Reckless driving is a criminal charge that carries significant penalties and repercussions. A person generally must always appear in court after being charged with reckless driving, unless the charge is subsequently reduced to a traffic infraction that does not carry potential jail time or the court and prosecutor agree to not seek jail time. It is common for a person to hire an attorney that will appear on their behalf on the first court date to attempt a resolution of the case, which does not require the defendant’s presence, especially if the person does not live near the jurisdiction where they got pulled over.
Reckless driving cases are heard in every court in Prince William County, which includes the General District Court, the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, and the Circuit Court.
Like any other criminal offense in Virginia, a person can respond to a reckless driving charge by either pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. An accomplished lawyer who is experienced with Prince William County reckless driving cases could fight for you if you are facing charges. Let a dedicated reckless driving attorney protect your rights.
Prince William County reckless driving cases are fairly predictable and tend to resolve in one or two court dates only. Most cases involve negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecutor or judge whereby the charge is reduced to a traffic infraction or the sentence imposed is minor in nature. Only a minority of cases go to trial, and those tend to involve accident situations where the police officer did not personally observe what happened prior to arriving on the scene of an accident. If someone is caught speeding above 95 miles per hour, the prosecution will likely be seeking active or suspended jail time and/or a higher fine with at least one month of license suspension. Reckless driving is a unique charge in that it is the only kind of traffic misdemeanor in the Virginia code that can be reduced to the traffic infraction of improper driving, which is a commonly-sought outcome in reckless driving cases. Improper driving is similar in severity to a regular speeding ticket.
Before the hearing is resolved, the judge will want to know what the defendant’s plea is either to the original charge or the amended charge. There may be a brief recitation of each side’s understanding of the evidence had the case gone to trial if a plea is being entered. If there is no plea agreement, a defendant can also plead guilty or no contest directly to the judge, and simply argue what the sentence should be. A plea of not guilty will usually result in a trial, in which the prosecution will present their evidence first, followed by the defense. Trials are bifurcated, meaning they are divided into a guilt phase and a sentencing phase. So even after a person is found guilty by the judge, each side gets to separately argue what an appropriate sentence would be.
All reckless driving hearings in Prince William County involve a judge, a citing officer, and a defendant at a minimum. If a defendant has not hired a lawyer for the case, typically a prosecutor will not even be assigned to assist the officer. Aside from attorneys, the only other parties who might be present and involved in a reckless driving hearing would be relevant witnesses that are appearing voluntarily or in response to a court subpoena. If an accused is sentenced to jail time, there are also bailiffs in the courtroom who will take the accused into custody at the end. A defendant who is facing charges should obtain a seasoned lawyer right away.
There are a wide variety of defenses and mitigating circumstances a reckless driving lawyer could raise on a defendant’s behalf to attempt to avoid or reduce a conviction. Many of these considerations will turn on the particular code section of reckless driving that a person is charged under.
Common defenses include arguing the admissibility or accuracy of an officer’s speed determination, challenging an officer’s capacity to engage in accident reconstruction, challenging statements made by absent bystander witnesses as hearsay, and arguing the extent of the defendant’s alleged mental state of recklessness as measured by the defendant’s own testimony.
Common mitigating factors include a person’s good driving record, completion of one or more driving classes (or willingness to do so), a person’s attitude and honesty when dealing with the officer on the scene, other traffic and weather conditions that the driver faced at the time of the driving behavior in question, and sympathetic excuses as to why the defendant would be driving hastily or erratically, such as an important medical appointment or a vehicle malfunction that could not reasonably be anticipated.
A lawyer who is knowledgeable about Prince William County reckless driving cases could build a strong defense for you. Call today if you are facing charges.