The Answers You Need to Your Frequently Asked Virginia Traffic Law Questions

Many of our clients have little experience with the law, and it can be confusing and overwhelming when facing traffic charges. At Greenspun Shapiro PC, we strive to help every client become as informed and empowered as possible. To that end, we offer our answers to many common traffic questions. Our lawyers discuss the issues you need to know about now, including charges of speeding, reckless driving, driving under the influence, license issues, and other traffic infractions.

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  • Will a reckless driving conviction in Virginia affect my security clearance?

    A Reckless Driving Conviction Can Cause Problems With Your Security ClearanceA security clearance is often required when a person works in the military, is a government employee, or is a government contractor. In addition, some employees in the medical, telecommunications, education, and financial industries may need a security clearance for their job. A security clearance allows these individuals to access different levels and types of classified information.

    If you are charged with reckless driving in Fairfax, you may be worried about how a conviction may affect your security clearance. Since reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, a conviction can result in a permanent criminal record. Will this stop you from getting or keeping a security clearance?

    How a Reckless Driving Conviction May Affect Your Security Clearance

    There are three levels of security clearances: confidential, secret, and top secret. The top-secret level is further classified into more specialized security classifications. If you are required to have a security clearance, you must apply for it and undergo a reinvestigation process, which typically occurs every five years. The good news is that a reckless driving conviction will not automatically preclude you from obtaining or keeping your security clearance.

    However, a reckless driving conviction is a red flag that can affect the decisions as to whether you should have a particular level of access to sensitive information. Factors that will be considered when reviewing your application include:

              1. Your position within your company or agency,

              2. What of security clearance you currently have,

              3. Whether this is your first reckless driving charge
                  or a subsequent one, and

              4. What other types of convictions or charges are                      on your record.

    Do You Need to Report a Reckless Driving Conviction to Your Employer?

    If you are facing reckless driving charges, it is important to understand whether you have a duty to report your conviction to your employer. You need to consult your employee handbook or policies concerning this obligation. Some employers only require the reporting of a felony conviction, while others require disclosure of any offenses.

    Since a reckless driving conviction may have serious penalties and long-term consequences on your security clearance and job, you need to retain an experienced reckless driving attorney to help you build a strong defense to the charges you face. This may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team by calling our Fairfax office to set your appointment today.

     

  • Is texting while driving considered reckless driving in Virginia?

    Reckless Driving Charges and Cell Phone UseIf you are texting while driving, you can be charged with and convicted of reckless driving or illegally using a handheld personal communications device, which is a traffic infraction. All forms of reckless driving are treated as class 1 misdemeanor offenses, which are the highest level of misdemeanor in Virginia. A conviction of any type of reckless driving can result in a jail sentence, fines, suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months, and a permanent criminal record. There are approximately 15 different offenses that are considered reckless driving. Traffic infractions, on the other hand, carry far less penalty, because only fines and court costs can be imposed. Before you prepay your ticket or appear in court on your own, consider calling us to explore what defenses you may have and to see how we can help.

    What Is the Offense of Texting While Driving in Virginia?

    Virginia Code § 46.2-1078.1 makes it illegal to use a hand-held device while driving in Virginia. It prohibits the following actions:

    • Manually entering multiple letters or text in the device to communicate with another person
       
    • Reading any email or text that is transmitted or stored in the device

    There are exceptions for drivers operating emergency vehicles, calling in an emergency, reading a caller id number, or using a factory-installed or aftermarket GPS. The infraction of texting while driving is a "primary offense," which means a police officer can stop a driver if he suspects that the driver is violating the anti-texting laws. Texting while driving is a traffic infraction. The penalty for a first offense is a $125 fine, and for a second or subsequent offense, it is a $250 fine. Three demerit points are also assessed against the driver by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

    Reckless Driving Offenses in Virginia

    A person can be charged with both texting while driving and reckless driving if the person is engaging in one of the unsafe driving practices that are considered reckless driving while also engaging in texting. A few of these offenses include:

    Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you may be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 in addition to court costs. Also, your driver’s license might be suspended for up to six months, and six demerit points will be assessed by the DMV.

    Have you been charged with reckless driving for texting or for another reason? You may have strong defenses to the charges that you face even if you know that you are guilty. Let our experienced reckless driving attorney raise all of your defenses so that the charges you face are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To schedule your free initial consultation, start an online chat or call our office today.

