Does Racing Qualify as Reckless Driving in Virginia?
In Hollywood movies and TV shows, there are countless depictions of automotive races. Heroes and villains chase each other through crowded city streets in a dangerous display of reckless driving.
What pop culture does not always demonstrate, however, is the massive risk that comes with racing automobiles. From property damage to physical injury or even death, racing can result in severe and irreversible consequences. That is why the Commonwealth of Virginia treats auto racing as a reckless driving offense. Any person convicted of racing in Virginia can face a number of criminal penalties, including, but not limited to, jail time and steep fines.
What is the Definition of Racing in Virginia?
Under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-865, it is unlawful to engage in a race between two or more motor vehicles on Virginia roadways or the premises of:
- Recreational facilities;
- Business property; or
- Other areas open to the public.
In most cases, Virginia law requires the racing event to be a prearranged, organized, and planned competition. Though there is an important exception. If the property owner consents to the racing competition, it does not qualify as a criminal offense under Virginia law.
Laws against racing in Virginia also extend to individuals who assist in organizing the competition. If a person helps run the racing competition — whether or not they actually participate directly — they may be guilty of aiding and abetting.
What are the Penalties for Racing in Virginia?
The penalties for reckless driving, which includes racing, as outlined above, appear under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-817. In most cases, racing qualifies as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The criminal penalties for this offense include up to 12 months in county jail and $2,500 in fines.
A conviction for racing can lead to other penalties as well. Under Section 46.2-865, there is a mandatory period of driver’s license suspension ranging from six months to two years. Additionally, Code of Virginia Section 46.2-867 provides for vehicle forfeiture. After a racing conviction, the state can seize and sell the offender’s vehicle, disposing of the funds according to Virginia law.
That being said, there is a different penalty structure for racing offenses that involved physical injury or death. Under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-865.1, a racing offense that causes physical injury to an innocent bystander is a Class 6 felony. The criminal penalties for this offense include one to five years in prison, $2,500 in fines and one to three years of driver’s license suspension. If a racing offense causes the death of another person, the maximum prison sentence increases to 20 years.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you are facing charges for reckless driving or racing in Virginia, it is wise to seek legal counsel from an established criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have proven capabilities in criminal defense, including reckless driving and racing. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.