The Law Firm of

Erin L.T. Ranney, PLLC

Attorney At Law

 
Phone:   (804) 318-1151  or (804) 212-5252
             
 

Taking criminal and traffic defense cases in Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Richmond, Henrico, New Kent, Hanover, Caroline, Hopewell, Prince George, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, Emporia, Greensville, Sussex, and across Virginia

 

Providing counsel on family law matters, including divorce, custody, visitation, support, and adoption

 

Providing estate planning services to those in Virginia, including wills, trusts, power of attorney, and advanced medical directives

Criminal Law Spotlight - November 2016

Reckless Driving

Reckless Driving

  As the holiday and travel season approaches it is important to know the rules of the roads in the states in which you will be driving.  In Virginia, there are at least 14 different reckless driving offenses as well as other driving offenses that can be construed as reckless depending on the circumstances.  Any charge of reckless driving in Virginia is at minimum a criminal misdemeanor regardless of how minor it may seem at the time.  This means that it carries a potential jail sentence, significant fines, potential license suspension, and a high number of demerit points that are assessed to your driving privilege in Virginia.  There are additional elements that can escalate the offense to a felony.  Out of state licensees are hit particularly hard on the interstates because of their unfamiliarity with the roads, speed limits, and the law.  As such, it is important to know what Reckless Driving entails:

 

- Reckless Driving Generally - 46.2-852:  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.


- Reckless Driving, Failure to Maintain Control or Adequate Brakes - 46.2-853: A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control or which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes on any highway in the Commonwealth.


- Reckless Driving, Passing on Grade or Curve - 46.2-854:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who, while driving a vehicle, overtakes and passes another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, on or approaching the crest of a grade or on or approaching a curve in the highway, where the driver's view along the highway is obstructed, except where the overtaking vehicle is being operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for each direction of travel or on a designated one-way roadway or highway.


- Reckless Driving, Driver's View Obstructed or Control Impaired - 46.2-855:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat such number of persons, as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or to interfere with the driver's control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.

 

- Reckless Driving, Passing Two Vehicles Abreast - 46.2-856:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who passes or attempts to pass two other vehicles abreast, moving in the same direction, except on highways having separate roadways of three or more lanes for each direction of travel, or on designated one-way streets or highways. This section shall not apply, however, to a motor vehicle passing two other vehicles when one or both of such other vehicles is a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped; nor shall this section apply to a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped passing two other vehicles.

 

- Reckless Driving, Passing Two Vehicles Abreast in Single Lane - 46.2-857:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, so as to be abreast of another vehicle in a lane designed for one vehicle, or drives any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, so as to travel abreast of any other vehicle traveling in a lane designed for one vehicle. However, this section shall not apply to (i) any validly authorized parade, motorcade, or motorcycle escort, or law-enforcement officers driving motorcycles while on official duty; (ii) a motor vehicle traveling in the same lane of traffic as a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped; nor shall it apply to (iii) any vehicle when lawfully overtaking and passing one or more vehicles traveling in the same direction in a separate lane.

 

- Reckless Driving, Passing at Railroad Crossing - 46.2-858:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who overtakes or passes any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction at any railroad grade crossing or at any intersection of highways unless such vehicles are being operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for each direction of travel or unless such intersection is designated and marked as a passing zone or on a designated one-way street or highway, or while pedestrians are passing or about to pass in front of either of such vehicles, unless permitted so to do by a traffic light or law-enforcement officer.

 

- Reckless Driving, Passing of a Stopped School Bus - 46.2-859:

A person driving a motor vehicle shall stop such vehicle when approaching, from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons, and shall remain stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion; any person violating the foregoing is guilty of reckless driving. The driver of a vehicle, however, need not stop when approaching a school bus if the school bus is stopped on the other roadway of a divided highway, on an access road, or on a driveway when the other roadway, access road, or driveway is separated from the roadway on which he is driving by a physical barrier or an unpaved area. The driver of a vehicle also need not stop when approaching a school bus which is loading or discharging passengers from or onto property immediately adjacent to a school if the driver is directed by a law-enforcement officer or other duly authorized uniformed school crossing guard to pass the school bus. This section shall apply to school buses which are equipped with warning devices prescribed in  46.2-1090 and are painted yellow with the words "School Bus" in black letters at least eight inches high on the front and rear thereof. Only school buses which are painted yellow and equipped with the required lettering and warning devices shall be identified as school buses.