     

  • What types of evidence can help in my reckless driving case?

    What Evidence Is Needed for a Reckless Driving Charge?A reckless driving conviction in Virginia can result in a jail sentence, hefty fines, suspension of your privilege to drive, and demerit points on your driving record, which can also increase your vehicle insurance rates and lead to administrative license suspensions or revocations. In addition, reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense, and you will have a permanent criminal record if convicted. Because of all the harsh consequences, you need to build your defense to the charges that you face and obtain evidence that will support your defenses.

    Types of Evidence That Can Help Build a Strong Defense to Reckless Driving Charges

    Without the assistance of a defense attorney familiar with reckless driving cases, your chances of getting a lighter punishment, reduction of the charge, or dismissal of the case become significantly lower. Your attorney will be able to identify defenses that you have based on the circumstances in your case and will know what evidence you need to prove your defenses. Some types of evidence that may be helpful include:

    • Calibration of Your Vehicle's Speedometer. If you are disputing that you were driving as fast as the police officer claims, you may want to obtain a speedometer calibration. Depending on whether your car has been properly maintained, damaged, or modified, it is possible that your speedometer shows a lower speed than what you are actually traveling. If the body shop shows this to be the case, this can be used to reduce the penalties you face and possibly the charge, but it is not a defense in and of itself.
       
    • GPS Evidence. If the officer clocked your speed at close to 80 miles per hour or 20 miles over the speed limit—which are two of the ways you can be charged with reckless driving—GPS evidence can help. GPS information may be able to show how far you traveled in a period of time, which can be used to calculate your speed. However, the GPS information must be extremely accurate for this to be useful.
       
    • Witness Testimony. Witness testimony can be helpful in some situations. Witness testimony can help establish your speed, at least as it appeared inside the car. Witness testimony may also shed light on why a person may be weaving in and out of traffic or driving at a high rate. However, witnesses can also be a double edged sword because they may have incriminating information. Working with the witnesses before the day of their testimony is essential to ensure there are no surprises.
       
    • Photos and Videos. When speed limit signs are vandalized, missing, or difficult to see, taking photographs or videos can help prove the lack of proper signage. Photos and videos may also give your attorney, the prosecutor, and the court insight about the conditions on the scene that may also explain your driving behavior. Additionally, photos of the scene and where the officer came from will aid in knowing what the officer could observe from his vantage point and will aid in cross examining the officer.
       
    • Medical Emergency. If you were speeding due to a medical emergency, such as transporting a pregnant woman to the hospital or dealing with a serious medical issue, medical records substantiating this may help you build a defense.
       
    • Safe Driving Record. If you have a clean driving record, you can use this to show your commitment to safe driving. When this is not the case, taking a driver improvement class may show that you are trying to be a safer driver and may result in a reduced reckless driving charge.
       
    • Community Service. While community service is not evidence that will help prove or disprove a fact in your case, it may help reduce the penalties you face if convicted of reckless driving. Likewise, community service can be used to try to reduce the charge to show that you have been proactive and have taken responsibility for your driving behavior.

    Do you need help fighting a reckless driving charge? Call our office today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

     

  • Can I get my reckless driving charge reduced to a lesser offense in Virginia?

    In Virginia, there are a variety of traffic violations that may constitute reckless driving, which is a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and carries up to a $2,500.00 fine, up to a year in jail, and could also lead to suspension or revocation of your driver's license. For example, Virginia Code § 46.2-862 makes driving 20 mph or more over the speed limit or over 80 mph reckless driving. Virginia Code § 46.2-852 very broadly defines reckless driving as driving recklessly or in a manner that endangers a person or his property. You should not take receiving a reckless driving ticket lightly because it is a misdemeanor offense that may result in having a permanent criminal record and carries stringent punishments.

    When a Reckless Driving Charge Can Be Reduced to Improper Driving

    Your first step should be to retain an experienced reckless driving attorney if you are charged with this offense. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may be able toReckless Driving Charges in Virginia reduce your charge or have it dismissed. While working towards a dismissal of the charge is always the goal, often a reduction of the charge is the best that can be done.

    If you have been charged with reckless driving, Virginia Code § 46.2-869 allows the judge or prosecutor to reduce a reckless driving offense to improper driving if the culpability is slight. Numerous factors play into the determination of whether culpability is slight. Having an experienced attorney on your side will help ensure the factors the court finds most persuasive are shared in court or with the prosecutor so you can avoid the penalties associated with reckless driving.

