We still have options to resolve your case in a positive way, and possibly even get your reckless driving ticket dropped or reduced.
First of all, you won’t know all the possible defenses in your case without talking with an attorney. I’m not saying that everyone has to hire an attorney, but it only makes sense to have a free conversation to see what’s possible in your case.
Not all attorneys provide free consultations, but I do offer free consultations to people who have traffic charges in my local area. A traffic attorney who’s local to your court can help you examine the facts of the case and give you a sense of what the judge might do.
Second, you don’t have to be convicted of reckless driving even if you are technically guilty.
Even in cases where the evidence is stacked up against us, we still have options!
Other Options for Getting Your Ticket Reduced:
Agreement with the officer
In case I haven’t made it completely clear, officers have a lot of power in Virginia reckless driving cases. But we can also try to use that power to our advantage. In some courts, the judge will consent to a recommendation or deal that the officer makes.
Basically, that’s because the officer is the person who was on scene and dealt directly with you. In theory, he has the best position to know what outcomes are reasonable in your case.
This doesn’t mean officers will just roll over at court and drop your reckless driving charge. But it does mean that we might be able to work out a deal on your case to have it reduced to a lesser offense. Some factors that come into play are: your demeanor on the side of the road, the judge’s willingness to accept recommendations from the officer, and your prior record. If you were uncooperative on the side of the road, the officer probably won’t want to help you out at court. That’s one reason I always recommend being polite to law enforcement officers.
Virginia law says that in any case of reckless driving where the culpability of the driver is minimal, the judge can reduce the charge to “improper driving.”
What’s “improper driving”? Improper driving is a 3- point traffic infraction. It disappears from your Virginia driving record in 3 years. It’s one of the lowest-level moving violations in Virginia.
Improper driving can be a great result, compared to the 6-point misdemeanor conviction of reckless driving. Remember that reckless driving would be part of your permanent criminal record, but improper driving only goes on your driving record.
The judges around Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania use improper driving in many accident
cases where the Commonwealth can prove responsibility for the accident, but where the defendant has minimal culpability. For example, if you were involved in a minor fender-bender, that might be a candidate for improper driving.
This is also an area where the officer has a lot of discretion. Virginia law doesn’t allow officers to write improper driving tickets. They can only charge reckless driving. However, sometimes the officer will agree that improper driving fits the facts better. If the officer will agree to that, many judges will agree as well. At the very least, the officer can be questioned on cross examination if improper driving would be a more appropriate outcome.
Driver improvement clinic
Even if the evidence is sufficient to find you guilty of reckless driving, the judge can still give you a break aside from improper driving. Virginia law allows the judge to send you to a driver improvement clinic to have a traffic case reduced or even dismissed completely. Note that this option is NOT available if you have a commercial driver’s license.
Not all judges utilize this program, so it’s important to find out what your judge likes to do. Some judges will dismiss certain speeds while reducing others. Some judges may not use driving school at all. Again, speak with a local attorney who knows the judge who will be handling your case to make sure you get solid advice.
Also, some judges don’t like drivers doing a driving school before coming to court. That’s because Virginia DMV awards five safe driving points for completing the driving school voluntarily. Some judges see that as double dipping. They don’t want you to get five bonus points and then obtain a reduced charge in court. With those judges, doing driving school without consulting an attorney might hurt your case.
Along with improper driving and driving school, some judges use community service as a tool in traffic cases. It can be a way to punish defendants but also to give people a chance to earn a break on the charge.
Sometimes I recommend that clients complete some community service before their trial date. Doing volunteer work ahead of time shows initiative, remorse, and that you’re taking the charge seriously. Depending upon the judge, this can help obtain a favorable result in court.
If the judge orders you to do community service for your case, be sure to pay close attention to the requirements. If in doubt, ask your attorney or the clerk’s office. Around the Fredericksburg area, community service could be on your own at any nonprofit charity, or it could be monitored through Community Based Probation. You certainly want to comply with the judge’s specific orders.