The testimony of the school bus driver, the supervisor of school buses or a law-enforcement officer that the vehicle was yellow, conspicuously marked as a school bus, and equipped with warning devices as prescribed in  46.2-1090 is prima facie evidence that the vehicle is a school bus.

 

- Reckless Driving, Failing to Give Proper Signals - 46.2-860:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to give adequate and timely signals of intention to turn, partly turn, slow down, or stop, as required by Article 6 ( 46.2-848 et seq.) of this chapter.

 

- Reckless Driving, Driving Too Fast for Conditions - 46.2-861:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.


- Reckless Driving, Exceeding Speed Limit - 46.2-862: 

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.


- Reckless Driving, Failure to Yield Right of Way - 46.2-863:

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to bring his vehicle to a stop immediately before entering a highway from a side road when there is traffic approaching on such highway within 500 feet of such point of entrance, unless (i) a "Yield Right-of-Way" sign is posted or (ii) where such sign is posted, fails, upon entering such highway, to yield the right-of-way to the driver of a vehicle approaching on such highway from either direction.

 

- Reckless Driving, On Parking lots etc. - 46.2-864:

A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates any motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person:

1. On any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business or governmental property open to the public; or

2. On the premises of any industrial establishment providing parking space for customers, patrons, or employees; or

3. On any highway under construction or not yet open to the public.

 

- Reckless Driving, Racing - 46.2-865:

Any person who engages in a race between two or more motor vehicles on the highways in the Commonwealth or on any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public in the Commonwealth shall be guilty of reckless driving, unless authorized by the owner of the property or his agent. When any person is convicted of reckless driving under this section, in addition to any other penalties provided by law the driver's license of such person shall be suspended by the court for a period of not less than six months nor more than two years. In case of conviction the court shall order the surrender of the license to the court where it shall be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of  46.2-398.


- Reckless Driving, Penalties - 46.2-868:

A. Every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article who, when he committed the offense, (i) was driving without a valid operator's license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation and, (ii) as the sole and proximate result of his reckless driving, caused the death of another, is guilty of a Class 6 felony.


  In addition to Reckless Driving, drivers need to be aware of the Aggressive Driving statute:


- Aggress Driving - 46.2-868.1:

A. A person is guilty of aggressive driving if (i) the person violates one or more of the following:  46.2-802 (Drive on right side of highways),  46.2-804 (Failure to observe lanes marked for traffic),  46.2-816 (Following too closely),  46.2-821 (Vehicles before entering certain highways shall stop or yield right-of-way),  46.2-833.1 (Evasion of traffic control devices), 46.2-838 (Passing when overtaking a vehicle), 46.2-841 (When overtaking vehicle may pass on right),  46.2-842 (Driver to give way to overtaking vehicle),  46.2-842.1 (Driver to give way to certain overtaking vehicles on divided highway),  46.2-843 (Limitations on overtaking and passing), any provision of Article 8 ( 46.2-870 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 46.2 (Speed), or 46.2-888 (Stopping on highways); and (ii) that person is a hazard to another person or commits an offense in clause (i) with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person.

B. Aggressive driving shall be punished as a Class 2 misdemeanor. However, aggressive driving with the intent to injure another person shall be punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties described in this subsection, the court may require successful completion of an aggressive driving program.

 

 

  All of the above offenses are serious offenses because they constitute criminal misdemeanors in Virginia- not traffic infractions.  Many police officers will tell you that you may pre-pay these offenses online.  While that may be true, you are then admitting guilt to a criminal misdemeanor as far as the Commonwealth of Virginia is concerned.  The offense will be reported to the State Police and will likely show up on a criminal record.  Not only that, but once you are found guilty and are outside of the appeal window - the matter is NOT expungeable.  You should always consult with an attorney if you are charged with any form of reckless driving to see what can be done to prevent a conviction for a misdemeanor.  if you have been charged with one of the above offenses or any other criminal matter in Virginia, call me today for a free consultation.

Reckless Driving Facts

 

Type: Misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether there are exacerbating factors.

 

Maximum punishment


Misdemeanor - 12 months in jail, $2500 fine, 1 year driving privilege suspension, 6 demerit points

Felony - 5 years in prison, $2500 fine, driving privilege suspension, demerit points.

 

Interesting Facts:  Any speed exceeding 80 miles per hour or 20 miles per hour over the posted limit constitutes reckless driving.  This is true even in areas where the speed limit was recently raised to 70 miles per hour.  This is true even if you believe that the actual driving behavior was not reckless.   "I was going with the flow of traffic!," is generally not a defense!