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Old 09-21-2007, 01:04 PM
4 posts, read 87,156 times
Reputation: 18


Just thought I would share my ongoing experience with getting a Reckless Driving charge in Fairfax, VA as this seems to be a hot spot for people to seek advice. I only seek to raise awareness on the matter. Hopefully those who are not well informed or have (yet) had experience fighting a Reckless charge in court can learn how serious it is and how the traffic court system works or, in my opinion, doesn't work. You are free to form your own opinion on that one.

I am a Delaware resident, or an "out-of-state driver" to the VA legal system. I do not frequent Virginia often...once a month at best. On a weekend in the middle of June 07, at approx. 1am, I was heading northbound on the beltway/I-495 towards home in DE. Weather and road conditions were clear, traffic was light. However, the traffic that did exist was moving at a very quick pace. Not being familiar with the area, I decided to just "keep with the flow". Big mistake.

I was picked out and pulled over just past the Dulles Toll Road. Right away the officer throws out the sinker, "Do you know how fast you were going?"
I knew I was going too fast so I answered truthfully, or so I thought. I thought I was going about 70 MPH. The officer informed me that he had me on radar going 87 in a 55. Ouch. After parting ways I look at the citation and realize it also includes Reckless Driving and I have to appear in court. KO.

Now, I work in the Defense industry and require a clearance for my job, so I knew right away I had to fight this and get the Reckless part dropped. Reckless driving is a CRIMINAL CHARGE that will last on your CRIMINAL RECORD for 11 YEARS. Get used to that sentence if you ever search for an attorney, because they rub it in your face every chance they get. My search for an attorney found most to be in the $1000-2000 range. Here's a tip from my experience: They all pretty much do the same thing. Unless they are slipping the district attorney bills or have friends in high places, most attorneys don't have more capability over another. I chose an attorney that came recommended and right around $1000.

Right away my attorney instructed me to obtain my driving record from the Delaware DMV and have my speedometer checked/calibrated.

My driving record is perfect
, with 0 points. This is clearly stated on the paperwork I obtained.

I had my speedometer checked at a 5-star dealership. The results? My speedometer was off (high) by about 18%. So while I was traveling 87 MPH (supposedly), my speedometer was telling me just under 74 MPH. Thus, the speed I thought I was traveling at would not even be considered Reckless.

For the record, the first person that I dealt with at the dealership was an idiot. He misspelled my name, address, the values...everything. What's worse is that he refused to correct any of it. I eventually got a hold of the person above him, who not only corrected the paperwork and signed it, but worked with me to type up an official document swearing those results to be true, as my attorney requested. Both this letter and the original paperwork were notarized by a Delaware notary.

So by now I'm feeling pretty good, and it's off to the Fairfax General District Court. Just by the facilities there you can tell they run, err...mean, business. Multiple parking garages ($6 a stay), thorough security, endless construction, flat-panel displays to list the dockets, etc. I find which of the twelve courtrooms I'm supposed to go to and wait for my attorney.

I meet with my attorney, who after a short chat tells me to just wait and watch in the courtroom. Two hours into watching just over 50 cases go by (probably 100 cases in the room of about 1400 total that day), my attorney pulls me aside. "This is not a district attorney and judge we want to deal with. We need a continuance." If it wasn't for the day I took off from work, the 3 hour drive (one way) and gas, the hotel room for the night before, and other expenses I would have been more enthusiastic about the idea. But realizing that he knows best, I agreed. The continuance needed a basis, however, so ours was that I would take a driver improvement course.

Fast forward two months to the continuance. Since last appearing in court I have attended TWO live driver improvement courses in Virginia (which, BTW, are of no benefit to me in Delaware as they are not approved/accepted) and acquired a signed letter from my employer stating the importance of my position and the effects of conviction/loss of clearance. I've done all I can at this point. I either need a judge with compassion or Lady Luck, or both.

I arrive at the proper courtroom again, and am relieved to hear from my attorney and others that "we" have a great judge. The district attorney, however, is one of the worst. Funny how so much of your fate is held in the disposition of the people (one of about 10 judges plus 5 substitutes, and about 19 prosecutors/DAs) that have been selected to your courtroom that day. Foreshadowing...

