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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  • Why was I charged with driving too fast for traffic and road conditions in Fairfax?

    Speeding Car on a Rural Virginia RoadIn Virginia, there are at least 15 separate offenses that fall under the crime of reckless driving. Many would be charged as less serious traffic violations in another state, such as failing to yield the right of way or not using a turn signal. Driving too fast for traffic and road conditions is a common reckless driving offense that you may be charged with in Virginia—even if you are driving at or below the speed limit.

    What Is Driving Too Fast for Traffic and Road Conditions?

    Under Virginia Code §46.2-861, you can be charged with reckless driving for exceeding “a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.” What is considered a reasonable speed is in the discretion of the police officer who pulls you over.

    Driving too fast for road and traffic conditions is frequently charged when there has been a motor vehicle accident. Other circumstances where an officer may stop you for driving too fast for conditions include:

    • Weather, such as fog, rain, snow, ice, or sleet
    • Slowed traffic due to an accident
    • Road construction
    • Taking a curve too fast
    • Driving too fast on gravel
    • Other emergency conditions

    What Are the Penalties for Driving Too Fast for Road and Traffic Conditions?

    Like other reckless driving charges, driving too fast for road and traffic conditions is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face these punishments:

    • Jail sentence of up to one year
    • Fine of up to $2,500
    • Potential driver’s license suspension of 10 days to six months

    In addition, six demerit points would be added on your driving record, which may increase your vehicle insurance costs significantly. You would also have a permanent criminal record.

    Have you been charged with reckless driving in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? Our experienced reckless driving attorneys can help you develop a strong defense strategy so that the charges against you are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To find out more about how we can assist you, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.


  • Do I need to report my reckless driving conviction on a job application?

    Prospective Employee Filling Out a Job ApplicationWhen you are charged with reckless driving, it is not just a traffic ticket. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, and you will have a permanent criminal record if convicted. Because of this, you may have to disclose your conviction on job applications, which may impact your job prospects when hunting for a job in Fairfax and throughout Northern Virginia.

    When Do You Need to Disclose a Reckless Driving Conviction on a Job Application?

    More and more employers are conducting a criminal background check or asking about a person’s criminal record on their job applications. When deciding whether you need to disclose your criminal record when applying for a job, it is important to read the question very carefully. You may be asked about your criminal background in a few ways, and this will affect how you answer. Here are some possible questions:

    • Have you ever been charged with a crime? If you are asked this question, you would need to answer yes, because reckless driving is a criminal offense.
    • Have you been convicted of a crime? If you were convicted of reckless driving, you would answer yes to this question. If the charge was dismissed or was reduced to a traffic violation that is not a misdemeanor, you most likely can answer no. However, if the charges were dismissed based on you completing community service or a driving school course, you do not have to disclose your reckless driving charge as long as it was dismissed or reduced to another offense after you completed the deferral conditions.
    • Have you been convicted of a felony? Reckless driving charges are misdemeanors. However, in certain situations the same behavior that would be reckless driving could also be a felony. Depending on what you are charged with, you may or may not have to answer yes to this question.

    It is important to keep in mind that reckless driving is most often a misdemeanor, not a felony. Many employers will consider a misdemeanor conviction in a much different light than if a person was convicted of a felony. In addition, some employers only ask about convictions for the last 10 years. If your conviction occurred earlier than that, you would not need to mention it in this situation.

    However, a reckless driving conviction may prevent you from obtaining employment in certain professions that require driving. For example, driving instructors at schools and individuals with commercial licenses may not be able to keep their jobs. Likewise, it may be difficult to gain employment at jobs where driving is required by the employer (e.g. construction jobs, Uber/Lyft).

    What Happens If You Fail to Disclose Your Reckless Driving Conviction?

    If you are required to disclose your conviction and fail to do so, your employer may discover it when doing a criminal background check. Your answer would most likely be considered untruthful and may be grounds not to hire you or to terminate you. Employers are typically more concerned about deceit than the fact that you were once convicted of reckless driving, especially if it occurred years ago.

