driving defense law traffic attorney

How to Reduce Reckless Driving to Improper Driving

You’re probably here because you’ve been pulled over for reckless driving. If that’s the case, you need to know about improper driving. There is a big difference between being charged with reckless driving versus improper driving.  

Reckless driving is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia Code 46.2-868. This punishment carries with it potential jail time for up to a year and a fine of up to $2,500. In addition, you are facing 6 demerit points to be added to your driving record that will remain for up to 11 years. You can receive a ticket for reckless driving a number of different ways. Including: 

  1. Speeding more than 85 mph 
  1. Speeding 20 mph or more over the limit 
  1. Driving too fast for conditions 
  1. Racing 
  1. Passing or overtaking an ambulance or fire truck 
  1. Passing a stopped school bus 
  1. Passing on the crest of a hill 
  1. Passing at a railroad crossing 
  1. Passing two vehicles abreast 
  1. Driving two vehicles abreast 
  1. Failure to signal 
  1. Driving with faulty brakes or improper control 
  1. Reckless driving on parking lots 
  1. Reckless driving with an obstructed view 

No one wants to be charged with reckless driving. But did you know, you can often get your reckless driving ticket reduced to improper driving? 

Under Virginia Code 46.2-869, someone who receives a reckless driving ticket can often obtain a reduction of their ticket to improper driving if the degree of culpability is slight. The degree of culpability considers many factors, including whether you have a clean driving record, whether you performed community service, if you took the effort to complete a driver improvement course, and whether it was a borderline speeding case.  

The punishment for improper driving is much less than reckless driving. If charged with improper driving, you are facing a $500 fine and 3 demerit points on your driving record that will remain for 3 years. While paying a fine and receiving demerit points is not ideal, you are no longer facing jail time or the possible suspension of your license.  

If you find yourself holding a ticket for reckless driving, contact the attorneys at Driving Defense Law so we can create a unique gameplan and roadmap for your case. We will work with you and attempt to obtain a dismissal or reduction of your charge. Our attorneys have experience in Courts throughout Virgina, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Hampton, Newport News, Northampton, Accomack and beyond. It is our privilege to serve you and protect your legal rights! Call now for a FREE case evaluation.

Following Too Closely

How is “following too closely” defined in the state of Virginia?

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to the speed of both vehicles and the traffic on, and conditions of, the highway at the time.” § 46.2-816

The maximum punishment for following too closely is a $250 fine and court costs of approximately $67. The charge is also prepayable for a fine of $30. However, be aware that prepaying is treated as an admission of guilt.

Demerit Points

If convicted of following too closely expect to have 4 demerit points added to your record. See the following:

Following too closely (3 years) 4 points

Aggressive Driving

What is considered aggressive driving?

Aggressive driving is a serious offense in Virginia as it is punishable as a Class 1 or a Class 2 misdemeanor under Virginia Code 46.2-868.1. If you find yourself holding a ticket for aggressive driving, contact Driving Defense Law as soon as possible to ensure your rights remain protected.

Aggressive driving is separate from reckless driving. A person can be charged with aggressive driving if the person violates one or more of the following:

  1. Driving on the wrong side of a highway
  2. Failure to observe lanes marked for traffic
  3. Following too closely
  4. Does not stop or yield right of way before entering certain highways
  5. Evasion of traffic control devices
  6. Passing when overtaking a vehicle
  7. Stopping on highways

The violation must be hazardous to another person or commits an offense with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person.

Penalties of Aggressive Driving in Virginia

Aggressive driving is either a Class 2 or a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Aggressive driving without intent to injure: If you are charged with aggressive driving without intent to injure then you are facing a Class 2 misdemeanor. The penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, and a possible suspension of your license.

Aggressive driving with intent to injure: If you are charged with aggressive driving with intent to injure then you are facing a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties include a fine of up to $2,5000, up to 12 months in jail, and possible suspension of your license.

Hit and Run

What is considered a hit and run in Virginia?

“The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident in which a person is killed or injured in which an attended vehicle or other attended property is damaged shall immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing traffic.” Virginia Code § 46.2-894

A driver can be charged with a hit and run if the driver fails to stop at or return to the scene of the accident or the driver fails to report the accident to police or exchange their information with the other people or property involved.

