Speeding is a moving violation. If you are stopped for speeding, you’ll have to go to court or mail in your fine. The charge of speeding will go on your driving record, but it’s not a criminal conviction.
Reckless driving, on the other hand, is a class 1 misdemeanor. If you are charged and found guilty, you will have a criminal record. So what is reckless driving? A broad category of actions including, but not limited to: passing a stopped school bus, passing on a curve or grade, racing, driving too fast for conditions, or failing to use signals. In some cases, speeding can be considered reckless driving, as well. That happens when you are going more than 30 or more mph over the speed limit, or over 80 mph in general.
Everyone makes poor decisions from time to time, but if you are making poor decisions while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, you are going to pay for it. Read on to understand the possible consequences of a reckless driving charge.
The maximum amount of time that you can be sentenced to jail for reckless driving is one year. However, the likelihood that you will actually receive a one-year jail sentence is fairly low — especially if you are a first-time offender with a clean record, and you do not have additional charges.
In some jurisdictions, the judge presiding over reckless driving cases may set a certain speed as a threshold. For example, he may impose jail time on someone who was ticketed for driving 90 mph, 100 mph, or 30+ mph over the posted speed limit. Even if these criteria govern the judge’s decision most of the time, there is still no guarantee that he will use them when determining your punishment. Every case is different, and there are many mitigating factors.
So while it is unlikely that you’ll go to jail for 12 months, it is possible, and you should prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario.
Suspension of Driver’s License
For most people who are charged with traffic- or vehicle-related crimes, the penalty of a suspended or revoked driver’s license is a tough pill to swallow. Not being able to drive a car is going to radically change your lifestyle, and for the worse. Unless you live in a major metropolitan area with good public transportation, or you are willing to walk or bike everywhere, it is going to be difficult to live your ordinary life without a car.
While a six-month license suspension is the maximum penalty for a reckless driving conviction, it isn’t the norm. Again, if you have an otherwise clean record — and a good attorney by your side — it’s not likely that your license will be suspended. Nevertheless, you may want to start planning how you would get around without being able to drive, just in case.
In some instances, the judge will issue you a restricted license. This means you can drive to your job or school, to medical appointments, and to religious services. A restricted license gives you the ability to drive when absolutely necessary. If you are caught driving elsewhere, your license will probably be suspended.
The maximum fine you could pay for a reckless driving charge is $2,500. It is likely that you will pay some amount in fines, and that amount could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a thousand or more. In addition, you will be on the hook for court costs, usually about $80.
There are judges who impose fines according to the offense. For example, a judge might levy a fee of $10 per mile over the speed limit. So if you are ticketed for driving 75 mph in a 55 zone, you will pay $200 in fines, plus the court costs, for a total of $280.
You will have at least 30 days to pay any fine that you owe to the court, and you can apply for extensions if your financial circumstances don’t allow you to pay your total fine within that period.
Points on Your License
Lastly, you may receive demerit points on your driver’s license. The maximum number of points you can receive is six. For most types of reckless driving, those points will remain on your license for a total of 11 years. That’s a long time, and another reason why avoiding a conviction is in your best interests.
“If you accumulate too many points on your license, you run the risk of having your license suspended,” says John M. Weiland of Weiland Upton, a law firm that specializes in Greensville County VA reckless driving cases. “That’s why it’s important to get the charges dismissed or reduced, if at all possible.”
Other Consequences of a Reckless Driving Conviction
Those are the legal penalties that you may face after being convicted of a reckless driving charge. There are some other consequences that you need to concern yourself with, however.
First of all, your insurance company may not take kindly to these charges. Your premium could very well go up, and you could find yourself paying more for auto insurance for several years after the ticket. Of course, this depends on your insurance agent. There may also be ways to remove some of the points on your license, and thereby lower your premium. Ask your insurance agent if this is a possibility in your case.
Next, there is the possibility that your security clearance or your employment status could be affected. It isn’t likely that one misdemeanor will alter your security clearance, but multiple offenses just might. A record of traffic infractions and/or misdemeanors could indicate that your judgment and decision-making skills are poor, and potential employers will take that into account.
Many job applications ask applicants to reveal whether or not they have been convicted of a misdemeanor. A reckless driving charge will follow you around for a long time; your best course of action is to retain the services of an attorney to help you fight the charge or get it reduced.
A reckless driving misdemeanor could ostensibly carry with it serious consequences and penalties. If you have been charged with reckless driving, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney right away. Don’t let one poor decision affect your livelihood, your transportation, or your enjoyment of life for years to come.
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