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Reckless Offenses  |  Improper Driving  |  Jurisdiction  |  Driving Record  |  Commercial Operators


In Virginia, reckless driving can have serious consequences to include a Reckless Driving in Virgniasignificant fine, license suspension and time in jail.  One of the first indicators of its seriousness that separates it from other types of moving violations is the requirement, emphasized by the officer, of a mandatory court appearance.  Virginia Code section §46.2-868 identifies the penalties of a reckless driving conviction:

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.

As a Class 1 misdemeanor, reckless driving is considered a criminal offense and carries the same misdemeanor classification as many other criminal offenses such as DUI, Assault and Battery, and Petty Larceny. The penalties for a reckless driving conviction can include any or all of the following:

  • Up to a $2,500 fine
  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • Up to 6 months loss of driving privilege
While this reflects the punishment range provided for by law, it is not the only negative impact which can result from a reckless conviction. As actions taken by Virginia Courts are separate from the authority of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a reckless conviction can result in significant additional points to a driving record. Other negative consequences can include an increase in insurance premiums as well as a potential negative impact on a security clearance for those employed in trusted positions.

Three important factors will help determine the outcome in a reckless driving case:


The Virginia Code applies reckless driving to several different types of driving situations.  The punishment a judge might give in any given reckless driving case will be influenced by the specific code section cited by the officer and by the severity of the reckless driving behavior. For certain reckless offenses, where the culpability of the driving behavior is considered minimal, the driver may have the offense changed to improper driving. The following are the most common reckless offenses, although other reckless offenses are identified in the Virginia Code.

Reckless Driving; General rule

Reckless Driving; Exceeding the speed limit

Reckless Driving; Passing a stopped school bus

Reckless Driving; Parking lots

Reckless Driving; Racing provisions

§ 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.

This code section is the saving provision under the reckless driving statutes.  Unlike reckless driving, improper driving is not a class 1 misdemeanor offense but rather a traffic infraction.  While an officer cannot charge this section, the court has discretion to find a driver guilty of improper driving.  Similarly, the Commonwealth’s Attorney or prosecutor may amend an offense from reckless driving to improper driving.  The crucial point in this determination is the degree of culpability the court finds in the driving behavior after hearing evidence.  For instance, after trial of the case, the court may find sufficient evidence for guilt of reckless driving, but due to mitigating circumstances or lessened culpability, the court may change the conviction to improper driving.  To achieve success, it is important to understand the temperament of the judge, since it is within the judge’s discretion whether to change the conviction or leave it as a class 1 misdemeanor conviction.  The judge may consider many factors in this determination and knowing how a particular judge will weigh these factors can give the driver an important edge in successfully achieving this result.  Additionally, knowing how to negotiate with the prosecutor so as to maximize the likelihood of the charge being amended is an important strategy, especially where the judge may be inclined to impose a reckless conviction.


The location of a reckless driving offense is another important factor in the case outcome. Some jurisdictions are simply much more strict when it comes to reckless driving.  For instance, some follow a policy of requiring an individual to spend one day in jail for every mile convicted over 90mph. Jurisdiction may also affect such results as the length of a license suspension and whether the driver will receive a restricted operator's license. In jurisdictions with multiple judges, knowing which judge will hear your case may also be an important factor in the case outcome. Learn more


Another factor in the outcome of a reckless driving case is the driver’s record.  It is important to obtain a copy of your driving record to determine what it contains. In addition, an experienced attorney can help explain the impact your record may have on your case. While the best record is a clean one, most of us fall short of this ideal. The number and type of violations appearing on a driving record can adversely affect case outcome and must be carefully analyzed in connection with other factors such as jurisdiction and reckless offense type. Learn more

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