Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Virginia. State law defines reckless driving speeding as driving 20 mph over the speed limit or driving over 85 mph regardless of the speed limit. If you are convicted of reckless driving, then you could face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, loss of your license, points on your license, and other consequences. However, before you are convicted or sentenced, the Commonwealth of Virginia must prove that you violated the reckless driving law.
Reckless Driving Speeding Evidence
Virginia Code § 46.2-882 details how police may monitor motor vehicle speed with technology. In Virginia, the police may use the following methods to determine how fast you are driving:
- Laser speed determination devices
- Microcomputer devices that are physically connected to odometer cables and measure distance traveled and elapsed time to determine the average speed of a motor vehicle
- Microcomputer devices on airplanes or helicopters that measure distance traveled and elapsed time to determine the average speed of a motor vehicle on an interstate highway
- Photo speed monitoring in school crossing zones or highway work zones
The law allows police to use these speed monitoring methods, but these methods are not always accurate.
Most often, the evidence presented by the government will include radar, lidar, or pacing evidence.
Radar and Lidar Evidence
For more than half a century, police have been using Radio detection and ranging (Radar) to monitor motor vehicle speeds. Radar technology uses radio waves to determine the speed of the vehicle that is within its beam.
Light detection and ranging (Lidar) works similarly to radar, but with newer technology. Instead of radio waves, lidar uses lasers to detect the speed of a vehicle within its beam.
If your speed was determined by radar or lidar, then your possible defenses are similar. You may argue that there was:
- A problem with the equipment. If you are charged with traveling a speed that exceeds your actual speed, then there may have been a problem with the radar or lidar equipment's calibration. If you question radar or lidar calibration, then a certificate that shows the calibration or accuracy of the following may be relevant to your defense: (1) your speedometer; (2) any tuning fork used in calibrating or testing the radar or lidar; and (3) any other method used to calibrate the radar or lidar equipment. The evidence presented to the court should include when and by whom the calibration was made. Calibration testing is valid for up to six months on all devices other than photo speed monitoring devices.
- Operator error. In the absence of extreme negligence, this may be difficult to prove. You don't have any direct knowledge of how the equipment was used, and the police officer is unlikely to admit a mistake. However, if the right questions are asked, and answers are legally required, then you may be able to prove that a police officer's mistake resulted in an incorrect speed reading.
Other possible defenses include that the radar or lidar equipment wrongfully assigned the speed to your vehicle when it was really another vehicle near you that was speeding or that weather conditions interfered with the equipment's proper functioning.
It is up to the prosecutor to prove the state's case against you. However, you should assert any applicable reckless driving defenses to make sure that you are treated fairly.
Sometimes police officers suspect that motorists are speeding and travel near the motorist. The officers then consult their own speedometers after keeping pace with the suspected speeding vehicle and using the numbers on their own speedometers as speeding evidence.
Pacing evidence is admissible in Virginia courts. However, it is more subjective than radar or lidar speed detection. The officer may have sped up to catch up to a car, for example, or the officer's own speedometer may not be appropriately calibrated.
Contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer If You're Charged With Reckless Driving
A reckless driving charge is not just a speeding ticket—you have been charged with a crime. If the government proves its case against you, then you may face a criminal conviction. You have a lot at stake. Our experienced Northern Virginia criminal defense lawyers are here to help you. Please contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your reckless driving defense.