Charged With Reckless Driving? Don’t Just Pay Your Ticket
If you’ve been charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia, you already know that it is one of the most expensive states in which to receive a ticket. You can thank our legislators, who have earned the state a dubious distinction. In 2007, Virginia was voted number 1 in Forbes Magazine’s list of the most expensive states in which to get a speeding ticket.
Here’s why. The Virginia legislature attempted to sneak in a new type of fine called “civil remedial fees,” which were intended to help pay for road construction and maintenance. The intended effect was an additional $385 million for the state’s coffers. However, the legislature took things a step too far in their attempt to squeeze the golden goose: They applied these new fees to Reckless Driving by Speed, attempting to charge Virginia drivers (but not out-of-state drivers) an additional $1,050 for driving 81 mph in a 70 mph zone, which resulted in a massive public outcry.
The outrageous new fees probably would have gone unnoticed had they simply been applied to drunk drivers or those who violated a license suspension. A petition was circulated online, and the legislature did an abrupt about-face, repealing the unpopular fees and refunding the money they had already taken from Virginia’s motorists. With the loss of their civil remedial fees and the tremendous decline in state tax revenues, the government simply had to come up with a new way to get money.
Do you think the legislators forgot about all those speeders traveling up and down the interstates of Virginia? Certainly not. Getting cash out of the pockets of drivers in Virginia is a pretty elementary process. It is a simple matter of putting more law enforcement officers out on the roads and writing more tickets. Almost every person on the highway is speeding. The police do not have to sit there for very long before they earn the state more revenue by writing another in an endless stream of citations.
In actuality this is a foolish and dangerous method of raising revenue. Every additional officer writing tickets represents added risk of a fatal accident in which a human being loses his or her life while getting a ticket, or more frequently while writing one. Many state troopers have been permanently disabled or killed while writing citations on Virginia’s highways, all in the name of safety.
As you have probably already figured out, the state merely uses the façade of highway safety to raise revenue, and it works like a charm. The main reason is that most people who are cited for Reckless Driving don’t hire a lawyer to fight their ticket. They figure that it is a waste of time and money, so they just pay the fine. That’s exactly what Virginia wants them to do! However, drivers are left with a criminal conviction, which stays on their record for life.
Every time the police write a ticket, they are gambling that you will just roll over and take it like a submissive dog, handing them your lunch money and slinking away with your tail tucked firmly between your legs. Most of the time their little scheme works just as they planned. What drivers fail to realize is that being convicted of Reckless Driving is hardly a foregone conclusion. We can fight your Reckless Driving charge, and in many cases we will win. The second thing they don’t know is how expensive it can be to get convicted of Reckless Driving, with insurance rate increases and possible loss of employment.
Here is a worst-case scenario: Let’s say an out-of-state driver decides to pay the fine and skip court. Not realizing the seriousness of a Reckless Driving conviction, she assumes it will cost a few dollars, and that will be the end of the story. And it is—until she is pulled over again. She will learn that a capias (a type of warrant) has been issued for her arrest, because the judge would have imposed a jail sentence had she been in court. The officer in her home state will arrest her on the spot, and she will spend three weeks in jail awaiting transportation to Virginia to serve a three-day sentence. Believe it or not, this happens all the time. Reckless Driving charges are like termites; your best bet is to let a professional deal with them, because everything can come crashing down around your ears if you ignore them.