If you are stopped by the police for speeding, it can be hard to know if you are receiving a traffic citation or are being charged with reckless driving. This is because the summons to appear in court that you receive when charged with reckless driving can look like a simple traffic ticket.
However, being charged with reckless driving is much different than a speeding traffic citation and is a much more serious offense in Virginia. Here are some of the key differences.
Traffic Infraction vs. Misdemeanor Offense
Getting a ticket for speeding is a traffic infraction. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor criminal offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-862, you can be charged with reckless driving for driving over 80 mph regardless of what the posted speed limit is, or for driving 20 mph or more over the posted speed limit.
While a simple speeding ticket may be prepaid before the scheduled court date, a reckless driving charge requires you to appear in court like other criminal offenses. You cannot avoid appearing in court by prepaying the ticket. However, under certain circumstances, you may be able to authorize an attorney to appear on your behalf for your reckless driving case.
The penalties are different for a speeding ticket and a conviction of reckless driving. There is no possibility of a jail sentence for speeding and the maximum fine is $250. On the other hand, you may face these penalties if you are convicted of reckless driving:
- Up to a 12-month jail sentence
- Fine of up to $2,500
- Driver’s license suspension for up to six months
Points on Your Driving Record
Both a speeding ticket and speeding reckless driving conviction will result in points on your driver's license. As little as three demerit points may be added for a speeding ticket. But if you are convicted of reckless driving, six demerit points will be added to your driving record. This can result in higher auto insurance costs and suspension of your driver’s license if you accumulate too many demerit points.
Permanent Criminal Record
Because reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense, you will have a permanent criminal record if you are convicted. This is not true if you receive a traffic ticket for speeding. Having a permanent criminal record can have long-term consequences on your ability to obtain a job, security clearance, housing, and much more.
If you have received a traffic ticket for speeding or have been charged with reckless driving, you need an experienced reckless driving lawyer to develop a strong defense strategy so that you can achieve the best possible outcome. At Greenspun Shapiro PC, we have decades of experience fighting speeding tickets and reckless driving charges for our clients in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC. To learn how we can help you, call our office to schedule a free consultation today.