Reckless Driving in Virginia

In Virginia, Reckless Driving is a misdemeanor crime. Though it may be tempting to treat it like an infraction, keep in mind that the penalty is up to 12 months in jail and a driver’s criminal record which will not be automatically expunged.

Virginia Code §46.2-852 reads:

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.

A police officer will sometimes charge Reckless Driving when someone drives erratically but more often when a driver is involved in an accident, particularly when the driving behavior is unclear but the consequences of an accident are significant.  Note, however, that the mere fact of an accident does not prove reckless driving. The Commonwealth must prove reckless conduct which endangers others’ property or well-being.

To learn about Reckless Driving by Speed, click here.

Do I have to come to court?

Because Reckless Driving is a crime punishable by jail time, you must come to court. Prepayment for a RD charge is not an option and failure to appear for your court date will incur additional criminal charges. Occasionally, the prosecutor and judge will make an agreement with your attorney to waive this requirement, but this is the exception.

How does the prosecutor prove reckless driving?

To convict a person of reckless driving in Virginia, the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • what:  the person drove a motor vehicle
  • where: on a highway of the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • how: in a manner that endangers the life, limb or property or another

The Commonwealth must prove that the accused was driving the motor vehicle to convict him of reckless driving in Virginia. This is usually proven through testimony of the officer who initially stopped the driver.  In an accident case the prosecutor may be required to summon the other driver involved in the accident to prove the driving.

Motor vehicle is defined in Va. Code §46.2-100 as:

every vehicle as defined in this section that is self-propelled or designed for self-propulsion except as otherwise provided in this title.  Any structure designed, used, or maintained primarily to be loaded on or affixed to a motor vehicle to provide a mobile dwelling, sleeping place, office, or commercial space shall be considered a part of a motor vehicle. Except as otherwise provided, for the purposes of this title, any device herein defined as a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped shall be deemed not to be a motor vehicle.

Highway is defined in Va. Code §46.2-100 as:

the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel in the Commonwealth, including the streets and alleys, and, for law-enforcement purposes, (i) the entire width between the boundary lines of all private roads or private streets that have been specifically designated “highways” by an ordinance adopted by the governing body of the county, city, or town in which such private roads or streets are located and (ii) the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place used for purposes of vehicular travel on any property owned, leased, or controlled by the United States government and located in the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth must prove the accused drove in a manner than endangered the life, limb or property of another person to convict him of reckless driving. Common maneuvers that may lead to a Reckless Driving charge include:

  • Turning the wrong way on a one-way road
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • Squealing tires, peeled out or skidded
  • Driving through a closed road or closed construction zone
  • Falling asleep at the wheel
  • Driving with too many passengers in your front seat
  • Driving with faulty brakes or steering
  • Driving recklessly through a construction zone
  • Illegally passing a vehicle on a hill or a curve
  • Street racing, which comes with a six-month to two-year license suspension
  • Driving too fast for the weather conditions
  • Appearing to be driving under the influence

Penalties

Reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852 is a Class 1 misdemeanor or a felony punishable the following:

Jail: A conviction for reckless driving in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-852 is punishable with up to 12 months in jail.

Fines and Costs: A driver can be fined up to $2500 if convicted of a Virginia reckless driving charge under Va. Code §46.2-852.  The driver will also be required to pay court costs (varies by jurisdiction).

Driver’s License Suspension: A driver’s license can be suspended for up to 6 months if he is convicted of reckless driving.  The driver may apply for a restricted driver’s license, allowing him to drive for restricted purposes (to and from work, to and from school, to the doctor, to church).  Driving in violation of these restrictions can result in a driving on suspended license charge under Va. Code §46.2-301 (Va. Code §46.2-393(B)).  A Commercial Driver’s License (or CDL) holder, however, cannot apply for a restricted license if his license is suspended for a Virginia reckless driving conviction.

DMV Demerit Points: The DMV will add 6 demerit points to the driving record of anyone convicted of reckless driving in Virginia.

VASAP Referral: If the court believes that the Virginia reckless driving charge was alcohol-related, it may order the driver to complete an alcohol education program called the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (Virginia ASAP) (Va. Code §46.2-392).

Additionally, if the court believes there were aggravated circumstances, like the use of alcohol, the court can place an individual on probation and require he/she complete an alcohol education program.

Texting While Driving: If the offender was using a handheld personal communication device to send or read a text message or email during the commission of this offense, he will pay a minimum fine of $125 (Va. Code §46.2-868(C)).  Using a handheld communication device to send or read a message is also a separate traffic infraction under Va. Code §46.2-1078.1.  It is commonly called Texting While Driving.  Sometimes a driver can be convicted of both Reckless Driving and Texting While Driving under Va. Code §46.2-1078.1 and will have a mandatory minimum fine for both the texting while driving conviction and the reckless driving conviction.

Felony Reckless Driving: Reckless driving in Virginia can be charged as a felony.  If the offender was driving without a valid operator’s license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation and caused the death of another person as a result of the reckless driving, he will be charged with a Class 6 felony (Va. Code §46.2-868(B)).  This offense is punished with up to 5 years in prison, a fine up to $2500, and driver’s license revocation for 1 year.

Related Crimes

Racing: A Virginia Racing charge (Va. Code §46.2-865) is a form of reckless driving. Click here for more information.

Aggressive Driving: A Virginia Aggressive Driving charge (Va. Code §46.2-868.1) is similar to reckless driving. Click here for more information.

Collateral Consequences

Beyond the immediate penalties associated with a conviction for Reckless Driving, other repercussions are at play.  Insurance premiums are likely to increase if convicted.  Your education or employment opportunities may be hindered: if you are subject to a background check for employment, security clearance, or immigration, a Reckless Driving conviction could affect your future.

If you find yourself charged with reckless driving in Virginia, contact an experienced Virginia Reckless Driving attorney. An initial consultation with a TATE BYWATER attorney is complimentary.  We’ll discuss your case and work with you to obtain the best possible outcome.  We’re here to help!