What to Do if You’re Involved in a Hit and Run

If you are involved in an accident you must report: (report to state police or law enforcement agency; the person struck and injured; the driver or other occupants involved in the collision)

  • Your Name
  • Your Address
  • Your Driver’s License Number
  • Your Vehicle Registration Number

As soon as practical following the crash, you should provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident.

If the accident involves an unattended vehicle, the driver must make a reasonable attempt to find the owner of the property and report the accident. If the driver cannot find the owner, the driver must leave his contact information at the scene of the accident. The driver must then also report the accident within 24 hours to state or local police. Virginia Code § 46.2-896

Misdemeanor v. Felony Hit and Run

A hit and run will be charged as either a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 5 felony.

  • Class 1 misdemeanor – the accident results in property damage of $1,000 or less
    • Penalty – up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500
  • Class 5 felony – the accident results in more than $1,000 of property damage or in bodily injury or death
    • Penalty – up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500

Charges for failing to make a reasonable effort to find the owner of the unattended property or failing to leave contact information: (46.2-896)

  • Class 4 misdemeanor – the accident results in less than $250 of damage
    • Penalty – fine of up to $250
  • Class 1 misdemeanor – property damage is between $250 and $1,000
    • Penalty – up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500
  • Class 5 felony – accident results in more than $1,000 of property damage
    • Penalty – up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500

If you are convicted of a hit and run, you should expect six demerit points to be added to your record. See the following:

Failure to stop at the scene of a crash – injury (11 years) 6 points
Failure to stop at the scene of a crash – death (11 years) 6 points
Failure to stop at the scene of a crash – property damage of $1,000 or more ( 11 years) 6 points

Eluding

Eluding the police is when a person continues to drive in a willful and wanton manner disregarding the police officer’s signal.

To be convicted of eluding, the Commonwealth must prove the individual heard the signal or saw the lights and knew that the person signaling him was a police officer, and then disregarded the signal by continuing to drive. The Commonwealth can also prove this by showing evidence that the individual fled on foot after stopping the vehicle.

An affirmative defense to eluding is that the person reasonably believed that he or she was being chased by someone who was not a law enforcement officer.

Penalties for Eluding the Police in Virginia

Misdemeanor

Eluding is charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor. A conviction for misdemeanor eluding is potential jail time of up to six months and a possible fine of $1,000.

The individual may also have a suspension of driving privileges for 30 days to a year if convicted of eluding. If during the eluding the individual’s speed exceeds the posted limit by 20mph, then the minimum license suspension is 90 days.

The individual may also be charged with any criminal offense they commit in addition to eluding.

Felony

Eluding is charged as a felony offense if it results in the risk of accident or injury involving the law enforcement officer. If an individual continues to drive intentionally and recklessly that could create a danger, the person will be charged with a Class 6 felony.

An individual convicted of felony eluding may endure a penalty of one to five years in prison in addition to a possible fine of up to $2,500.

If an officer is killed because of pursuing an eluding individual, the charge is a Class 4 felony. The penalty carries a two to ten year prison sentence and a possible fine of up to $100,000.

The individual may also have a suspension of driving privileges for 30 days to a year if convicted of eluding. If during the eluding the individual’s speed exceeds the posted limit by 20mph, then the minimum license suspension is 90 days.

Virginia Code

46.2-817 Disregarding Signal by Law Enforcement Officer to Stop; Eluding Police; Penalties – § 46.2-817. Disregarding signal by law-enforcement officer to stop; eluding police; penalties (virginia.gov)

Texting While Driving 

According to the Virginia Code, it is unlawful for anyone to hold a handheld personal communications device while driving a motor vehicle.

A first time offense will result in a $125 fine. A second offense will result in a $250 fine. If convicted of texting while driving, expect three demerit points to be added to your record.