    The penalties for reckless driving are very different than the penalties associated with improper driving convictions:

    • Reckless driving is generally a class 1 misdemeanor with penalties of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Your driver’s license can be suspended for up to six months, and six demerit points are assessed by the DMV, which will remain on your record for 11 years. This is on top of a permanent criminal record.
       
    • Improper driving is a traffic infraction and carries up to a $500 fine. There is no possibility of jail time or license suspension if convicted of improper driving. In addition, only three demerit points are assessed by the DMV, and those points will remain on your record for only three years instead of eleven.

    A number of factors can affect whether or not you will be able to get a reckless driving charge reduced to improper driving, a different charge, or have the charge completely dismissed. Having a clean driving record, showing this was a borderline speeding case, performing community service, and taking a driver improvement or educational course are a few of the positive factors that may result in your charges being reduced.

    Have you been charged with reckless driving? Let our experienced reckless driving attorneys help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Call us to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • Will a reckless driving conviction affect my ability to obtain a green card?

    Green Cards and How a Criminal Conviction Affects itIf you are charged with reckless driving, a conviction can involve many more consequences than the actual sentence that you face. A conviction would result in a permanent criminal record, and you may find that the conviction affects your ability to obtain employment, a professional license, or a loan. Your worries can be magnified if you have come to the United States from another country and are applying for lawful permanent residency, also know as a green card, to remain here and work.

    How a Conviction Affects Your Ability to Obtain a Green Card

    A green card can be the first step in the process of becoming a permanent resident and a United States citizen, but you must meet specific requirements in order to obtain it. On the application, you will be asked whether you have been "arrested, charged, indicted, convicted, fined, or imprisoned for breaking or violating any law or ordinance, excluding traffic violations." A reckless driving charge is most frequently a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is more serious than a traffic infraction. If your reckless driving resulted in someone’s death, you may be convicted of a Class 6 felony.

    A reckless driving conviction might not prevent you from obtaining a green card, especially if it is a misdemeanor conviction, but it can make the process more complicated. How seriously the conviction will impact your immigration status will depend on a number of factors. Some of these include:

    • Whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense
       
    • Whether or not anyone was injured or killed
       
    • Whether or not you have any other criminal charges on your record and the severity of these charges
       
    • Whether or not you were driving while intoxicated due to alcohol or drug use at the time of your reckless driving charges

    You will need to consult with an immigration attorney to determine exactly how a reckless driving conviction may affect your green card status.

    If you are facing reckless driving charges and applying for a green card, it is vital that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even if you believe that you are guilty, you may have defenses that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious traffic offense that would not affect your green card application. To find out how our experienced legal team can help, start an online chat to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • What are the possible defenses to a reckless driving ticket in Virginia?

    Reckless Driving ChargesReckless driving charges can have long-term consequences on your life. A conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor and will result in you having a permanent criminal record. However, there are a number of defenses that you may be able to raise—with the help of an experienced reckless driving attorney—that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense with much less severe penalties.

    What Is Reckless Driving in Virginia?

    The Commonwealth of Virginia takes reckless driving very seriously, and there are at least 15 offenses that may constitute reckless driving. Reckless driving generally involves speeding. Here are the most common offenses:

    • Under Virginia Code § 46.2-862, you may be charged with reckless driving for driving over the speed limit by 20 miles per hour or more or in excess of 80 miles per hour.
       
    • Under Virginia Code § 46.2-852, it is illegal to drive recklessly or in a way that endangers the life or property of any person. This is a broad catch-all offense that gives the police broad leeway to charge you with reckless driving.

    If convicted of reckless driving, you face a sentence of up to 12 months in jail, a fine of $2,500, and six demerit points on your driving record.

    Defenses That May Help You Beat Reckless Driving Charges

    You will need the help of an experienced attorney to determine what defenses apply to your situation. However, the following are common defenses raised in these cases:

    • Location. The Commonwealth must prove that the reckless driving offense took place in the correct county or city where you were charged. If you were near the border between jurisdictions when you were charged, the officer who charged you may not have had authority to do so, in which case the charges may be dismissed.
       
    • Highway. This is another situation-specific defense. A highway is defined broadly in Virginia to include highways and many public roads. However, if your offense occurred in a gated community or another private roadway, you may not be able to be charged with this offense.
       
