Dave Albo served as a Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1994-2017, and served as Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee from 2005-2017. This is the committee that writes all of Virginia’s criminal laws
If you are reading this, you, a friend or loved one is probably facing the Class 1 Misdemeanor known as Reckless Driving, or some other serious Traffic Offense that is punishable by jail. By clicking on the above Reckless Driving & Serous Traffic Defense icon, you will receive more detailed information regarding your situation. In this introductory article, I thought you would like some general information on how Virginia’s Reckless Driving and Serious Traffic Defense laws and the process works, and what makes Virginia’s laws and procedures different.
I have a lot to offer you in this article. That is because for over two decades I wrote or co-wrote all the Reckless Driving and serious traffic offense laws for Virginia. And, for over a decade, I was the Chairman of the Committee responsible for writing these laws that you, your friend, or loved one face. There is no one in Virginia who can better understand your situation and the laws that are pending against you.
Reckless Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is one year in jail, a fine of $2,500, and a six-month loss of license. However, almost no one actually gets such a harsh punishment! Generally, in most jurisdictions throughout Virginia, one must be speeding over 90 miles per hour, or be driving very dangerously, to have incarceration jeopardy in most cases. Even then, one month would be a long jail sentence for this crime. Nonetheless, Reckless Driving is a crime and those who are proud of having a clean driving record wouldn’t want to blemish it with a Reckless Driving conviction. (Note: Some lawyers try and scare people by telling them that a Reckless conviction will go on the criminal record. Strangely enough, a Reckless is one of the few crimes that does not go on the criminal record. However, if you are ever asked if you have been convicted of a crime, to answer truthfully, you would have to say “Yes.”)
The most common Reckless Driving charge is for speeding. (By clicking on the icon above, you will see a discussion of all types of Reckless Driving.) Reckless Driving by Speed is often hotly debated in the legislature. One is committing the crime of Reckless Driving if his or her speed is greater than 20 mph over the speed limit, or if the speed is ever faster than 80 mph regardless of the speed limit. So, driving 76 mph in a 55 mph zone is Reckless Driving as is driving 80 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone. (By the way, as a legislator, I voted against raising the speed limit to 70 mph because I thought it was unfair to criminalize speeding 11 miles over the limit, but I was in the minority on that vote).
Do I need a Traffic lawyer for Traffic Court?
The unhelpful lawyerly answer to the question is “it depends.” In almost all cases, a lawyer can negotiate a disposition better than one can on his or her own. Negotiating the crime of Reckless Driving case down to simple infraction of Speeding means that one avoids a criminal conviction. This, alone, is valuable. Speeding cases can be negotiated down to infractions with fewer demerit points or to non-moving violations which carry no demerit points.
As a rule of thumb, if you are facing a traffic crime, such as Reckless Driving, DUI (Drunk Driving), or Driving on a Suspended License, or Hit & Run, hire a lawyer. If you are facing a traffic infraction, such as Speeding, consider the costs and benefits.
(There are other considerations, of course. If your driving record is bad, while the Court cannot suspend your license for a traffic infraction, the DMV may do so if you have accumulated too many points. You can look on the DMV web site to determine if the DMV will suspend your license. First, go on the DMV web site and get a copy of your DMV record. This will show you how many points you presently have. Then consult this web site to figure out how many points that your potential traffic infraction will put on your DMV record, and what the DMV will do to your license with that many points. If your calculations show that the DMV will put you on probation or suspend your license, you may want to hire a traffic lawyer, even though your charge is just a mere traffic infraction.
Also, many people ask me, “What will my insurance do?” That is not a legal question. That is an insurance question. I suggest that you contact your insurance agent and he or she can tell you if your rates will go up. Every insurance company has a different policy concerning points and infractions).
We would be honored to be your attorney. We charge a fair fee for the work we do because we undertake a great amount of legal work prior to court so that we know the possible defenses available to our clients. Then, when in court, our attorneys generally handle only one serious case a day. That way you get individual attention.
In addition, few other firms feature attorneys who:
- Are Former prosecutors,
- Teach criminal law to other lawyers,
- Teach judges about legal updates to the law,
- Speak often on national networks such as Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC’s “Today Show”;
- Are regularly featured in the media as “Top Lawyers” (such as by the Washingtonian and Northern Virginia magazines), and
- Have had their legal defenses reported state-wide to other attorneys in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly.