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Can I Really Go to Jail for Reckless Driving?

I get asked frequently whether people really do go to jail for reckless driving, and the answer is “Yes”. In Fairfax County, during a normal 1 month period in 2011 we counted 30 drivers who were sentenced to jail for reckless driving, 77 who lost their license and 17 who were given a fine of $1000 or more.

Reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. A person can be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail for reckless driving, fined $2,500 in fines, and have their license suspended for up to 6 months. Certainly not everyone who gets a reckless driving goes to jail or losses their license ect. but exactly who does and who does not may surprise you.

First, there is a vast amount of difference between jurisdictions and between judges. Two drivers who commit the same crime may get vastly different outcomes depending on which judge handles their case. There is no standardized outcome for reckless driving. Just because you or someone you know had one outcome in their prior case does not mean that a second offense will be anywhere related.

The biggest factors in determining a person’s punishment are a follows:

  • The judge and jurisdiction of your case. D
  • The severity of the offense. The higher the speed, the more egregious the behavior the more serious the punishment.
  • The driving record. A bad driving record (especially prior reckless driving convictions)
  • Whether you have an attorney or not. Unrepresented drivers tend to have much worse outcomes.
  • The Defendant’s behavior towards the officer or victims. Being rude, aggressive, belligerent to the officer can result in a more severe punishment.
  • Other offenses. Eluding the police, DUI, hit and run committed at the same time as the reckless driving can increase the punishment.
  • Failing to show up on time to court. This can lead to a bench warrant or a extremely high fine and license suspension.

If you want to know the likely outcome of your reckless driving case, its simple. Just give us a call and we will be happy to tell you. Never just assume.

Luke J. Nichols

Spectrum Legal Defense/ Nichols & Green pllc


About Luke Nichols

Luke Nichols practices almost exclusively traffic law in Northern Virginia. His primary practice areas include reckless driving, speeding, DUI/DWI, refusal, hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license, and driving on a revoked license. Mr. Nichols has represented hundreds of Virginia drivers. You can also connect with Luke on Google+
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2 Responses to Can I Really Go to Jail for Reckless Driving?

  1. Justin Couser says:

    If got pulled going 85/55 I’m 17, no priors good student. How bad are my outcomes?

    • Luke Nichols says:

      People ask me this question all the time with reckless driving. There are two worst-case scenarios to every reckless driving case: the theoretical worst-case scenario (the max punishment allowed by law) and the more realistic worst-case scenario which only an experienced reckless driving attorney who knows your case can tell you.

      Theoretically, a judge can sentence a person a convicted of reckless driving by speed for up to 12 months in jail, 6 month loss of license, and a $2,500 fine. However, many reckless driving cases are no where near that serious.

      With an 85/55 reckless driving charge for a minor driver with a good record and no other negative factors typically a criminal conviction, a license suspension from the court and the DMV and a fine of less than $500 is fairly normal for many jurisdictions in Virginia (but not all). (Typically, a competent reckless driving attorney can do a lot to help achieve a result that is much better than this)

      If a driver is facing jail time the judge will typically ask the driver what they are going to do about hiring counsel or the court will set up an arraignment hearing. If you have appeared in court on an arraignment or if the judge asks you if you want to retain an attorney then you are much more likely to end up in jail.

      To know what your more realistic worst-case scenario is, contact my firm or another reckless driving attorney and communicate the following information:
      1) What jurisdiction are you charged in?
      2) Where there any other tickets or crimes charged?
      3) Was your interaction with the officer friendly and professional or confrontational?
      4) Did you have any reason to believe that the officer may accuse you of erratic or unsafe driving behavior in addition to the speed?