    • Radar or Lidar Calibration. If you are charged with reckless driving, the Commonwealth must establish that the radar or LIDAR used to check your speed was properly calibrated and working properly on the date you were charged. The device must have been calibrated within the prior six months, and the officer must have a valid certification that meets specific statutory requirements. The lack of a calibration certificate or a defective one are common defenses raised by experienced reckless driving attorneys that may result in the charges being lessened, or in some circumstances, dismissed.
       
    • Equipment use. Another defense related to the radar or LIDAR speed findings is that the police did not use the equipment properly. Use of these devices requires special training and experience. An experienced lawyer may be able to challenge how the officer used the device in order to get the reckless driving charge dismissed.
       
    • Your speedometer. In some cases, getting your speedometer calibrated can prove that the speedometer was not working properly and that you were unaware of the speed at which you were traveling. If you plan to claim that you were not speeding, you may have to have your speedometer calibrated. However, in many cases, the calibration shows no inaccuracies, so you want to discuss whether you should spend the money for this with your attorney before having it done.
       
    • GPS defense. A common defense can be that a person’s GPS showed that he was going at a lower speed than the officer claims. This can be a powerful defense. However, for it to be successful, you will need to show proof of the GPS reading at the time you were charged with this offense and proof that the GPS was accurate.

    Let Our Experienced Reckless Driving Attorneys Help

    These are just a few of the defenses that you may be able to raise to beat reckless driving charges. An experienced reckless driving attorney will be able to spot all of the helpful defenses in your case, as well as suggest other actions that you can take to minimize the penalties you face. Call our office today to schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our reckless driving legal team to learn more about your defenses and our extensive experience in these cases.

     

  • I received a ticket for reckless driving in Virginia. What do I do?

    Reckless Driving in VirginiaIf you are charged with reckless driving in Virginia, you may not realize the serious consequences of a conviction, or that you may have options to lessen them. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in Virginia with penalties that include possible jail time and hefty fines. In addition, a guilty plea or plea of no contest would result in a permanent criminal record. Here, we share your options if you receive a reckless driving ticket so that you can minimize the harsh consequences you face.

    What Is Reckless Driving in Virginia?

    Reckless driving is treated seriously in Virginia, and you may be charged with this for more than just speeding. There are at least 15 separate reckless driving offenses, and they include the following:

    Penalties for Reckless Driving

    Reckless driving is a Class I misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. The court may also suspend your driver's license for up to six months. A conviction for reckless driving also results in a permanent criminal record and may hinder your ability to obtain certain employment or successfully undergo a thorough background check. In addition, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will impose six demerit points for a reckless driving conviction, why may in turn lead to higher insurance premiums.

    Options for Handling Your Reckless Driving Ticket

    You have a number of options for handling your reckless driving ticket, but not all are in your best interests. If your goal is to minimize the penalties, some of your choices will not lead to this result. However, it is still useful to know all your options before making the important decision of how to proceed in your case. These include the following:

    • Ignore the ticket. It is never a good idea to ignore a reckless driving ticket. If you do nothing after being ticketed for reckless driving, you may be found guilty by the judge at your hearing in your absence. A warrant may also be issued for your arrest.
       
    • Plead guilty or no contest. Another option would be to appear in court unrepresented and plead guilty or no contest. However, if you do this, you will be found guilty and end up with a permanent conviction. You will have a permanent criminal record that may affect your ability to obtain a job, a professional license, and more.
       
    • Represent yourself. While you may be tempted to represent yourself at your court hearing, the stakes of a conviction are high enough that this option is almost certainly not in your best interests. You may not know the technical requirements for the police officer to prove the charge, and you may be unaware of certain defenses that may apply. Moreover, you may lose out on the opportunity to have an experienced attorney negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution in order to potentially obtain a more favorable outcome.
       
    • Retain an attorney. Your best option is to retain an experienced traffic law attorney who has a record of success in handling reckless driving cases. The attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding your ticket, raise any defenses you may have, and fight to get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.

    Pick the Right Option. Contact Our Office Today

    Were you charged with reckless driving? Make the right choice and contact our experienced traffic law attorneys today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation. We will explain your legal options and how we may be able to fight to get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a lesser traffic violation.

     

  • How long do traffic convictions stay on my criminal record?

