Speeding And Reckless Driving In Virginia
Generally, speeding is an independent, and not terribly serious, traffic violation in Virginia. But in many cases, officers can charge speeders with reckless driving. That’s a far more serious offense which carries much more severe direct consequences, like more points on a drivers’ license, and indirect consequences, like higher insurance rates. In some cases, this increase could be as much as 24 percent.
Because the consequences are so severe, a Manassas criminal defense lawyer must aggressively attack the state’s evidence. These drivers cannot count on traffic school, because it’s only available in some situations. When attorneys chip away at the state’s evidence, prosecutors often agree to reduce reckless driving speeding charges to standard speeding charges. Since the consequences are so much lower, such a reduction is an absolute win in most cases.
Reckless Driving Enhancements
Subjective speeding, objective speeding, and street racing are the three most common reckless driving enhancements in Loudoun County.
Under Section 46.2-861, a driver who “ exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time” could be charged with reckless operation, “regardless of any posted speed limit.”
Here’s a bit of trivia. The posted speed limit in Virginia and most other states is a presumptively reasonable speed under ideal conditions. If officers feel that drivers are moving too fast, they can issue reckless driving speeding tickets. These citations are especially common if the driver was zipping among lanes during a traffic slowdown.
Section 46.2-862 is the objective speeding enhancement. It applies if the driver was traveling more than 20mph over the limit. These are also the easiest reckless driving speeding enhancements for a Manassas criminal defense lawyer to successfully resolve. More on that below.
Section 46.2-865 is the street racing enhancement. The race could be staged or informal. This infraction carries a mandatory six month drivers’ license suspension. A judge could extend that suspension period to twenty-four months.
Subjective speeding enhancements have few legal defenses. However, a judge or jury might interpret the facts much differently than the police officer interpreted them. And, the court’s conclusions are the only ones that count.
Objective speeding defenses in Virginia often hinge on the enforcement method officers used, as follows:
- Pacing: “Pacing” is a precise-sounding word that basically means “guessing.” Officers use the speed of their own vehicles, and maybe surrounding vehicles, to estimate a particular vehicle’s speed. It’s almost impossible to pace another car while stationary. Additionally, muscle cars and some other vehicles sound fast, even if they aren’t moving fast.
- RADAR: The RADAR gun hasn’t changed much since its invention during World War II. The gun projects a cone of radio waves at a car and measures how quickly they bounce back. RADAR is only accurate at close range, and if the officer aims the gun at one particular vehicle.
- LIDAR: Laser enforcement is rare. An officer aims a ray of light at a license plate to determine that vehicle’s speed. These gadgets are very precise, but they require a lot of maintenance. Devices that weren’t properly maintained don’t produce accurate results as a matter of law.
A weak enforcement method means weak evidence. The burden of proof is so high in these cases that prosecutors are highly motivated to make favorable deals in weak evidence cases. That’s especially true in speeding enhancement reckless driving cases. It’s very easy to reduce these charges to simple speeding.
Count on a Hard-Working Loudoun County Lawyer
There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Manassas, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters throughout Northern Virginia.