I was charged with Reckless Driving for speeding. Can I get the Court to reduce it to Improper Driving?
This is an interesting question because there is a non-Misdemeanor statute (a mere traffic infraction) called Improper Driving, which when you read it, you would think it would allow a Judge to reduce a Reckless Driving charge to Improper Driving. Many inexperienced traffic lawyers tell potential clients, “I will get the Judge to reduce the Reckless to Improper.” But any experienced Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia will know about the Commonwealth v. Chibikom case, which unequivocally answers this question as “No.”
The only way to get a Reckless Driving by Speed reduced to Improper Driving would be to have the Prosecutor reduce it. (Note: Prosecutors have “prosecutorial discretion” which means that they can change charges prior to a trial.) If the Judge is following the law, he cannot change charges. Judges can only find people guilty or not guilty. The only way that they can change a charge is by finding someone guilty of a “lesser included offense.”
Since Prosecutors in Fairfax will only talk to attorneys, if you are going to court without an attorney, then you have no ability to get the Prosecutor to drop the charge to Improper Driving. Thus, you are only able to try and convince the Judge to lower the charge of Reckless Driving by Speed to a “lesser included offense” of Speeding less than 20mph over the limit. In other words, by having a lawyer, you have more options available to get your charge reduced. With a lawyer, you can get the Prosecutor to lower the charge to Improper Driving or Speeding less than 20 mph over. Without a lawyer, the only way to get it reduced is to get the Judge to make a finding of guilty to a lesser included offense of Speeding less than 20 mph over. Explained a different way, without a lawyer, the Improper Driving Option is not available.
Ask your Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia to show you the Improper Driving statute and explain it to you. If he won’t or does not know about it, here it is for your information:
- 46.2-869. Improper driving; penalty.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this article, upon the trial of any person charged with reckless driving where the degree of culpability is slight, the court in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving. However, an attorney for the Commonwealth may reduce a charge of reckless driving to improper driving at any time prior to the court’s decision and shall notify the court of such change. Improper driving shall be punishable as a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $500.
So, when you look at this, you would think that if a Judge finds that the “degree of culpability is slight” (e.g. you were just driving with traffic and everyone was going over 80 mph), he could just find you guilty of the traffic infraction of Improper Driving, as opposed to the Misdemeanor crime of Reckless Driving. But your Reckless Driving lawyer Fairfax Virginia will explain that the Chibikom case says that in a Reckless Speeding, there is no “culpability.” You are either going too fast or you are not. There is no “intent” involved in Speeding. So a Judge cannot, by definition, find “slight culpability” because this is impossible in speeding cases. This was the argument of the Prosecutors in the Chibikom case, and the Court of Appeals agreed with the Prosecutors. The Court of Appeals stated, “The Commonwealth responded by arguing that improper driving is not a lesser-included offense of reckless driving by speed. Specifically, the Commonwealth contended that reckless driving by speed is a strict liability offense and the statute prohibiting reckless driving by speed does not refer to degrees of culpability.”
In summary, if you want the best chance of getting your Reckless Driving by Speed reduced to a traffic infraction, you increase your odds by hiring a Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia. This is because your attorney can talk to the Prosecutor and try and get the charge reduced to Improper Driving or Speeding less than 20 mph over the limit. If you go on your own without an attorney, getting a finding of Improper is off the table because a Judge does not have the authority to give that to you. Only a Prosecutor can lower it to Improper, and in Fairfax County, you can’t talk to a Prosecutor.
If you have a Reckless Driving by Speed charge in Fairfax County, or any other Court in Northern Virginia, we would be honored to help you. Remember, that a Reckless Driving at very high speeds will result in Jail, and that license suspensions are very common for people with bad driving records. Even people with good driving records lose their licenses if they are going around 30 mph over the limit. If you are in any of these situations, or you are in a profession where a Reckless Driving conviction, no matter how slight the punishment, will harm your career, contact me. I am an experienced Reckless Driving Lawyer Fairfax Virginia. I have handled thousands of these cases over my 30+ years of representing people in Northern Virginia Courts. Call the office of Dave Albo – Attorney today.