Virginia Reckless Driving Frequently Asked Questions
- Why can’t I just pay my reckless driving ticket before court?
- What will happen in court?
- Do I really need a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer?
- What should I do before court?
- What defenses are there to contest the officer’s version of how fast I was going?
- What if the officer doesn’t show up?
- I live out of state; will I have to come to court?
- What are the potential punishments for other traffic offenses?
- Do I need a lawyer for my ticket if it’s not reckless driving?
- I was involved in a car accident and charged with a traffic violation. Do I need a lawyer?
- How do Fairfax police calculate speeds on their reckless driving cases?
- The prosecutor says he or she is not asking for jail time. Do I still need an attorney?
- How will a reckless driving conviction impact my driving record? How are points calculated?
- I think I am guilty. Do I still need a lawyer?
1. Why can’t I just pay my reckless driving ticket before court?
As reckless driving in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor and could potentially result in a jail sentence, an accused violator is required to appear in court before a judge. In actuality however, being sentenced to serve time in jail is a punishment only received by a small percentage of offenders, usually only those involving very high speeds. According to Virginia state law, those who do not show up for their court date risk being tried in their absence or worse: having a bench warrant issued for their arrest. return to top
2. What will happen in court?
As every Virginia reckless driving case is unique, the outcomes of these cases can have dramatically different outcomes based on a number of depending factors–the equipment officers used, the motorist’s previous driving history, the jurisdiction, the prosecutor, and the judge can all play a role in determining the end result. Because of the many factors that can impact one’s reckless driving case, it is essential to work with a Fairfax defense lawyer who can provide an in-depth understanding of these points and can use them to devise the optimal strategy for each case. return to top
3. Do I really need a Fairfax reckless driving lawyer?
Whether one decides to retain legal counsel for a Fairfax reckless driving case is completely a personal choice. For very simple traffic cases, the benefit of having an attorney will be very minimal and often times doesn’t justify paying the legal fees. In other cases, experienced Virginia defense lawyers can help save an offender’s license or reduce the amount of points they receive on their record. Essentially, it is a cost/benefit analysis between the price of having a lawyer versus the perceived benefit.
So potential clients can determine whether hiring an attorney is a smart move for their case, the Law Office of Faraji Rosenthall offers free consultations for all cases. During the initial conversation (either in person or over the phone), our skilled legal team can provide an honest evaluation of a reckless driving case and provide a ballpark idea of what resolutions the person may expect. Lastly, our attorneys will provide clients with an upfront, flat fee. This payment structure and resolution estimate makes the decision of hiring legal counsel as easy and straightforward as possible. return to top
4. What should I do before court?
If a violator even thinks they may want to retain legal counsel, it is essential to contact a Virginia defense attorney immediately after receiving the ticket. The earlier that the process is started, the more prepared one’s lawyers can be on the assigned court date. It is also a good idea to obtain a copy of one’s driving record from the DMV, especially if the offender is an out-of-state driver with a clean history. (As it is likely that the police won’t bright the document for you, it is always a good idea to make the court aware of a good driving record.)
Under certain circumstances, taking a driver-improvement class, doing community service, or having the vehicle’s speedometer calibrated can prove to be very beneficial. As every Virginia reckless driving case is different, each person will have a varying pre-court strategy designed exclusively for them. Our experienced Fairfax defense lawyers carefully tailor each client’s defense surrounding their specific case details and needs, ensuring that they are not hurt by a certain strategy that would otherwise benefit others. return to top
5. What defenses are there to contest the officer’s version of how fast I was going?
Often times, conversations with our clients begins with: “Well, the cop says I was going X, but I was actually only going Y.” The harsh reality is that most judges in Fairfax will completely discount a defendant’s opinion about how fast he or she was traveling when they were pulled over. Nonetheless, not all is lost. Courts in the state of Virginia treat traffic offenses the same way they do criminal ones–that is to say, the court will often require the government to prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
To devise the best defense possible for a Fairfax reckless driving case, the Law Office of Faraji Rosenthall will review cases to determine:
- How the police calculated speed – they need to do so using one of the legally allowable techniques and in conformance with acceptable standards.