    You can avoid some of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences of a reckless driving conviction by retaining an experienced reckless driving attorney in Fairfax. To learn how we would aggressively mount a defense to the charges you face, fill out our convenient online form to schedule a free consultation today.


  • Am I pleading guilty if I sign a reckless driving ticket?

    Reckless Driving Court Date Circled on a CalendarWhen you are charged with reckless driving in Fairfax, it is different than being charged with other crimes. Typically, you are not handcuffed and taken down to the police station to be booked and jailed. Instead, the police officer gives you a ticket (called a summons) and asks you to sign it.

    Should You Sign the Reckless Driving Ticket?

    Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. While an officer can arrest you for the offense, they usually do not. Instead, you are asked to sign the summons, which is a promise to appear in court. Below is some information you may find on your summons and an explanation of the legal effect of signing the summons.

    • You are not pleading guilty to reckless driving by signing the summons. It is only a promise that you will be in court. If you do not live up to that promise, then you could be arrested or otherwise brought to court to explain why you did not appear for your court date.

    What Happens If You Refuse to Sign the Summons?

    If you do not sign the summons, the police officer may assume that you do not intend to appear at future court hearings. He can arrest you and take you to the police station for booking as a result. 

    The police have discretion in deciding to arrest individuals charged with certain less serious offenses, such as reckless driving. Refusing to sign the summons can be enough of a hindrance or annoyance to the officer for them to justify your arrest. Additionally, by not signing the summons, you come across as rude and uncooperative, which is likely a factor that will play into resolving your case. Signing the summons is a good strategy to avoid these negative consequences.

    Contact Us for Help Fighting Your Reckless Driving Charge

    While you should sign the summons, it is not in your best interests to just plead guilty and accept your punishment. If convicted, your sentence may include jail time, hefty fines, driver’s license suspension, points on your driving record, and a permanent criminal record. Even if you are guilty of this crime, you may have strong defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

    Our experienced reckless driving attorneys will aggressively fight the charges you face so that you achieve the best possible outcome. Call our Fairfax law office or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation today.


  • What Do The Points On My Driving Record Mean?

    Frustrated male Virginia driver after getting points on driving record for traffic violationIf you are a Virginia-licensed driver, you are subject to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) demerit points system.  Each and every moving violation (speeding, reckless driving, failure to obey a highway sign or traffic signal, etc.) carries a pre-assigned demerit point value.  The number of points assessed depends on the nature of the offense. So what does it mean to accumulate a certain number of demerit points and how do you know how many points you will receive for a particular traffic charge?  Below, you will find the answers to both questions.

    A comprehensive list of all the different violations and their corresponding demerit points can be found on the DMV’s website.  The demerit points are divided into three categories: 3-point offenses; 4-point offenses, and 6-point offenses.  

    Some common 3-point offenses include: exceeding the speed limit by 1-9 mph, improper driving or passing, driving on the sidewalk, driving without proper lights or excessive lights, improper turns, and failure to obey a highway sign or traffic signal.

    Common 4-point offenses include: exceeding the speed limit by 10-19 mph, unsafe passing, failure to yield the right of way, following too closely, failure to obey railroad crossing markings or lights, and other offenses.  

    Finally, some common six-point offenses include: reckless driving of any kind, exceeding the speed limit by 20 or more mph, driving under the influence (DUI) of any kind, vehicular manslaughter, driving as a habitual offender, driving on a revoked or suspended license, failure to stop at a crash, and others.

    Aside from the penalties imposed for the specific offense charged, the DMV will assess the corresponding demerit points to your driving record.  Those demerit points can be viewed by insurance companies and may impact your insurance rates. Those points are also used by the DMV to take administrative action.  

