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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > What Every Driver Should Know About Reckless Driving in Virginia

What Every Driver Should Know About Reckless Driving in Virginia

Whether living in or just driving through the great state of Virginia, there are a few things that make highway travel a little more precarious. In Virginia, speeding can be a misdemeanor, you can lose your car for reckless driving, and you can end up paying massive fines for offenses that generally would be no more than a few hundred dollars. Some criticize Virginia law enforcement and legislators for being too harsh on drivers, but research does seem to suggest that tougher speeding laws have reduced accidents and injuries in Virginia. Nevertheless, here is what all drivers need to understand when driving in Virginia.

Speeding can be a crime!

If you look at neighboring states, they all have strict speeding laws. In North Carolina, for instance, excessive speeding means traveling 15 MPH over the given speed limit, so long as the speed is over 55, or, at any time traveling over 80 MPH. But the catch is, in North Carolina it is still just a traffic violation. Yes, North Carolina may suspend your license for up to 30 days, but there are statutory procedures for retaining a limited license for work or school purposes, and you are not going to have a criminal record.  Virginia sees things a little differently. In Virginia, if you go 20 MPH over the speed limit, you can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Handheld devices can lead to criminal charges too!

While most states currently have laws limiting or prohibiting cell phone use in your car, Virginia takes it a little further. Under Virginia Code Section § 46.2-868, unlawful use of a handheld device leads to a mandatory $250 fine and may subject you to a charge of reckless driving, thus meaning the same potential outcome as excessive speeding. If you injure someone while speeding or talking on your phone, you can rest assured it will be even worse.

Virginia Legislature Not Changing the Rules Anytime Soon

Earlier this year, on March 16, 2016, Simms Showers, LLP reported on the Senate’s attempt to soften the impact of the reckless driving statute.  In short, Senate Bill 768 would have increased the speed at which the offense becomes “reckless driving.” Under existing law, the magic number is 20 MPH in excess of the limit or, regardless of the miles per hour in excess of the limit, 80 MPH.

Under the new law, that number would increase to 85. With Interstate speed limits set at 70 MPH, this would seem like a more reasonable standard. However, as of March 2016, the Bill never made it out of the House. While this may be discouraging, Virginia drivers may see this Bill taken up for debate again next session, as it was merely tabled, meaning it did not get passed but it didn’t die either.

If you are charged with reckless driving in Virginia or are facing criminal charges of any kind, you need knowledgeable, experienced, and informed legal representation by attorneys who know the rules and know how to protect your interests. Not all attorneys in Leesburg or northern Virginia handle traffic cases. Contact Simms Showers, LLP today.

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