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 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.
Will a reckless driving conviction affect my ability to keep my CDL?
A valid CDL is a requirement for many different types of positions throughout Virginia. However, a reckless driving conviction can result in a CDL suspension or disqualification.
When Your Regular Driver's License Is Suspended
A CDL is essentially a higher level version of a regular driver's license. You can't have a valid CDL unless you've already received a basic Class D Virginia driver's license for operating passenger vehicles.
Whenever your regular driver's license is suspended for reckless driving, you'll be unable to legally drive a commercial motor vehicle. The restricted license that some drivers are able to get for work-related purposes won't allow you to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
CDL Disqualifying Offenses
Virginia considers certain acts to be disqualifying offenses for a CDL. This includes:
- Reckless driving (in any vehicle)
- Speeding 15 mph or more above the speed limit (in any vehicle)
- Improper or erratic lane change (in any vehicle)
- Tailgating (in any vehicle)
- Moving violations related to a fatal crash (in any vehicle)
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a valid CDL
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without the proper CDL class and/or endorsements
- Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL in your possession
- Texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle
Two serious violations in a three-year period results in a 60-day CDL disqualification. Three or more serious violations in the same timeframe results in a 120-day CDL disqualification.
Your Employer May Have Special Rules
Aside from the penalties Virginia assesses for reckless driving, your employer might have rules about who is allowed to continuing operating vehicles in its fleet. Even if you were operating your personal vehicle at the time and have no previous disqualifying offenses on your record, your employer may choose to discipline you or terminate your employment because of a reckless driving conviction.
Charles V. Hardenbergh Can Help
If you depend on your CDL to earn a living, you need an aggressive defense against a reckless driving charge. Call to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
Can I get a restricted license if I’m convicted of reckless driving?
Losing your license due to a reckless driving conviction can present significant hardship. However, you may be able to get a restricted license if you petition the court.
Applying for a Restricted License
Restricted licenses are not granted automatically. You must specifically ask for a restricted license when you appear before the court, and the judge has the authority to grant your request at the time of your reckless driving conviction. Requests are approved based on a legitimate need for transportation, since a restricted license only allows you to drive for very specific purposes.
Driving on a Restricted License
Restricted licenses are issued to ensure you have access to transportation for activities that the court considers of high importance. This can include:
- Getting to and from work
- Using your vehicle for transportation during working hours
- Receiving appropriate medical care
- Participating in worship services
- Traveling to and from court or a probation program
- Providing transportation for a child who is attending school
- Attending child visitation that has been approved by the court
In Virginia, restricted licenses are typically issued as a green sheet of paper with a list of specific driving restrictions. You must sign the paper, and keep it with you when you're driving.
Violating the Provisions of a Restricted License
It's vital to keep in mind that a restricted license does not allow you to drive for any reason other than what's specifically approved by the court. You can't make any deviation from your route, even if it's as simple as stopping to pick up a friend on your way home from work or grabbing a gallon of milk after school.
If you drive for unauthorized purposes, your restricted license can be revoked. You may face additional fines and added jail time to your reckless driving sentence.
Seeking Legal Representation
An experienced reckless driving attorney can help you build a strong defense against a reckless driving charge, request a restricted license, or file an appeal. Call to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh to learn more about your legal options.
Will a reckless driving conviction impact my military service?
Reckless driving convictions are considered criminal charges, unlike a simple traffic violation such as speeding. This means that a conviction can create problems if you're currently serving in the military or are hoping to enlist.
How a Reckless Driving Conviction Affects Your Ability to Enlist
Each branch of the military has slightly different rules for how a reckless driving conviction affects men and women hoping to enlist.
- Air Force. If you're hoping to serve in the Air Force, keep in mind that reckless driving is a Category 4 moral offense on the same level as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of alcohol or tobacco. You can be disqualified for having two or more Category 4 offenses within the last three years. However, a recruiting squadron commander can sometimes have the disqualification waived if your other qualifications are strong.
- Army. To serve in the Army, you need to consider your total number of misdemeanor convictions. Two or more misdemeanors require a waiver for enlistment, while four or more will disqualify you from service.
- Marines or Navy. For those who want to enlist in the Marines or Navy, misdemeanor reckless driving convictions can be waived at the district level.
