Some Virginia traffic tickets are criminal charges

It’s a great idea to call a traffic or defense lawyer right away if you get a traffic ticket in Virginia, because the ticket itself may not tell you everything you need to know about its consequences, such as a fine, loss or suspension of driving privilege, or even jail time.  The officer may have charged you with a traffic offense that Virginia law (but not the ticket) says is a criminal offense.   Some drivers are surprised to learn that they have a criminal record when some later background check turns up a conviction.  Call a lawyer when you get the ticket.

Often seen are reckless driving charges, but the words “reckless driving” do not show on the ticket.  Here are some reckless driving offenses in Virginia law:

  • 46.2-853. Driving a vehicle that is not under control or has faulty brakes
  • 46.2-854. Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve
  • 46.2-855. Driving with driver’s view obstructed or control impaired
  • 46.2-856. Passing two vehicles abreast
  • 46.2-857. Driving two abreast in a single lane
  • 46.2-858. Passing at a railroad grade crossing
  • 46.2-859. Passing a stopped school bus; prima facie evidence
  • 46.2-860. Failing to give proper signals
  • 46.2-861. Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions
  • 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit (20 mph or more over the posted speed limit, or 81 mph or more anywhere) 
  • 46.2-863. Failure to yield right-of-way
  • 46.2-864. Reckless driving on parking lots, (highway under construction), etc.
  • 46.2-865. Racing; penalty
  • 46.2-865.1 Injuring another or causing the death of another while engaging in a race; penalties
  • 46.2-866. Racing; aiders or abettors (even though not driving)
  • 46.2-868.1 Aggressive driving; penalties

If the ticket does say “reckless driving,” it’s likely a charge under the general rule of Va Code 46.2-852, which prohibits driving “on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.”

Va Code 46.2-868 makes any type of reckless driving a criminal offense.  But the law is not without relief.  Your lawyer and the prosecutor may be able to work out a plea bargain that you find acceptable. Va Code 46.2-869 also allows the trial judge to amend a reckless driving charge to an improper driving infraction if the judge finds your “degree of culpability is slight.”

Some other traffic-related charges that are criminal offenses in Virginia are driving under the influence, driving without a license, driving on a suspended license, and so on.

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