All too often I receive calls from individuals who received a reckless driving charge, but didn't think it was a big deal. The problem is that by the time they call, the court date has passed, the appeal deadline has passed, and nothing can be done to alter the conviction. If only they had called sooner, I could have stopped them from making such a mistake.
As I have posted previously, reckless driving is a class I misdemeanor in Virginia, which means a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail, a $2500 fine, and a 6 month license suspension. Granted, jail time and thousands of dollars in fines are reserved for all but the most severe cases, but this should demonstrate how serious an offense reckless driving is. The degree of punishment varies significantly from one jurisdiction to another. In the central Virginia area, some courts (Henrico, Chesterfield, Richmond City) will begin imposing jail time at 90 mph, regardless of how good a driving record you have. In other jurisdictions, 100 mph may not carry any jail time at all, though you will lose your license. Most of the jurisdictions that impose jail time will also issue bench warrants should you fail to come for your trial, essentially making you a "wanted" person.
In Virginia, reckless driving has many different definitions. However, the most common offense is reckless driving by speed. Traveling at 20 miles or more over the speed limit, or simply in excess of 80 mph, is reckless driving by statute. It does not require proof of any other poor driving behavior other than speed itself. Thus, even though it may not be reckless driving in your home state to travel 81 mph, doing so in Virginia could lead to a criminal conviction.
As a result, the most important reason not to ignore your reckless driving ticket is having the opportunity to avoid the criminal conviction. Not only will the conviction be reflected on your driving record, it will also be reflected on your criminal background check, which can pose other problems in your life. Employment opportunities and security clearances are the two areas I hear of being most affected by reckless driving convictions. In many cases, we are able to negotiate or argue for a reduction or dismissal of reckless driving charges to avoid the damaging nature of such a criminal conviction.
Another damaging side effect of reckless driving convictions is on your automobile liability insurance. Now, while the exact effect of a conviction on your insurance should be discussed with your insurer, it is no secret that most if not all companies will consider raising your monthly premium if you are found guilty of reckless driving. Most increases will also last for at least a few years until you prove to your insurer that your conviction was an isolated incident. As an example, a $25/month increase in your insurance that lasts for three years would end up costing you an extra $900, which will probably far outweigh the attorney fee might pay to avoid a reckless conviction. I have even heard of premiums increasing by as much as a few hundred dollars per month!
A final consideration to make when thinking about how to handle your reckless driving charge is how the conviction would translate to your state. While in a few states, out of state convictions will not result in points to your license (insurance can still be affected), most other states will dock your driving record for a conviction. In some states, you could also run the risk of losing your driver's license even if the court in Virginia did not suspend your privilege to drive. North Carolina is the most common example that I see of a home state law imposing a secondary punishment after Virginia has imposed the primary punishment. More on this in my next post.
As you can see, Virginia takes reckless driving very seriously. I am explaining these things not to try to convince you to hire us to represent you in court (though I would be happy to), but more so to explain the serious consequences that may befall you should you just choose to ignore the ticket. Don't say I didn't warn you!