Virginia Code

46.2-818.2 Use of Handheld Personal Communications Devices – § 46.2-818.2. Use of handheld personal communications devices in certain motor vehicles; exceptions; penalty (virginia.gov)
  • It is unlawful for any person, while driving a moving motor vehicle on the highways in Virginia to hold a handheld personal communications device
  • A violation could result in a fine of $125 (first offense) or a fine of $250 (second offense)

As of January 1, 2021 Virginia prohibits drivers from holding cell phones or any other wireless communication devices while driving except in a driver emergency or the vehicle is lawfully parked or stopped. Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Driving on a Suspended License

In Virginia, you can get pulled over and charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license for multiple reasons. Including:

  1. A court order suspension
  2. Revoked license for driving under the influence
  3. Suspension for DMV points, unpaid fines, or court costs
  4. Suspension for lack of automobile insurance
  5. Suspension for failure to pay child support

The reason for your license suspension can have a huge effect on your consequences if charged with driving with a suspended license.

Normally driving on a suspended or revoked license results in a Class 1 misdemeanor charged. However, there are times when a driver can be charged with a felony.

  • Class 1 misdemeanor – You face up to one year in jail with a fine of up to $2,500.
  • Class 6 felony – You could have a prison sentence of 1 to 5 years, with a possible fine of up to $2,500.

You should know that if you are convicted of driving with a suspended license, the court is required to impose another additional period of suspension for the same period of suspension you were already serving.

If convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license you should expect demerit points to be added to your record. See the following:

Demerit Points

Driving in violation of restricted license – restrictions related to physical limitations (3 years) 3 points
Driving on suspended license (11 years) 6 points
Driving while your license is suspended or revoked (11 years) 6 points
Driving under suspension or revocation before giving proof of financial responsibility (11 years) 6 points

Restricted License – Consider this Option

For drivers who have had their license suspended or revoked, consider applying for a restricted license. While this does not fully restore all of your driving privileges, you are allowed to engage in some driving to hand necessities. Including but not limited to driving to and from work or to and from school. However, you should know, if you are driving outside the terms of your restricted license, you can still be charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license.

Virginia Code

46.2-301 Driving while license, permit, or privilege to drive suspended or revoked – § 46.2-301. Driving while license, permit, or privilege to drive suspended or revoked (virginia.gov)

Driving Under the Influence

Virginia treats all first offense DUI and DWI as criminal acts in the VA criminal law chapter.

If you have been charged with a DUI you need to seek representation from Driving Defense Law as soon as possible to ensure that you are protected.

In Virginia you can be charged with a DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher, or if you have detectable controlled substances in your system. Including:

  • 0.02 milligrams of cocaine
  • 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine
  • 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine
  • 0.1 milligrams of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine

The penalties for a DUI conviction depends on whether you have prior DUI convictions and whether you are under the age of 21.

Penalties of Driving Under the Influence in Virginia

First DUI

If this is your first DUI conviction, you are facing a mandatory minimum fine of $250, a requirement to complete the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP), up to 12 months in jail, and a one-year license revocation.

Second DUI

If this is your second DUI conviction, you are facing a mandatory minimum fine of $500, a requirement to complete ASAP, a potential one-year jail sentence, and a three year license revocation. You could also face a mandatory 10 day jail sentence if it is your second DUI in a 10 year period, or a 20 day jail sentence if it is your second DUI in a 5 year period.

Third DUI

If this is your third DUI conviction then you are facing felony charges. Including a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000, a requirement to complete ASAP, an indefinite revocation of driving privileges, and a potential one-to-five-year sentence of imprisonment. You are also facing a potential 90 day jail term and the forfeiture of the vehicle you were driving if it is your third DUI in 10 years. A third conviction within 5 years produces a mandatory sentence of six months in jail.

Underage DUI

If you are underage and convicted of a DUI you are facing a mandatory one year suspension of driving privileges, a minimum fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service and up to 12 months in jail.

Demerit Points – 6 points

If you are convicted of a DUI you should also expect to receive six demerit points on your record.

