There are many variables that come into play in determining if a lawyer is needed for a Reckless Driving ticket in Virginia. It’s often a cost benefit analysis looking at the cost of hiring a lawyer versus the possible consequences of a Reckless Driving in Virginia conviction. At lower speeds there are times where the consequences aren’t sufficient to justify hiring a lawyer. Instead of paying a lawyer’s fees, it may be easier to just go to court by yourself. If you walk away with a small fine, your insurance may increase. But if the increase is less than the lawyer’s fee you’ve saved money doing it yourself, despite the worse result in court.
That much said, ALWAYS TALK TO A LAWYER FIRST. Many, including my office offer honest, free assessments of your case. There may be unintended collateral consequences and it’s important to learn of these before court. This is particularly the case for DC drivers. As written previously in the Washington Post, on September 21st, Mike Debonis wrote an article about the plight of DC drivers convicted of Reckless Driving in Fairfax and other Virginia locations.
The problem deals with the way the District DMV interpreted the term Reckless Driving. Under VA law, Reckless Driving in Virginia is driving at any speed 20 miles over the limit or any speed over 80 regardless of the speed limit. So 81mph in a 65mph zone is Reckless Driving. 77 in a 55 is also Reckless. This is obviously a very low standard and police in VA issue these tickets frequently.
However, under the laws of the District of Columbia Reckless Driving has a much stronger definition and severe penalties. The DC DMV interprets a Reckless Driving in Virginia conviction the same as a DC conviction. A DC conviction carries with it 12 demerit points and a 6 month loss of license. According to the article, the problem became increased as Virginia started reporting to the DC DMV more regularly. The director for the DC DMV reported that in fiscal year 2011, their office received zero notifications of Reckless Driving convictions in Virginia for DC drivers. However, since October 2011, her office had learned of 362 cases. She also stated that in each and every case the conviction resulted in a 6 month loss of license.
The article cites a number of individuals who suffered under DC’s extreme view of these cases. One had to hire a driver during his suspension. Another began riding a bike 11 miles to work. A third was actually arrested for driving on suspended after she was stopped by police during her suspension.
At the hearing, the DC DMV director admitted she had received over 70 letters from people who had suffered.
The article concludes by pointing out that recent changes should help DC drivers. The attorney general and a new bill are working to protect DC driver’s from this type of extreme punishment. Two drivers specifically were stated as having their suspensions dropped.
However, the fact remains that anytime you go into court, whether for traffic or criminal there will be a judge in the courtroom. And that judge will have the power to make a decision that can impact your life in ways you may not think possible. A good Reckless Driving attorney will be able to tell you what potential outcomes may occur. A lot of the time hiring a lawyer may be unnecessary. But until you talk to one you can’t know for sure. Certainly the 362 DC drivers who lost their licenses wish that had consulted an attorney before unnecessarily having to walk for 6 months.