Maintaining an Active Security Clearance
Those who are currently serving in the military must report a reckless driving arrest to their commanding officer. The associated penalties for this infraction vary according to branch of service, but maintaining your security clearance may be an issue of concern.
The military assigns three levels to security clearances: confidential, secret, and top secret. As your level advances, the requirements to get or maintain a clearance increase. Reckless driving is not automatically disqualifying, but it factors into your rating for honestly, reliability, trustworthiness, and loyalty.
How a Reckless Driving Attorney Can Help Those Charged With Reckless Driving While In The Military
If you're hoping to enlist or are currently serving in the military, don't simply pay your ticket and accept the consequences. An experienced reckless driving attorney can help you build a strong defense, using strategies such as a speedometer calibration or agreeing to complete a driver improvement clinic. You may be able to have the charge reduced to a lesser infraction such as improper driving or dropped all together. To learn more, call to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh.
Should I sign the ticket the police officer gives me?
When you receive a reckless driving ticket, you might find yourself wondering if signing the ticket is the same as admitting guilt. The confusion is understandable, but your signature is only a promise to appear in court.
Why You Need to Sign Your Reckless Driving Ticket
Virginia considers reckless driving a criminal charge instead of a simple traffic violation. However, most drivers aren't going to be handcuffed or taken to a police station when charged with this offense.
The ticket the officer gives you after you've been pulled over is considered a legal summons that replaces traditional forms of custodial arrest. Your ticket will show a date, time, and location where you are expected to appear in court. Your signature is considered a promise to appear to address the charge.
If you refuse to sign the ticket, the officer can legally assume that you don't intent to make your required court appearance. As such, he is allowed to take you into custody and book you on the charge.
Regardless of whether you believe you're guilty of reckless driving, signing the ticket is always in your best interests.
The Next Steps
After you receive your ticket, don't panic. Reckless driving carries stiff penalties, but an experienced attorney can help you prepare an aggressive defense against the charge. You may be able to use factors such as a completing community service, attending a driver improvement clinic, or submitting a speedometer calibration to have your charge reduced to a lesser offense or dropped all together.
Although arresting officers have quite a bit of discretion in issuing reckless driving tickets, judges have an even greater authority. If you are polite and respectful during your court appearance and have representation from a skilled attorney, there's no reason to believe one simple mistake will cost you your future.
Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh is dedicated to helping drivers build the strongest possible defense for their reckless driving cases. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
How much discretion does a police officer have when making a reckless driving arrest in Virginia?
In most cases, reckless driving is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. This is a criminal offense that carries a fine of up to $2,500, jail time of up to 12 months, and six demerit points on your driving record. It would be a grave mistake to simply accept these consequences without a fight, given the amount of discretion officers have in deciding whether to charge you with this offense.
Officer Discretion in Reckless Driving Cases
Reckless driving encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including:
- Driving 20 miles or more above the speed limit
- Speeding in excess of 80 miles per hour regardless of the posted speed limit
- Driving too fast for adverse weather conditions
- Driving with an obstructed view
- Not signaling a turn
- Operating a motor vehicle with faulty brakes
- Passing two vehicles abreast
- Passing at the top of a hill
- Passing at a railroad crossing
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Passing an ambulance or other emergency vehicle
Additionally, an officer has the authority to charge you with reckless driving if he thinks you are driving in a way that endangers the safety or property of yourself or others. This might include aggressive driving, distracted driving, or mistakes made due to a lack of experience on the road. Even drivers who swerve to hit a deer and get into an accident as a result can be charged with reckless driving if the officer deems it appropriate.
The Effect of Judicial Discretion
Although officers have a great deal of discretion to decide when a reckless driving charge is appropriate, judges have the authority to consider mitigating factors when determining if you'll be convicted of the charge. These might include:
- A past safe driving record
- Willingness to complete a driver improvement clinic
- Demonstration of remorse by completing community service
- If your conduct was related to a medical emergency
Charles V. Hardenbergh Can Help
Enlisting the eservices of an experienced reckless driving attorney is the best way to ensure that one mistake doesn't ruin your future. Virginia attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh has extensive experience helping Virginia drivers build an aggressive defense to reduce or drop a reckless driving charge. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.