- That the roadway was properly marked. The officer and prosecutor must have knowledge of the roadway and the speed signs that are posted and must be able to demonstrate that those signs conform to law.
- That the officer’s equipment is working properly. Officers are mandated to have their equipment regularly tested, and they must have this testing documented. Should law enforcement neglect to follow the series of rules and regulations that must be followed, it may be impossible for them to determine a defendant’s speed.
6. What if the officer doesn’t show up?
Most often, if the police officer that issued the reckless driving ticket doesn’t appear in court, doesn’t have a good reason for their absence, or notify the court in advance, the case will likely be dismissed. However, violators shouldn’t get too excited as this is extremely rare. Many officers have a specific date where they are to appear in court, generally once a month. Because of that, he or she will schedule all their tickets for that one day so it is possible for them to be present.
Should a number of cases get dismissed because of repeated absences, the police officer could face potential problems. Therefore, law enforcement officials usually makes an effort to appear or at least notify the court. return to top
7. I live out of state; will I have to come to court?
For those who those who are charged with reckless driving in Virginia but live out-of-state, appearing in court is required. If doing so is impossible, one can retain a defense attorney for representation in their absence. The Law Office of Faraji Rosenthall frequently files motions allowing out-of-state drivers to not return to court, discussing every possible resolution with offenders in advance so everyone is on the same page. return to top
8. What are the potential punishments for other traffic offenses?
- Driving on Suspended License, DWI-related – may include jail time and a fine. Additionally, a conviction will result in the DMV suspending your license for an additional year and taking away your restricted license.
- Driving on a Suspended License – may include jail time for repeat offenders and potentially a fine. By law, a DOS conviction will result in a new suspension of your license.
- Speeding – only punishable by a fine, but the DMV will assess points depending on the speed.
- Minor infraction – most are punishable only by a fine, but points may apply.
9. Do I need a lawyer for my ticket if it’s not reckless driving?
As with all tickets, it may or may not make sense to hire an attorney depending on the specific circumstances of a case. Many law firms offer a free consultation, which can be helpful in exploring all of one’s legal options. return to top
10. I was involved in a car accident and charged with a traffic violation. Do I need a lawyer?
Yes. A lawyer can assist you in avoiding the use of a traffic conviction against you later in a civil personal injury/property damage trial. return to top
11. How do Fairfax police calculate speeds on their reckless driving cases?
The three most common ways the police use to calculate how fast a reckless driving suspect was going are radar, LIDAR and pace.
Radar uses as Doppler Gun to determine the speed of a vehicle suspected of reckless driving. The radar gun relies on the Doppler Effect to gauge speed. To calculate the speed, the officer points the gun in the direction of a vehicle. The gun then calculates the speed of the moving object in its “beam” based upon the way the beam is reflected back to the gun. Radar guns are generally accurate within approximately one mile per hour under normal conditions. However, numerous variables affect the accuracy of radar including calibration errors, distance and interference. The further the radar gun is from the target, the wider the radar beam and the greater is the possibility of measuring the wrong vehicle or some other object that will cause interference. At a distance of 1,000 feet, the beam could be as wide as 250 feet. In Fairfax, radar guns are checked for accuracy using a tuning fork or a calibrated speedometer. A tuning fork, vibrating at a specific frequency, produces the same effect on a radar beam as a moving car. In Virginia, radar guns must be calibrated and checked for accuracy every six months.
