Most reckless driving incidents are tried as misdemeanors in Virginia, but some cases have additional elements that elevate the seriousness of the alleged crime and lead to a felony charge.
In Virginia, reckless driving typically is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious of the four classes of misdemeanors in the state. Incidents that fall into this category meet one of three basic definitions. Either the driver is believed to have driven recklessly in a manner that threatened people or property, to have driven 20 miles per hour or more in excess of the speed limit, or to have exceeded 80 miles per hour, no matter the speed limit.
There are various other ways of being found guilty of reckless driving, including passing a school bus that is stopped with flashing lights, passing two cars abreast, passing while approaching a hill or curve where the driver can’t see, having too many people in the front of the car such as to obstruct the view of the driver, etc.
If convicted of Class 1 misdemeanor reckless driving for one of these allegations, you face a maximum fine of $2,500 or a jail sentence of up to 12 months in Virginia – or some combination of the two.
Felony charges arise when the state contends that someone not only drove in a way that fit the definition of reckless driving but that other, accompanying circumstances intensify the gravity of the reckless incident. There are two fundamental ways this can occur.
The Commonwealth has the option to seek a Class 6 felony charge if the driver has had his license revoked or suspended for a moving violation AND the person’s driving resulted in the death of another.
A Class 6 felony, which is the lowest tier of felony in Virginia, can lead to a sentence of up to five years of imprisonment, though a jury or judge has the discretion to issue a lighter sentence, such as a shorter prison stint, a jail sentence of up to 12 months or a fine of up to $2,500.
In addition to a jail sentence and fine, the court may suspend the license of a person convicted of reckless driving for up to six months. (Virginia Code § 46.2-392)
Additional issues are that your insurance could go up and if you’ve received a certain number of moving violations, the DMV may suspend your license administratively. This is commonly called rapid point accumulation.
Reckless driving carries a 6 point DMV penalty on your license and the conviction stays on your record for 11 years, as opposed to speeding which is either 3, 4 or 6 points (depending on speed) and stays on your record for only 5 years. Sometimes people don’t understand that even if they think they’re going to get convicted of reckless either way, we can sometimes get a reckless charge down to a speeding charge with speed 20 mph over the limit which reduces the time it stays on your record from 11 to 5 years.