    Traffic Violations May Result in a Criminal RecordMany people do not realize that traffic violations—even minor infractions—can have long-term consequences beyond just paying a ticket. In Virginia, traffic violations can affect your driving record and your criminal record if the violation is a misdemeanor. Because of this, you do not want to make the mistake of not taking a traffic violation seriously. With the help of an experienced traffic law attorney, you may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to an offense with lesser penalties.

    Common Traffic Violations That Result in Demerit Points on a Driving Record

    There are many minor infractions in Virginia that may not result in a permanent criminal record but will result in you being assessed a fine and demerit points on your driving record. This can also result in dramatic increases in your automobile insurance costs. The demerit points will generally come off your record in two years—but the infraction can remain on your driving record for 3 to 11 years depending on the severity of the infraction. Here are some common traffic violations that you may be charged with:

    • Driving too slowly. Virginia Code §46.2-877 makes it illegal to impede traffic by driving too slowly and comes with a fine and three demerit points.
       
    • Improper turn. Virginia Code §46.2-846 provides that it is a violation to make a right turn from other than the right-hand or turn lane or to make a left turn from other than the lane nearest the center lane. The penalty is a fine and three demerit points.
       
    • Failing to yieldVirginia Code §46.2-820 through 829 makes it a violation to fail to yield the right of way in a variety of driving situations, such as failing to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic when making a left turn. The penalty is a fine and four demerit points.
       
    • Failing to obey a traffic signal. Virginia Code §46.2-833 requires drivers to obey traffic signals. Failure to do so may result in a fine and four demerit points.
    • Failing to obey a highway sign. Virginia Code §46.2-830 requires drivers to obey high signs. Failure to do so may result in a fine and three demerit points.

     

    • Speeding. Virginia Code §46.2-870 through Virginia Code §46.2-875 sets the speed limits on highways and other Virginia roads. Depending on how fast a person is speeding, he may be assessed up to six demerit points and have the conviction remain on his driving record for 11 years.

    More Serious Traffic Violations That May Result in a Permanent Criminal Record

    Some common traffic violations are misdemeanor offenses in Virginia that carry more severe penalties and the risk of a permanent criminal record. A criminal record may affect many aspects of your life, such as your ability to obtain a job, to keep a professional license, to obtain or maintain a security clearance, and to obtain a loan. These violations are serious enough that you must attend court and cannot simply prepay a ticket to avoid appearing in court. Here are some common traffic violations that are misdemeanors:

    • Driving without a license or with a suspended license. Virginia Code §46.2-300 prohibits driving without a license, and Virginia Code §46.2-301 makes it illegal to drive on a suspended or revoked license. This may result in a Class 1 misdemeanor—the most serious misdemeanor—with a penalty of up to one year in jail, $2,500 in fines, and suspension of a driver’s license. Subsequent violations may result in felony charges.
       
    • Reckless driving. Virginia Code §46.2-852 provides that regardless of the posted speed limit that it is a violation of the law to drive recklessly or in a manner that endangers a person. Virginia code §46.2-862 provides that a person may be charged with reckless driving for driving 20 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit or over 80 miles per hour. This is also a Class 1 misdemeanor that may result in jail time, significant fines, and/or suspension of your driving privileges.
    • Hit and run. It is a violation of Virginia Code §46.2-894 for a driver to leave the scene of an accident without stopping to provide contact information and to give help to any injured victims of the wreck. Passengers can also face criminal charges for not reporting the accident when the driver fails to do so, and both the driver and passenger may be charged with other offenses for leaving the scene of an unattended vehicle accident. This can result in a Class 5 or 6 felony or a misdemeanor charge depending on the severity of the accident. Penalties can include a prison or jail sentence, fines, or both.
       
    • Driving under the influence. Virginia Code §46.2-266 prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, or driving under the influence of marijuana or a drug or other intoxicant. A first offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, but under Virginia Code §46.2-270, a third or subsequent conviction can result in a Class 6 felony conviction with a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $2,500 fine. Virginia law also imposes mandatory minimum sentences for certain subsequent convictions, as well as in cases with an elevated blood alcohol level.

    Let Us Help You Fight Your Traffic Charges

    If you just pay your ticket, you need to realize that this is an admission of guilt and has long-term consequences on your driving and criminal record. Even if you believe you are guilty, you may have defenses that may result in the dismissal of the charges or the reduction to a less serious offense. Lack of probable cause to stop you, improper administering of DUI-related tests, and violations of your constitutional rights are a few of the defenses you may have. To learn how we can help you achieve the best possible outcome, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.