Northern Virginia is home to several fine institutions of higher learning, including George Mason University, Marymount University, and Northern Virginia Community College. These schools draw thousands of college students to Fairfax, Arlington and the surrounding areas — all eager to earn degrees that will pave the way for bright futures ahead of them. However, it’s all too easy for those futures to get thrown off track when a mistake like not paying attention to speed on the highway turns into a charge of reckless driving.
Reckless driving is a crime in Virginia, and a conviction results in a permanent criminal record. It’s not a simple traffic ticket, and you can’t just pay it and make it go away. Virginia doesn’t allow for pre-payment of reckless driving tickets precisely because reckless driving is a criminal charge.
Reckless Driving and College Students – Consequences
In general, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can be penalized by:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- Up to a $2,500 fine
- Six demerit points on your driver’s license
- A driver’s license suspension of 10 days to six months
Under some other circumstances — particularly if the reckless driving resulted in a fatality — you can be charged with a felony.
Chances are you’ll end up paying more for car insurance after a reckless driving conviction as well. Most insurance companies view someone with a reckless driving conviction as a higher risk to insure, and they’ll charge you more for premiums.
Because reckless driving is a criminal charge, a conviction will show up on background checks when you try to get a job after you graduate or when you try to rent an apartment. If you plan to apply for graduate or professional school, most applications will ask if you have criminal convictions. They’ll usually exclude traffic infractions, but since reckless driving is no mere traffic infraction you may have to disclose the criminal conviction and it may become a barrier to your being admitted.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Many college students struggle financially and work to pay for tuition, books, and housing. You may not have a lot of extra money for an expense such as a criminal defense lawyer. However, hiring a lawyer probably is your best shot at minimizing the disruption a reckless driving charge can have on your life.
Want to avoid jail time? Get restricted driving privileges so you can keep driving to work and school? An experienced traffic defense attorney can negotiate on your behalf to try to lessen your penalties or to reduce your charge to a traffic infraction such as improper control, which is penalized only by a small fine and a few demerit points on your license. In some places, such as Fairfax County, you have to have a lawyer to try to get any kind of plea deal because prosecutors just won’t negotiate with you when you represent yourself.
Depending on how your case resolves — for example if your charge is dismissed upon completion of a safe driver course — a lawyer may be able to get the reckless driving arrest expunged from your record and preserve that bright future you’ve been anticipating.