  • Driving while intoxicated (11 years)
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (11 years)
  • Driving under the influence of drugs (11 years)
  • Driving after illegally consuming alcohol (under the age of 21) (3 years)
  • Driving while intoxicated – maiming (11 years)
  • Involuntary manslaughter/alcohol (11 years)
  • Refusing blood/breath test (11 years)
  • Driving while your license is suspended or revoked for driving while intoxicated (11 years)
  • Driving while your license is revoked for driving while intoxicated – maiming (11 years)
  • Driving while your license is revoked for driving while intoxicated – involuntary manslaughter (11 years)

Virginia Code

18.2-266 Driving Motor Vehicle, Engine, etc., while Intoxicated§ 18.2-266. Driving motor vehicle, engine, etc., while intoxicated, etc (virginia.gov)
  • While such a person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent of alcohol
  • Blood concentration of:
    • 0.02 milligrams of cocaine
    • 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine
    • 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine
    • 0.1 milligrams of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine
18.2-270 Penalty for Driving while Intoxicated etc.§ 18.2-270. Penalty for driving while intoxicated; subsequent offense; prior conviction (virginia.gov)

Involuntary Manslaughter

18.2-36.1 Conduct Punishable as Involuntary Manslaughter § 18.2-36.1. Certain conduct punishable as involuntary manslaughter (virginia.gov)
  • Any person, as a result of driving under the influence, causes the death of another person, will be guilty of involuntary manslaughter
  • If the conduct showed a reckless disregard for human life, he is guilty of aggravated involuntary manslaughter

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is a serious offense in Virginia as it is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia Code 46.2-868.

If you find yourself holding a ticket for reckless driving, contact Driving Defense Law as you could be facing a criminal record.

18.2-11 Punishment for Conviction of Misdemeanor

Class 1 misdemeanor – confinement in jail for up to a year and a fine of up to $2,500. (either or both)

There are 16 different categories of reckless driving as detailed by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Including:

  1. Speeding more than 85 mph
  2. Speeding 20 mph or more over the limit
  3. Driving too fast for conditions
  4. Racing
  5. Passing or overtaking an ambulance or fire truck
  6. Passing a stopped school bus
  7. Passing on the crest of a hill
  8. Passing at a railroad crossing
  9. Passing two vehicles abreast
  10. Driving two vehicles abreast
  11. Failure to signal
  12. Driving with faulty brakes or improper control
  13. Reckless driving on parking lots
  14. Reckless driving with an obstructed view

What is considered reckless driving under the Virginia Code?

  • Exceeding the speed limit 46.2-862
  • Driving too fast for road or traffic conditions 46.2-861
  • Failing to maintain proper control of the vehicle 46.2-853
  • Racing 46.2-865; 46.2-866; 46.2-867
  • Failing to yield the right of way 46.2-861.1; 46.2-863; 46.2-868.1
  • Failing to give proper signals 46.2-860
  • Driving with an obstructed view 46.2-855
  • Passing a stopped school bus 46.2-859
  • Passing on or at the crest of a grade or curve 46.2-854

A conviction of reckless driving carries with it 6 demerit points and up to 11 years of staying on your record. See the following:

  • Speeding in excess of 85 mph (11 years)
  • Speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit (up to 11 years)
  • Racing (11 years)
  • Passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle (11 years)
  • Passing a school bus (11 years)
  • Passing on the crest of a hill (11 years)
  • Passing at a railroad crossing (11 years)
  • Passing two vehicles abreast (11 years)
  • Driving too fast for conditions (11 years)
  • Failing to give a proper signal (11 years)
  • Faulty brakes/improper control (11 years)
  • Reckless driving in parking lots (11 years)
  • Reckless driving with an obstructed view (11 years)

Virginia Code and Other Information:

46.2-852 Reckless Driving; General Rule – § 46.2-852. Reckless driving; general rule (virginia.gov)

“Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.”

46.2-868 Reckless Driving; Penalties – § 46.2-868. Reckless driving; penalties (virginia.gov) 
  • Every person convicted of reckless driving is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Every person convicted of reckless driving and was driving without a valid license or as a result of reckless driving caused the death of another is guilty of a Class 6 felony
  • Punishment includes a mandatory minimum fine of $250
18.2-11 Punishment for Conviction of Misdemeanor – § 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor (virginia.gov)

Class 1 misdemeanor – confinement in jail for up to a year and fine of up to $2,500. (either or both)

Exceeding the Speed Limit 

A person is guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in at a speed of 20 miles per hour or more in the excess of the applicable maximum speed OR in excess of 85 miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.

