Virginia has expansive reckless driving laws. A motorist can be convicted of reckless driving for operating a vehicle “at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.” But Virginia law also lists 13 different traffic violations that, if proven, automatically establish reckless driving. These include:
Any of these violations constitute reckless driving, regardless of whether anyone or anything was actually endangered by the person’s driving.
The consequences of a reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor. Convicted motorists typically face up to six months in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine. And if the offense involved unlawful use of a cellphone while driving, there’s an additional $250 fine.
Generally, a judge can suspend the license of a reckless driving offender for up to six months. And depending on which type of reckless driving, the conviction will put four or six points on the motorist’s driving record.
For offenses involving street racing, the judge must suspend the driver’s license for six months to two years and may order vehicle forfeiture.
Virginia’s reckless driving laws may seem harsh, but judges do have some leeway: For offense where the “degree of culpability is slight,” a judge can find the driver guilty of “improper driving” instead of reckless driving. Improper driving is a traffic infraction and carries a fine of up to $500—jail time isn’t a possibility.
In Virginia, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with driving under the influence (DUI) to plea bargain for a lesser charge. When a DUI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”
A wet reckless carries the same penalties as any other reckless driving conviction, except the court can, in addition to the other penalties, order the motorist to complete an “alcohol safety action program” as a condition of probation.
The consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Virginia can be serious. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, get in contact with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation.