Motorists' group says reckless driving charge for speeding is too severe
A recent survey suggests that Virginia's reckless driving laws for speeding are overly harsh, according to Watchdog. The ranking of states' speeding laws by Popular Mechanics claims that Virginia has the fourth toughest speeding laws in the country. Experts note that the state regularly issues a disproportionately high number of traffic citations and drivers could end up with a criminal record for driving as little as 11 mph over the speed limit.
Same level as a DUI
In Virginia, a driver is deemed to be engaging in reckless driving when traveling at least 20 mph over the speed limit or, if a bill currently working its way through the House Transportation Subcommittee makes it to the floor and is approved, driving at least 85 mph. As it stands now, the threshold for reckless driving is 80 mph, a speed many claim is already too dangerous.
Reckless driving is a serious offense that can result in a $2,500 fine along with one year in jail. The offense, a Class One criminal misdemeanor, is the highest type of misdemeanor and is equivalent to a DUI charge. A conviction can even result in a driver's license being suspended.
Those harsh laws make Virginia one of the toughest states for motorists to drive in, according to the National Motorists Association. The state was recently ranked as having the fourth strictest speeding laws. New Jersey was ranked as the toughest state, while North Dakota was the least tough in terms of speeding penalties.
Drivers often surprised
Compounding the tough laws is the high level of enforcement on Virginia's roads and highways. The state ranks seventh for number of traffic citations issued, for example, despite only being the 12th largest state by population. As Jalopnik points out, the problem is made even worse by many officers only writing "RD" on citations, which many drivers do not realize until later actually stands for reckless driving and could lead to a criminal record.
While maximum sentences under the law are rarely seen actually handed down, jail time of a few days along with high fines are common. The type of punishment a motorist can expect for reckless driving also largely depends on the county in which the offense occurred. For some counties, for example, driving 90 mph could result in jail time, while in other counties the threshold may be kept at 100 mph. It's important to keep in mind, as well, that on highways with a 65 mph speed limit, for example, driving just 15 mph over that limit can result in a reckless driving charge.
Responding to a charge
Responding to a reckless driving charge requires the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who understands how local courts and judges typically punish such offenses. Instead of just agreeing to pay the fine right away, motorists should contact an attorney to learn about what other options may be available to them. With such assistance, drivers may be able to avoid a high fine, jail time, license suspension, or criminal record.