Failure to Maintain Control

After a car accident a police officer might hand you a citation that charges you with failure to maintain control (reckless driving). Failure to maintain control is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor

Speeding

What are the different types of speeding violations in Virginia?

Speeding tickets are no fun. If you find yourself holding a speeding ticket, you may want to simply pay the fine or explore other options. Driving Defense Law will help you navigate these options so that your speeding ticket doesn’t result in a long-term consequence.

Virginia defines several types of speeding violations. Including:

Speeding Generally over the Speed Limit$6 per
Speeding School Buses over the Speed Limit $6 per
Speeding Special Permit Vehicles over the Speed Limit $6 per
Speeding in School Zone over the Speed Limit $7 per
Speeding in Business/Residential Districts per mph over the Speed Limit $6 per
Speeding Passenger Vehicles with Trails over the Speed Limit $6 per
Exceeding Speed Limit Set by DOT over the Speed Limit $6 per
Speeding in a Work Zone over the Speed Limit $7 per
Speeding Certain Residential Zone (+ $8 per) $200
Speeding in Certain Bridges/Tunnels over the Speed Limit$6 per

Processing Fees/Court Costs of Speeding in Virginia

  • $62.00 for the first charge
  • $11 for each additional charge with the same court date
  • The worst maximum fine is $250 in addition to the $62 processing fee.
  • If the driver does not prepay the speeding ticket and does not appear in court there is an additional $35 fee.

A conviction on a basic speeding ticket normally amounts to a fine and a court fee. The fines are broken down above. However, you should know that a speeding ticket will also get you demerit points on your driving record. The number of points depends on the severity of speeding.

Demerit Points – Virginia DMV

Demerit points are assigned when you are convicted of a traffic violation. Each time that you commit a traffic offense, the DMV adds demerit points to your record. Different violations amount to different point assignments.

If you are convicted of a traffic violation, the court will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles who then:

  1. Posts the conviction to your driving record
  2. Assigns demerit points
  3. (if applicable) issues an order of suspension
  4. (if applicable) issues an order requiring the completion of a driver improvement clinic
  5. Notifies your insurance company

Note: Demerit points can also be added to your record for traffic convictions incurred in other states

Breakdown of Demerit Points

(the number of years that the conviction stays on your DMV record is in parentheses)

Speeding 1-9 mph above the posted speed limit (5 years) 3 points
Impeding traffic – slow speed (5 years) 3 points
Speeding 10-19 mph above the posted speed limit (5 years) 4 points
Speeding more than 20 mph over the limit (can stay for up to 11 years)6 points

Virginia Code

46.2-870 Maximum Speed Limits Generally – § 46.2-870. Maximum speed limits generally (virginia.gov) 
46.2-878.3 Prepayment of fines for violations of speed limits – § 46.2-878.3. Prepayment of fines for violations of speed limits (virginia.gov)
  • Fine of $6 per mile per hour in excess of posted speed limits
  • Fine of $7 per mile per hour in excess of posted speed limits for violation of 46.2-873 (school crossing zone) and 46.2-878.1 (highway work zone)
  • Fine of + $8 per mile per hour in excess of posted speed limits for a violation of 46.2-878.2 (the maximum speed limit in certain residence districts of counties, cities, and towns). The $8 per is an addition to a $200 fine.
  • Any person who drives in excess of 80 miles per hour but less than 86 miles per hour on any highway having a speed limit of 65 miles per hour is subject to an additional $100 fine
  • 1
  • 2
Copyright © Driving Defense Law – A Division of McCormick Law, PC. All rights reserved. The results of specific cases reported are not meant to be a prediction or guarantee of any other case. Each case depends upon a variety of factors specific to that case. The testimonials on this website reflect the real-life experiences and opinions of our clients. However, the experiences are personal to those particular clients, and may not necessarily be representative of all clients. We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all clients will have the same experience. Your outcome may vary.