If you get a speeding ticket or are charged with another minor traffic offense in Fairfax County, most of us choose to simply pay the fine and be done with it. Getting charged with reckless driving in Fairfax, however, is unfortunately another story. For one, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor: unlike a simple traffic offense, this reckless driving charge has a criminal punishment that can have both immediate and future serious repercussions. Since Fairfax County is notorious for its aggressive prosecution of reckless driving charges, you may face harsher punishments here than you may elsewhere. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your charge, it is almost always best to consult with a skilled Fairfax County traffic defense attorney who can advise you as to the best approach to address your reckless driving charge. Below, I'll tell you more about positive ways to handle certain situations and when a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer may be able to help.
First Offense Reckless Driving in Fairfax
A reckless driving charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor! While some may think of misdemeanors as no big deal, and while it's true they are lesser charges than felonies, a reckless driving charge is still considered a criminal charge and carries the highest misdemeanor range of punishment. The statutory range of punishment for a reckless driving charge includes a jail sentence of up to 12 months, and/or a fine of up to $2,500, possible license suspension of up to 6 months, possible restricted driving privileges, court costs, and will automatically result in DMV administratively tacking on 6 demerit points to your Virginia driving record. Additionally, a reckless driving conviction will stay on your Virginia driving record for 11 years!
If this is your first reckless driving offense and your driving record was previously good, it's highly unlikely that you will receive the maximum jail time, fine, or even a license suspension. Most people can expect a fine. There are of course exceptions to this and the possibility of receiving a harsh punishment for a reckless driving charge increases with the severity of your case. For example, if you were driving at a high speed, you were driving legally intoxicated (alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs) at the time, there was an accident involved, someone was personally injured, children were in the car; you will most certainly face harsher penalties even if it's your first offense. If any of these apply to your case or if you were charged with straight forward reckless driving charge, working with a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer is probably in your best interest.
More Serious Reckless Driving Charges
Once you have been convicted of reckless driving more than once or there has been a conviction for elevated speeding infractions, the penalties very likely become more severe. In some especially serious cases, reckless driving qualifies as a Class 6 felony.
Under Virginia Code 46.2-868, if you were charged with reckless driving while driving on a suspended license AND killed someone, the charge automatically becomes a Class 6 felony. In addition, under Virginia Code 46.2-865.1, if you were charged with reckless driving for racing another driver, you will be charged with a Class 6 felony if you either injured someone who was not involved in the race or killed someone who was involved in the racing conduct. If someone is killed, you will face a mandatory minimum of one year in prison but could face up to 20 years. If you are facing a harsh jail sentence such as this, a lawyer can help you build a strong defense and receive the best possible outcome for your case. Depending on the circumstances, an attorney may be able to negotiate your felony to a misdemeanor.
Additional Consequences of a Reckless Driving Charge in Fairfax
The penalties defined under Virginia statutes are unfortunately only some of the consequences of a reckless driving charge. You will likely face a hike in your insurance rates and if your license is suspended, you could find yourself unable to drive to work, school, day care, doctor's appointment(s), or even to the grocery store or to the gym. If driving a company vehicle is part of your job and you lose your license, a reckless driving conviction could result in the loss of your job. Even accumulating too many DMV points on your record could raise your employer's insurance rates enough that you could be terminated from employment. Also, if someone is injured due to your reckless driving and decides to sue you civilly for personal injury, property damage or medical care, having a reckless driving conviction on your record, particularly where you had entered a plea of guilty to the charge, is usually bad news for your civil case.
In cases where keeping your license is a concern, a skilled traffic or criminal defense attorney can often help you keep your license without any driving restrictions so you can travel to work and for other purposes in your busy life. Additionally, a traffic or criminal defense attorney can sometimes prevent your driver's license from being suspended.
When a Lawyer Can Help
If you are faced with a reckless driving charge, a reckless driving lawyer in Fairfax can often help you negotiate a reduced charge, a reduced sentence, a reduced fine or even get the charged dismissed. Working with a lawyer with a good track record of defending reckless driving cases in the jurisdiction where you were charged is usually the best approach, since a local lawyer will be familiar with area judges, prosecutors and police officers. Their experience and knowledge of local rules and procedures will go to your benefit and should lead to the creation of a good legal defense and hopeful positive outcome.
It's almost always worth it to consult with a Fairfax traffic lawyer if you receive a reckless driving charge, especially if the circumstances of your case are complicated, there is an allegation of high speed, alcohol, an accident, someone was injured or you find you are on your second, third, or fourth offense reckless driving charge. A lawyer can explain your rights, advise whether or not it is worth it to fight your case or negotiate a plea, talk about defense strategies, help you prepare for court and effectively try the case.
Fairfax criminal defense attorney John Kassabian has been successfully defending clients charged with reckless driving for over 25 years. Contact Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C. today for a free consultation at 703-750-3622.