Reckless Driving, Aggressive Driving, and Improper Driving
In Virginia, there three general categories of violations commonly associated with what in other jurisdictions is known simply as reckless driving. These general categories each carry different penalties, and within the categories provided the penalties can be increased or decreased depending on the attendant circumstances.
Unlike many other states, reckless driving is a criminal offense in Virginia, as opposed to a civil violation. This means it can have adverse consequences beyond just your driving record. There are a number of ways to be convicted of reckless driving, ranging from excessive speed, car accidents, and illegally passing a school bus.. Here we focus on the potential consequences of a conviction. A typical case of reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $2,500, license suspension up to 6 months, and imprisonment up to 12 months. However, if death occurs because of a reckless driving incident, the charge is upgraded to a Class 6 felony, punishable by imprisonment for one to five years. Additionally, the use of a cell phone in connection with any reckless driving conviction carries a minimum fine of $250.
Aggressive driving is similar to reckless driving in that it encompasses a specified list of acts that would also constitute reckless driving. However, it also requires the state to prove an “intent to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person.” Aggressive driving with the intent to harass, intimidate, or obstruct, is a class 2 misdemeanor (punishable by fines up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in prison). Aggressive driving with intent to injure is a class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to the intent requirement, aggressive driving is defined to include only the following specified acts of reckless driving:
- Failure to drive on the right side of a highway;
- Failure to observe lanes marked for traffic;
- Following too closely;
- Failure to stop or yield before entering certain highways;
- Evasion of traffic control devices;
- Passing violations;
- Failure to give way to passing traffic;
- Speed violations; and
- Illegally stopping on highways.
Any of the above offenses could beenough to constitute reckless driving. However, if a court finds that such actions were taken with the unlawful intent to harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct, they also constitute aggressive driving. If a person is convicted of aggressive driving, they not only face misdemeanor penalties, but may also be required to complete an aggressive driving program.
In cases where there a driver commits a technical violation that could be classified as reckless driving, but in the judgment of the court “culpability is slight,” they have the discretion to apply a safety valve provision known as improper driving. Unlike reckless driving, improper driving is treated as a traffic infraction rather than a criminal matter. Improper driving carries a maximum fine of $500, and while it does negatively affect your driving record, it does not carry the other negative consequences associated with a misdemeanor conviction.
Contact a Virginia Attorney Today
If you are charged with reckless driving or aggressive driving, please know that these are serious charges. It is unwise and extremely risky to proceed in these cases without a lawyer. Without effective counsel, you are more likely to be persuaded to take an unfavorable plea deal or fail to recognize what defenses are available to you. Contact the experienced Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William County attorneys at Simms Showers today. We have the experience and the knowledge to fight for you.