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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  • Can I be charged with reckless driving in Virginia if I live in another state?

    Virginia Road Sign in a Bright SkyYes, you may be charged with reckless driving in Virginia if you live out of state. If you choose to drive on Virginia roads, then Virginia laws apply to you regardless of where you live or which state issued your driver’s license.

    VA Reckless Driving Speeding Crimes and Penalties

    Virginia Code § 46.2-862 makes it a crime to drive a motor vehicle on a highway in Virginia if one of the following two things is true. You are:

    • Driving faster than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit
       
    • Driving faster than 80 miles per hour.

    In most cases, violation of this law is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you are convicted of reckless driving due to speeding, then you may face imprisonment for up to 12 months, a fine of up to $2,500, or both penalties.

    If your reckless driving was the sole and proximate cause of another person’s death or if you were driving without a valid license, from any state, because of a license suspension or revocation due to a moving violation, then you may be convicted of a Class 6 felony. The potential penalty for a Class 6 felony could include imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $2,500, or both penalties. Both Class 1 misdemeanor and Class 6 felony convictions may also result in additional fines and penalties.

    According to the Driver License Compact, you may face penalties in your home state if you are convicted of reckless driving in Virginia. The Driver License Compact applies to Washington D.C. and all states in the country except for Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

    Call a Virginia Reckless Driving Lawyer

    What might have been a speeding ticket in your home state is a crime in Virginia, and Virginia law applies to your case. Therefore, you need an experienced Fairfax reckless driving defense attorney to defend you. Your lawyer may be able to appear in court on your behalf so that you don’t need to come back to Virginia for your court date.

    We understand the serious legal and financial consequences you face. Call us to schedule a free consultation and to get started protecting your rights today.

     

  • What is the difference between a traffic ticket for speeding and being charged with speeding as reckless driving?

    Car Being Pulled Over for SpeedingIf 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.

    Penalties

    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 at (703) 352-0100 to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • When can speeding be charged as reckless driving in Virginia?

    Paperwork Given to a Driver After Caught SpeedingIf you are speeding in Virginia and are pulled over by the police, you may receive more than a speeding ticket. You may be charged with reckless driving, which is a serious crime in our commonwealth. You would face a possible jail sentence, fines, suspension of your driving privileges, and a permanent criminal record. Fortunately, you may be able to avoid these harsh consequences if you retain an experienced reckless driving attorney in Fairfax.

    When Is Speeding Charged as Reckless Driving in Virginia?

    There are approximately 15 separate offenses that constitute reckless driving in Virginia. Two of them specifically involve speeding. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-862, you can be charged with reckless driving for speeding in these situations:

    • You were driving over 80 mph regardless of the posted speed.
       
    • You were driving 20 mph or more over the speed limit.

    It is not too hard to unintentionally violate these reckless driving laws. This is especially true on Virginia’s highways, where the speed limit is 70 mph in some areas and other drivers are often traveling at a fast speed.

    Penalties You May Face If Charged With Reckless Driving for Speeding

    Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious type of misdemeanor offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If convicted, you face these penalties:

    • Jail sentence of up to 12 months
       
    • $2,500 fine
       
    • Driver’s license suspension for up to six months
       
    • Six demerit points on your driving record for a period of eleven years

    Are you facing reckless driving charges in Virginia? You may have strong defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious misdemeanor or traffic infraction.

    Our skilled legal team has decades of experience defending clients facing these charges in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC. To learn about how we can aggressively defend you, call our Fairfax office at (703) 352-0100 or start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • 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.