LIDAR, Light Detection and Ranging, is another type of gun used to calculate speed. LIDAR uses a method similar to radar, except that instead of shooting a wide beam, it shoots a narrow streak of light. The LIDAR device measures the distance between the target vehicle and the device hundreds of times within about 1/3 of a second and can translate the distances into a determination of speed. LIDAR is typically thought of as more accurate than radar because its beam is so much narrower. Also, LIDAR allows the officer to target a specific vehicle as opposed to a wider group of moving objects. LIDAR devices also must be checked for accuracy every six months. Currently, Virginia uses LIDAR devices manufactured by Kustom Signals, Inc., in the state of Kansas. The accuracy certificates used in court are completed in Kansas by the employees of Kustom Signals and sent to Virginia. This practice has opened the door to challenges as to the admissibility of the LIDAR certificates of accuracy.
The third technique used in Fairfax reckless driving cases is pace. A pace is simply the police officer driving behind the suspected vehicle. The officer is supposed to maintain the same distance from the vehicle for a period of at least two-tenths of a mile. The police will then notice how fast they are going, and because they neither gaining nor losing ground on the suspect’s vehicle, assume the suspect is going the same speed. Various factors affect the ability of a police officer to establish a meaningful pace. These factors include an accurate speedometer, speed changes due to road conditions, distance and time the speed of the target vehicle is measured as well as the location of and the actions taken by other motorists at the time of the pace. In Fairfax, the traffic courts require a police officer to present a sworn speedometer accuracy certificate in order to conclude that the officer testimony is credible and that the measurement of the target vehicle’s speed is accurate. return to top
12. The prosecutor says he or she is not asking for jail time. Do I still need an attorney?
Maybe. Even if the prosecutor is not asking for a term of incarceration for your charge, there may be other major consequences from a conviction. Things like your job, security clearance, and driver’s license may be affected by a reckless driving conviction. Make sure you talk to an attorney about your case before court so you don’t end up with consequences you didn’t consider in the future. return to top
13. How will a reckless driving conviction impact my driving record? How are points calculated?
In Virginia, the points assessed for a ticket are determined by the DMV based upon the charge. Every ticket has some point total associated with it. Point violations are assessed at 0, 3, 4 and 6(there are no 1-, 2- or 5-point violations). When drivers are first issued a Virginia driver’s license, they start with a 0-point balance. For every year they have their license, they gain one good point. These good points are capped at five. So a positive five is the best you can have. If you have your license for five years and have no tickets, you have a positive five. You would also have a positive five if you had your license for seven years with no tickets. Any driver with a balance in the positive numbers is typically viewed to have a good record.
Every time you are convicted of a traffic offense, the DMV will reduce your score by the number of points associated with that offense. Additionally, the conviction will remain on your record for whatever period of time is required, based upon the nature of the offense. Reckless driving is a six-point offense and stays on your record for 11 years.
This illustrates why every driver should take reckless driving tickets seriously. If you are a perfect driver for 10 years, never have a ticket or an accident, your balance would be positive five. But then one day you are running late and happen to get caught driving 77 mph in a 55 mph zone and the officer writes you a reckless driving ticket. If you are convicted of that ticket, you will lose six points. Your record will go from a perfect positive five to a negative one. In the blink of an eye, you went from being a perfect driver to a bad driver, based on just one ticket. That is why it is so important to get your driving record before court and to talk to an attorney about how to avoid unnecessary convictions on your driving record.
Taking an approved driver improvement program voluntarily will add five points to your driving record. However, you can only take the driver improvement program once every two years and you cannot exceed a positive five score on your DMV record. Speak to your Fairfax reckless driving lawyer for more information on how the Virginia DMV demerit point system works. return to top
14. I think I am guilty. Do I still need a lawyer?
Even if you think you were driving recklessly or at the speed the officer alleges, experienced legal counsel may be able to help minimize your legal problems and maximize your opportunities to move ahead toward a brighter future. A criminal defense attorney helps to equalize the balance of power between the defendant and the prosecution and works to preserve the constitutional rights that are guaranteed to all criminal defendants. Additionally, a lawyer as experienced in Fairfax reckless driving cases as Faraji Rosenthall will be able to help you avoid those judges who typically issue the harshest sentences. return to top