) that law enforcement officials use to determine intoxication are not reliable. The basic premise of each test is to see whether alcohol has affected your focus, balance, and attention. However, these tests are known to give false positive results, depending on certain factors.
This means that your future could be jeopardized even if you’re completely innocent, as a result of simple misunderstandings, miscommunications, or factors beyond your control.
Innocent Failures: Factors That Can Contribute to a Failed Sobriety Test
It’s important to know that you have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety test. However, people who refuse are usually arrested and taken to the nearest police station, hospital, or state police office where a breath or blood test can be performed.
When you agree to take a field sobriety test, you’ll be subjected to one or more of six exercises. These exercises will test your balance, your focus, your ability to pay attention, and the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. However, any number of things besides alcohol can affect the results. For example, if you have an inner ear infection, your balance may be unreliable.
Unfortunately, many police officers will not take such factors into consideration when charging you. This means that even though you may not have had anything to drink, a police report illustrating the failed test could wind up convicting you of a DUI offense.
Other factors that could affect FST results include:
- Footwear. Women wearing high heels may have a more difficult time walking and balancing.
- Pavement conditions.
- Weather conditions. Slippery sidewalks, rain, or low temperatures can affect concentration and stability.
- Natural instability or physical injury. A bad hip or naturally poor balance can result in a failed test.
- Prescription medications. Some medications can cause your eyes to tremble or cause balance difficulties.
- Low blood sugar
- Poor instructions or miscommunication. If the officer didn’t adequately explain what you were supposed to do, you may not complete the test successfully.
- Dentures. Artificial teeth can interfere with a breathalyzer chemical test.
- Asthma. Both asthma and the use of a medical inhaler can potentially affect the breathalyzer reading.
The Test Was Bad. What Happens Next?
If you believe that you failed a field sobriety test due to one or more of these factors, a Virginia DUI attorney may be able to help clear up the situation and keep you from a criminal conviction. For more information on how to fight charges and avoid legal consequences, contact us today at (804) 835-5127 for a free consultation.
What is considered reckless driving in Virginia?
The Commonwealth of Virginia is very clear about what it considers to be reckless driving, and it takes the charge very seriously. As reckless driving is a criminal offense in Virginia, you could end up with a misdemeanor or even a felony conviction on your record if you aren't aware of the laws and don't take the charges seriously.
Reckless Driving Violations
According to the Virgnia Department of Motor Vehicles, the following violations will result in a reckless driving charge in Virginia:
- Speeding in excess of 80 mph
- Speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit
- Passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle
- Passing a school bus
- Passing on the crest of a hill
- Passing at a railroad crossing
- Passing two vehicles abreast
- Driving two vehicles abreast
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Failing to give a proper signal
- Faulty brakes/improper control
- Reckless driving on parking lots, etc.
- Reckless driving with an obstructed view
If charged and convicted of reckless driving in Virginia under these regulations, you could face the following consequences:
- Six demerit points on your license. Demerit points will stay on your license for at least two years and will affect insurance rates and consequences of additional traffic tickets.
- A criminal record. If you’re convicted, the misdemeanor criminal charge will remain on your record. Having such a conviction can cause difficulty when applying for jobs, loans, etc. and can permanently mar your reputation.
- Loss of job or security clearance. Since the conviction will cause you to have a criminal record, this could affect your security clearance and job security.
- Increased insurance rates. Insurance companies commonly raise rates for people viewed as greater risks, including those convicted of reckless driving offenses.
- License suspension. Conviction of reckless driving in Virginia could result in suspension of your license, making it difficult to get to work.
- Jail time. While unusual, a judge could order jail time if you are driving in excess of 90 mph.
For more information on how to fight charges and avoid legal consequences, contact us today at (804) 835-5127, or come see us at our Lexington or Petersburg offices. We’ll be happy to discuss your case and provide you with the quality advice and guidance you need. Contact us today!
What happens if I try to represent myself in court?
Representing yourself in court is a serious gamble. You may have a good outcome, but without legal counsel, it may mean that you go to jail. Some courts will not even grant the accused an appeal bond. That would mean going from the courthouse directly to the jail and staying there until or unless the sentence is overturned on appeal.
Courtroom TV dramas make beating a criminal charge look easy, but legal proceedings can be very complex. Attorneys know how to obtain copies of the police report and cite applicable case law. They know the subtle details vital to establishing guilt—details that are easy to overlook if you're not familiar with the law. Additionally, attorneys understand what is and isn't admissible as evidence.
Taking your chances with self-representation on charges of drug possession, assault and battery, or breaking and entering is never a good idea, but even someone charged with reckless driving needs solid, professional legal advice. Virginia is tough on crime—especially on those accused of reckless driving by speed. If you try to defend yourself with weak arguments such as you were trying to keep pace with traffic, you were going downhill, or you simply didn't realize how fast you were going, you risk jail, license suspension, a permanent criminal record, and a hefty increase in your insurance rates. Even your job could be at risk because you might lose your CDL and/or security clearance.
Don't Let One Mistake Define Your Future
People often hesitate to hire an attorney because they're worried about the cost of representation. However, a good defense can mean the difference between clearing your name and a conviction that can permanently damage your reputation. Making sure your rights are protected is an investment in your future.
Attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh has dedicated his career to helping Virginia residents achieve the best possible outcome for their case. Call (804) 835-5127, or complete our online contact form to make an appointment for a free, confidential consultation.