In Virginia, speeding at eighty miles an hour or higher, or by at least twenty miles an hour over the speed limit constitutes reckless driving, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail, up to six months of suspended driving (allowing an application for restricted driving privileges), and a fine up to $2,500.00. This is a six-point offense that merits going to court with a qualified lawyer.
The stories are rampant of substantial jail time for Virginia convictions for reckless driving based on speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour, including the concept of at least one day in jail for each mile exceeding a particular speed threshold.
Recently, two of my clients avoided any active jail time after being clocked respectively at 114 and 111 miles per hour, which is fast enough to give anyone cause for pause.
Of course, it is best never to drive at ninety miles per hour or higher, if even close to that. However, people do exceed ninety miles per hour, and one judge once referenced driving over 100 miles per hour as driving a weapon.
In both my 114 and 111 mile-per-hour reckless driving defenses, my clients followed my recommendation to do the following in advance of their trial dates:
– Get their speedometer calibration checked. At high speeds, speedometers routinely indicate we are driving slower than our actual speed. When one’s speedometer shows a speed slower than actual speed, the defense can argue that the defendant did not intend to travel faster than the speedometer indicated. In Northern Virginia, I refer my clients to M&M Collision in Fairfax for such a speedometer check. Virginia law provides for the admissibility in evidence of an affidavit of such a speedometer check.
– Complete an intensive driving improvement class. Completing a Virginia DMV-approved driving improvement class can add five points to one license, but attending the three-session Lifestyles Learning class is completing a gold-standard class for modifying one’s driving behavior for the safer.
– Complete many hours of documented voluntary community service. Doing so shows the defendant has given much thought to turning his or her life around.
– Seek a psychologist’s written optimistic prognosis not to commit future speed-based reckless driving offenses. Many people go throughout their lives or for years without getting a better sense of what makes them tick psychologically. A qualified psychologist can make an assessment of what motivated a person to drive beyond one hundred miles an hour in the first place, and can work with the person to modify their driving behavior for the better, sometimes starting with things as simple as leaving early for one’s destination, and stating the speed limit aloud to be fully in touch with the situation around them.
The above approach is not a guaranteed recipe to avoid active jail time. Many prosecutors, judges and jurors would prefer to see jail time imposed. At the same time, prosecutors and judges exist who might be swayed to minimize or avoid any jail time. In both my 114 and 111 mile per hour cases, we did not have strong cases to challenge the clocked speeds, but I had otherwise kind clients with compelling stories about why their speeding behavior was aberrational and not likely to be repeated, backed up with their having followed in earnest my recommendation to get their speedometer calibration checked right away, complete the intensive driving improvement class, complete many hours of documented community service, and get an optimistic prognosis from a psychologist. In the end, we negotiated a suspended jail guilty plea with one prosecutor with no loss of license, and a suspended jail guilty plea with another prosecutor with a suspended license.
Avoiding active jail time can be particularly important to those who have security clearances or public trusts or might wish to apply in the future for security clearances or public trusts, for those with health care licenses, and for those wanting to preserve their reputations generally.
If this or any other misdemeanor case does not yield a desirable outcome in the Virginia District Court, the option remains (unless waived) to timely appeal within ten days of District Court sentencing, for a de novo trial in the Circuit Court, which will be with a jury unless both parties waive a jury.