Virginia Senate Passes Bill to Relax Reckless Driving Standards
The Virginia Senate passed a bill to relax certain speeding standards for the criminal charge of reckless driving, reported WTOP. The Senate bill proposes to increase the upper limit of a reckless speeding charge from 80 to 85 miles per hour.
Before dissecting the Virginia Senate’s proposed changes, the following sections will provide an overview of important definitions and penalties for reckless driving in Virginia.
General Definition of Reckless Driving in Virginia
Code of Virginia 46.2-852 establishes a general definition for reckless driving conduct. This general law addresses hazardous or dangerous conduct while driving on highways in Virginia. Whenever a driver endangers other people or their property, it can qualify as reckless driving in Virginia.
Speeding Variation of Reckless Driving in Virginia
In addition to the general prohibition on reckless driving described previously, Virginia has strict limits on speeding. Under Code of Virginia 46.2-862, it is unlawful to drive more than 20 miles per hour above the legal limit. It is also unlawful to drive more than 80 miles per hour — notwithstanding speed limit.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Virginia
Code of Virginia 46.2-868 establishes the penalty structure for reckless driving violations. The penalties vary based on the underlying conduct, changing to fit the circumstances of the offense. But there are certain overarching standards.
In most cases, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor crime in Virginia. The typical penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia include a 12-month jail term, a 180-day suspension of driving privileges, and a $2,500 fine.
Proposed Changes from the Virginia Senate
The Virginia Senate is concerned with certain consequences of reckless speeding under Section 46.2-862. In certain areas of Virginia, there is a legally posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour.
In these areas, a driver can commit reckless driving if they exceed 80 miles per hour. This means that driving at a speed of 81 miles per hour — which is only 11 miles per hour above the speed limit — can result in a 12-month jail sentence.
Under the recently passed Senate bill, the upper limit of reckless driving charges would increase from 80 to 85 miles per hour. Driving more than 20 miles per hour above the speed limit would remain a reckless driving offense. Though in the 70-mile-per-hour zones, there is a little more cushion. An 85-mile-per-hour threshold is a difference of 15 miles per hour.
Supporters of the bill — including Virginia Senators David Suetterlein, Scott Surovell, and Dick Black — stressed that this is a more reasonable approach. These senators do not believe that driving 11 miles per hour above the speed limit should result in a one-year jail sentence. All other reckless driving offenses and penalties would remain the same.
Contact Us Today for Help
If you have questions about reckless driving charges in Virginia, it is tremendously helpful to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, have widespread knowledge concerning criminal defense in Virginia, including various reckless driving charges. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.