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Is Reckless Driving a Felony in Virginia?

Posted by John A. Kassabian | Apr 16, 2020

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If you are charged with reckless driving in Virginia, you can usually expect to be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. While the penalties for this charge are not ideal, and include up to a $2500 fine, up to 12 months in jail, and the loss of your driver's license for up to six months, a misdemeanor charge is always better than having a felony on your record. Unfortunately, however, in some serious circumstances, reckless driving can be charged as a felony. I'll tell you more below, and discuss when a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer may be able to help.

Circumstances Where Reckless Driving is a Felony

As I mentioned, reckless driving is typically charged as a misdemeanor. In some scenarios, such as getting caught on radar driving 20 or more miles per hour above the posted speed limit, passing a school bus, or otherwise driving in a way that could put other drivers or pedestrians in danger, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. There are only a few situations where reckless driving is charged as a felony. In order to be charged as a felony, one of three things must occur:

First, if you driving without a valid operator's license due to a license suspension or revocation for a moving violation when you were charged with reckless driving AND your offense was the sole and proximate cause of someone's death, you can be charged with a Class 6 felony. A second scenario where you could be charged with a felony is if you received a reckless driving charge for racing AND your racing driving conduct was so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life AND you severely injured a person who was not involved in the race. Again, this would be a Class 6 felony charge. With a felony your chances of going to jail for reckless driving in Virginia significantly increase, along with your fines. A Class 6 felony carries between 12 months of jail time to up to 5 years of prison time as well as a $2500 fine.  

A final scenario where reckless driving qualifies as a felony is if you receive the charge for racing and someone was killed because of the race and your conduct of racing was so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.  In this scenario, under Virginia Code 46.2-865.1, the penalty is one to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year.

In all of these cases, you will also lose your driver's license for 1-3 years. In some cases, a Fairfax reckless driving attorney can help you reduce the length of your suspension or lower your fines or jail time. You can learn more about when to fight a reckless driving charge here.

When to Discuss Your Case With an Attorney

Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony because of reckless driving, working with a lawyer can often help you face reduced consequences for the offense and some cases, even getting the charge dismissed. They can also help you understand when fighting a reckless driving charge may be worth it.

While no one wants a felony on their permanent criminal record, a misdemeanor is also not ideal, as it will haunt you when you try to apply for jobs and housing, not to mention cause a big hike in your insurance rates. However, a good lawyer can potentially help you keep this charge off your permanent record by getting it reduced. For example, if you were charged with a misdemeanor because you were going over 20 mph above the posted speed limit, an experienced lawyer may be able to get the charge reduced to a simple speeding infarction, which will not stay on your permanent record. Additionally, there are a handful of infractions that won't even carry DMV demerit points or appear on your driving record.        

In other cases, a reckless driving lawyer serving Fairfax may be able to get a reckless driving misdemeanor charge reduced to improper driving, which carries up to a $500 fine and carries no jail time or license suspension. It also carries only three demerit points against your driver's license instead of the eleven points you could get for reckless driving. In terms of a felony, in some cases a lawyer can get your fines or jail time reduced, or help you get your license back with restrictions.

The best choice of lawyer is one who has a strong understanding of local laws in your state and is familiar with area judges and prosecutors. This experience often allows them to negotiate more effectively.

If you need help from a reckless driving lawyer in Fairfax, John Kassabian of Kassabian & Kassabian, PLC may be able to assist you. He has helped many Virginians receive improved outcomes after a reckless driving charge and may be able to help you, too. He offers free consultations and can apprise you of your rights, tell you what to expect in court, and suggest ways to move forward.

Contact him today to discuss your case at 703-750-3622.

About the Author

John A. Kassabian

John A. Kassabian joined the family firm in 2002 after having served as a Prosecutor in Fairfax County and Prince William County. Specializing in criminal defense, traffic defense and civil related matters, John has an extensive criminal law background and has handled a wide variety of cases for ...

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