Did you get pulled over for speeding in Virginia and receive a Virginia reckless driving ticket?
If so, you need to know about improper driving in Virginia—a law which could totally change the outcome of your ticket.
Most people don’t realize that in Virginia, there’s a difference between improper driving and reckless driving. They also don’t know that you can get a reckless driving ticket changed into improper driving, which can save you a lot of money.
Are you interested in learning more regarding reckless driving and improper driving?
In this article we’ll explain everything you need to know about:
- What counts in Virginia as reckless driving
- How much is a reckless driving ticket in VA
- What is improper driving in Virginia
- Why you really want an improper driving ticket instead of a reckless driving ticket
- How to get your reckless driving charge reduced to improper control while driving
So let’s dive in!
Virginia: Reckless Driving vs Improper Driving Tickets
First of all, you should know that the traffic laws change and develop. Additionally, much is up to individual judges' discretion. As of this time of the writing, however, this is the latest information and advice regarding Virginia reckless driving and improper driving tickets.
So to get started, what is reckless driving in Virginia?
Virginia Reckless Driving Tickets
In Virginia, reckless driving is defined as “driving at any speed, or in any manner, which endangers life, limb, or property,” regardless of the posted speed limit. This general definition is specifically categorized in Virginia into 17 different kinds of reckless driving, each of which can result in tickets.
Some examples are:
- Passing when your view is obstructed
- Passing at an intersection or railroad grade crossing
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Failing to give proper signals
- Driving too fast for the traffic conditions
- Failing to yield the right of way
However, the most common reasons for getting charged with reckless driving are:
- Failure to maintain control of the vehicle or faulty brakes - At the scene of a traffic accident, the police officer can add a “reckless driving” ticket if they feel that the driver had improper control because of driving in an irresponsible way. A driver can also be found guilty of reckless driving for using a car with faulty brakes, resulting in a car that’s not under the driver’s control.
- Reckless by speed - This is the version of reckless driving we at Colonial Driving School encounter most often. As a driver, you can be convicted of “reckless driving by speed” if your speed exceeds 20 mph above posted speed limit, or reaches 85 mph regardless of posted speed limit.
A ticket for reckless driving based on speed cannot be prepaid, and depending on your location within Virginia, you may be required to appear in court. If you fail to appear for your court date, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.
How Much is a Reckless Driving Ticket in VA?
In Virginia, reckless driving is a class 1 criminal misdemeanor. This means, being found guilty of reckless driving results in some pretty severe consequences:
- A fine of up to $2500
- 6 demerit points on your driver’s license
- Suspended driver’s license for up to 6 months
- Up to 12 months in jail
Additionally, the conviction goes on your record for 11 years. This will show up on criminal background checks and could affect employment, housing, and immigration. Suffice to say, you don’t want to be convicted in Virginia of reckless driving.
But what if you’ve already gotten a reckless driving ticket? What can you do?
To answer that question, let’s discuss improper driving in Virginia.
Improper Driving Tickets
In Virginia, if a judge feels that the driver’s fault is slight, the judge may choose to find the driver “not guilty” of reckless driving, and instead guilty of “improper driving.”
Unlike reckless driving, which is a criminal misdemeanor, improper driving is a mild traffic infraction.
The consequences for improper driving are:
- 3 demerit points on your license (which disappear from your driving record in 3 years)
- A fine up to $500
That’s it. No potential license suspension. No potential jail time. No criminal record.
Here’s the catch, however. Police officers in Virginia can only write reckless driving tickets. They cannot write “improper driving” tickets, or tickets for “improper control while driving.” Only the judge (or the prosecuting attorney) can decide to change your charge from reckless driving to improper driving.
So let’s talk about the million dollar question - how to get your reckless driving ticket reduced to improper driving.
How to Get Reckless Driving Reduced to Improper Driving in Virginia
As we’ve already said, it’s up to the judge as to whether to change the charge from reckless to improper.
There are, however, things you can do to help your case. Here are our top five recommendations:
- Show up for your court date. As mentioned above, some reckless tickets can’t be prepaid and have mandatory court attendance. But even if it doesn’t, being there in person increases your opportunity to win favor with the judge and request reduced charges.
- Plead “not guilty” even if you feel you’re guilty. You may think, “Well, I was going 20 mph over the speed limit, so I’m technically guilty…” It may also seem intuitive that pleading guilty would show cooperation, but this is a misstep. In order to be found guilty of improper driving, you must be found not guilty of reckless driving. Pleading “not guilty” gives you the opportunity to explain your situation and ask the judge to consider improper as an alternative to reckless.
- “Agree with the officer” at the time of the infraction. At the time of trial, the judge often consults the police officer who issued the ticket, asking for his/her perspective on the situation. If the officer is willing to speak positively about you, it may influence the judge’s decision.
- Mention your desire to attend a driver improvement clinic. It varies by judge, but some judges disapprove of drivers attending driving school in advance of their court date. The reason for this is, attending driving school automatically removes 5 demerit points on the driver’s license. If the judge sends you to driving school as part of your punishment, however, you don’t receive the bonus of point reduction on your license. Some judges see going to driving school in advance as side-stepping some of the consequences of reckless driving. But that same judge may be willing to reduce a reckless driving charge to improper, paired with sending you to driving school after sentencing.
- Do community service. Community service before your court date can be a good way to show remorse and cooperation. Unlike attending driving school, community service doesn’t give the appearance of trying to avoid the consequences of your actions.
Following these five tips can help you get a lighter improper driving sentence, instead of the criminal sentence of reckless driving.
Regardless of the outcome of your trial, you’ll get negative points on your driving record and will want to expunge some of these new demerit points off your license. Read on to learn how!
After Improper Driving in VA: Getting Points Off your License
We hope that the information in this article has clarified the differences between reckless driving and improper driving in Virginia:
- In Virginia, reckless driving is a criminal misdemeanor with fairly severe consequences
- An improper driving ticket, however, is a traffic infraction with much lighter consequences
You can be charged with reckless driving for many different reasons, but the most common reason is for speeding. After being charged with reckless driving, if a judge feels your guilt is slight, he/she can choose to change your charge from reckless driving to improper driving.
Some things you can do to help your case if you want to know how to get reckless driving reduced are:
- Show up at court
- Plead not guilty
- Be agreeable with the officer
- Mention desire to attend driving school
- Do community service
Regardless of the outcome of your day in court, Colonial Driving School is here to help.
Voluntarily attending our DMV certified Driver Improvement Clinic will remove 5 demerit points from your license. This can be a big help, regardless of which ticket you end up with. We have in-person classes and fully online options to meet all your driving school needs. All our courses are DMV-approved and provide everything you need to get you back on the road safely.