    Consequences of Accumulating Demerit Points

    Drivers who are 18 or older can be the subject of administrative action depending on the number of demerit points they accumulate within a rolling 12 or 24-month period.  An adult driver who receives 8-11 points in 12 months or 12 points in 24 months will receive an advisory letter from the DMV stating they could be the subject of further action.  If the driver accumulates 12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months, they will be informed by DMV that they are required to complete a driver improvement clinic within 90 days of the letter.  Failure to complete the course can lead to suspension of your license. If the same driver accumulates 18 points in 12 months or 24 points in 24 months, then their Virginia license will be suspended for 90 days and they will have to complete another driver improvement course.  After the course is completed and 90 days have passed, the driver will be placed on a 6-month, DMV-monitored probationary period.

    Any driver placed on probation must complete the probation period without being convicted of any new moving violations while on probation.  If the individual is successful, they are not out of the woods yet. Instead, they have to then complete an 18-month Control Period. If any new offense is committed while in the Control Period, the driver will be returned to a 6-month probationary period.

    If the driver is on DMV probation and commits a new moving violation, they face additional consequences.  Any 3-point offenses on probation lead to an automatic 45-day suspension of the individual’s license. Any 4-point offenses on probation lead to an automatic 60-day suspension.  And, any 6-point offenses on probation lead to an automatic 90-day suspension. These suspensions are in addition to (or run consecutive to) any existing suspensions. So, if a court suspends the driver’s license for 30 days, and the offense was a 3-point offense committed while on DMV probation, the individual will end up losing their license for 75 consecutive days (45 +35).  

    It is easy to get caught in the cycle of probation, Control Periods, and license suspensions if you are not careful and are prone to poor driving.  Moreover, you are not guaranteed to receive a restricted operator’s license (ROL) while on DMV suspension. All DMV-based ROL applications are completely discretionary.  And, if you have committed two or more DMV probation violations and there was no intervening Control Period, then you are prohibited from getting a ROL.

    The DMV’s administrative framework is complicated and convoluted at times.  It is difficult to understand and easy to get lost in the potential consequences of a traffic infraction.  If you have received multiple tickets in a short period of time, you need to be aware of the additional administrative penalties that may accompany an additional conviction.  Our attorneys frequently deal with these issues and know how the DMV’s administrative regulations work. Contact the Fairfax traffic attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro today to find out what a traffic ticket could do to your driver’s license and what options you may have to avoid harsh administrative, and other, penalties.  

  • Can my reckless driving conviction be expunged in Virginia?

    Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, and you will have a permanent criminal record if convicted. Unfortunately, you only have a very limited right to get a reckless driving conviction expunged from your criminal record. Here, we explain when this may be possible.

    When Can Your Reckless Driving Conviction Be Expunged?

    Criminal Record That Is Being Expunged

    When a conviction is expunged in Virginia, all records of your arrest and court case are removed from your criminal record. This can be a huge benefit to you because it cannot be accessed by employers, state agencies, educational institutions, and others. It would also allow you to treat the charge as if it never happened.

    However, it is very difficult to get a reckless driving conviction expunged in our state. Here are the limited circumstances when this may be possible:

    • Acquittal. If you were acquitted of the reckless driving charge by the judge, you may be able to get the arrest and acquittal expunged from your criminal record.
    • No prosecution. If the prosecutor decided not to prosecute your case, which is referred to as a nolle prosequi, you are eligible to petition for expungement of the case record. 
    • Otherwise dismissed. If the charge was dismissed without any finding of sufficient evidence to support a conviction and without any plea of guilty or no contest by you, then you may be eligible for expungement.
    • Amended charges. The Virginia Supreme Court has held that a person who is convicted of an amended charge that is not a “lesser included offense” is eligible to expunge the original charge. This means that if you were charged with reckless driving, but the prosecutor offers to amend the charge to failure to pay full time and attention, defective equipment, or a number of other charges that are not considered lesser included offenses, then the original charge of reckless driving may be expunged. However, the other elements of expungement must also be shown to the court. 

    Our Experienced Reckless Driving Attorneys Can Help

    If you are facing a reckless driving charge, or if your reckless driving charge has been dismissed or amended to another charge and you would like to expunge the original case record, our experienced attorneys can help you. We represent clients in Fairfax and throughout Northern Virginia. Call our Fairfax office or start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.


  • 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.