Reckless Driving – General, Extreme Driving and/or Accidents
If you are reading this, you or a loved one were probably charged with Reckless Driving. In other articles, I have outlined charges arising from Speeding (e.g. 20+ over the limit.) This article is about “Reckless General.” This version of Reckless Driving is what most people perceive as “Reckless.” Basically, driving like a maniac. And if you are charged with this type of Reckless, you will most likely want to consult a Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia. Here is the actual code section:
- 46.2-852. Reckless driving; general rule.
Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.
But this cannot really be understood without also understanding the famous case of Commonwealth v. Powers. In this case, the police came the scene of an accident after it occurred. Thus, they did not actually witness how the driver was driving. All they were able to ascertain from the crash scene was that the “… accused’s car traveled in an erratic course for more than 900 feet and struck a tree with such force that the motor was wrenched from it and defendant was thrown clear of car and injured.” Because of the severity of the wreck, the Police wrote up the charge of Reckless – General. But the Court, after appeals, did not convict. The Court stated, that the term “Reckless” in the Code “… imparts a disregard by the driver of a motor vehicle for the consequences of his act and an indifference to the safety of life, limb or property.” In other words, the Court held that the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was driving in a manner that showed “… disregard for the consequences or indifference to life, limb or property. Or, in regular people talk, “driving like a maniac who does not care who gets hurt or what gets damaged.
If your case involved just driving, then your Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia attorney would probably quote to the Judge a portion of this Powers case, “Reckless imparts a disregard by the driver of a motor vehicle for the consequences of his act and an indifference to the safety of life, limb or property.” Your attorney would point out that they need to show that your actual driving behavior was extreme.
If your case involved an accident, then your experienced attorney would first point the other most quoted portion of the Commonwealth v. Powers case — the “Mere happening of an accident does not give rise to an inference of reckless driving.” What this means is that just because an accident occurred, does not mean that the Prosecutor can automatically prove Reckless Driving. The Prosecutor MUST still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driving was done in a manner that was so over the top that the driver showed disregard for the consequences of his act or was totally indifferent to the safety of life, limb or property. Obviously, this is a high bar to meet. That is why Prosecutors often lose Reckless Driving General charges to an experienced Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia. For more information contact the office of Dave Albo today.
In Virginia Courts, if the Police Officer says he “paced” me, can the testimony of his own speed be used to prove my speed in a Speeding or Reckless Driving by Speed case?
In Virginia, if you are traveling 20 mph or more over the speed limit, OR anytime you are going greater than 80 mph, you can be charged with Reckless Driving by Speed (VA Code §46.2-862). A previous article discussed how the Police and/or Prosecutors can use laser, radar or microcomputers to prove your speed. This article is about how the Police and/or Prosecutors can use a Police Officers “pace” to prove your speed, and how an experienced Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia can fight this.
A quick refresher on Reckless by Speed: The only issue on this type of case is your speed. Intent is not a part of this crime. So even if you did not know how fast you were going or if you were just “keeping up with traffic”, you can still be convicted if the Prosecutor can prove that your speed was 20 mph or more above the speed limit, or if you were going faster than 80 mph.
The Virginia Code allows the Prosecutor to practically automatically convict you if the Police used a laser, radar or microcomputer. (Note: There are defenses to these. But that is subject of another article.) If the Police did not use a laser, radar or microcomputer, the only other way I have ever seen them prove speed in court is by the Police Officer’s pacing. A “pace” means that the Police followed you for a sufficient distance where your car was neither pulling ahead nor coming closer. In other words, the Police determines that his car is going at the same speed as your car. Then he looks at his speedometer and determines your speed. Ask your Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia for the law on this. A good example is the case of Savage vs. Commonwealth, where the Virginia Court of Appeals in 2009 stated:
The statute does not prevent the Commonwealth from proving a vehicle’s speed by other methods. One of the easiest methods is pacing. This involves accurately determining the speed of one vehicle while proceeding at a constant distance from a second vehicle. If the distance between the two vehicles remains constant, the speed of the second vehicle must be the same as the known speed of the first vehicle. Code § 46.2-9422 clearly contemplates the use of pacing as a method of determining a vehicle’s speed by authorizing the admission of calibration tests to prove the accuracy of an arresting officer’s speedometer. Savage v. Commonwealth, Record No. 1813-08-1 (Va. App. 7/21/2009) (Va. App., 2009)
So now that you know a pace can be used to prove your speed, is it infallible? An experienced Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia will know how to attack a pace in Court. One way is to make sure that the Police Officer calibrated his own speedometer. For example, just because his speedometer says 82 mph, does not mean that you were going 82. He must show the Court that his speedometer was accurate. Unlike laser, radar or microcomputers, there is no “magic statute” that helps the Police and/or Prosecutor use the Officer’s speedometer. Good old-fashioned Rules of Evidence that have been around for hundreds of years are used. To use any scientific evidence in Court (this includes the use of a speedometer reading), the Prosecutor must show that the machine is reliable. In Spencer v. Commonwealth, 240 Va. 78 (1990), the Virginia Supreme Court stated that when scientific evidence is offered, a court has to make a threshold finding of reliability unless the scientific evidence at issue is familiar and accepted, such as fingerprint analysis, or unless, like lie detector tests, the test is routinely discounted as unreliable; or unless its admission is regulated by statute, such as blood-alcohol test results.
My advice to clients is that if you are going barely over the 20 mph threshold for Reckless or barely over 80 mph and you have a good driving record, you may be able to convince a Judge to lower your charge to Speeding. If this is not your situation (e.g. you are going a lot faster or have a bad driving record), then hire a Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia. For the reasons stated in this article, there are ways to win a Reckless Driving. Contact Dave Albo – Attorney for more information.