My attorney again says to wait and watch the other cases in my courtroom until he can talk to the DA. He says that this time, watching the other cases should be relieving. He was right. 80 in a 55? Reduced to simple speeding, $100-ish fine. Failure to use turn signal? $100 fine...use it next time. My favorite: Driving 45 in a 55 for 3 miles or so in the LEFT lane of I-495. Most people would want to smack this person. This judge lets them off almost completely, saying "I like that speed, but do it in the right lane." Another case that I remember well is a young Marine in full dress who, with an 85 in 55 charge and Reckless to boot, cried that if he was convicted of 20 over he couldn't become Sergeant or something. The judge not only dropped the Reckless and reduced the fine to around $200, but he reduced the speed to 74 in a 55! I like a kind judge/human, but this epitomized an extreme difference in treatment/judgment of people with similar cases. Keep in mind, this guy had NO paperwork whatsoever...just a verbal plea for mercy. Do you see where this is going?

My attorney pulled me to the side again and told me what "deal" the DA offered: $1000 fine, no loss of license, everything stands. It would basically be the civil remedial fees assessed on an out-of-state person. The loss of license is a real LOL, seeing as how they can only restrict driving privileges in VA and I enter so seldom anyways. We decline the "offer" and are just about on deck for the judge.

Moment of truth. My attorney submits a "No Contest" plea on my behalf, expecting to see the charges heavily reduced given all the paperwork. He told me just prior that he actually expects to have it all reduced to Improper Driving, even though all I wanted was the Reckless reduced. He explains my story/situation to the judge, handing in the paperwork as he goes. It is about now that I realize I am one of the first, if not the only, out-of-state person to confront the judge, as the process was a bit different. It became really weird when the judge refers back to the DA (hasn't happened yet), who says with a straight face "He was going 87 in a 55. That's reckless, and he should be charged as such." Without delay or even giving me a chance to talk as most others had, the judge says "I agree. Guilty as charged. $250 fee." Just like that, it's done.

I'm shocked. My attorney is shocked. Other attorneys outside the courtroom are shocked. All anyone can tell me is "His limit must be 85." and "He's pressured to convict out-of-state drivers because of the civil remedial fee backlash." Now you tell me...is this fair?

By the way, I am not sure if and how I will go about appealing this. I would need to hire a lawyer again and my current/last one commands $1500 for non-jury. He also claims that the appeal judges and DAs are even worse. I've spent over $3000 because of this so far, and that's before car insurance adjustments (likely to double or triple). I'm already low on spare money, but if I don't fight to get rid of the Reckless charge I WILL lose my Delaware license, security clearance, and thus job. To make matters worse my wife is in grad school and without me having a job she will have to quit.

If anything, this just goes to show that you can do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to go about a Reckless ticket, and still get hung up to dry.

I welcome any questions or comments. Sorry for the long read, but hopefully you/someone found it useful.

Distressed in Delaware
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Old 09-21-2007, 01:28 PM
232 posts, read 1,600,161 times
Reputation: 187
I would have a few questions in regards to this case.
1. Could you not tell that you were greatly above the speed limit of 55... I drive 70 quite regularly, but on the few occasions I've been in the 90 mph range, I can tell a big difference. Many people feel that THEY are completely in control at such speeds and feel that they can make adjustments and reactions for any situation that comes about. After spending 9 years in law enforcement, I have seen this attitude to be the reason for countless accidents. Accidents are typically much, much worse at speeds like this.
2. Did you have a cooperative attitude with the officer? That can make a difference in court.
Please don't take this as me trying to run anything into the ground or pour salt on the wounds, because having worked in Va, I also realize that they are a little.. ummm, shall I say, tough (borderline ridiculous) on traffic violations.
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Old 09-21-2007, 03:50 PM
4 posts, read 87,156 times
Reputation: 18

Great questions! I don't mind them at all, in fact I encourage it as it could potentially help me if/when a judge actually asks me questions I didn't prepare for, should I appeal.

1) The vehicle that I was driving at the time was/is not my primary vehicle. It is a truck (Dodge Ram 1500) that I only use for towing and hauling...driving it any other time is a waste of gas. The hauling is typically of full-size arcade games -- a hobby of mine where I buy, restore, play, and eventually sell them. I was actually down in the VA area because I agreed to deliver a game to someone whom I sold it to on Ebay.

Back to the point though...because I rarely drive this vehicle, ESPECIALLY on major highways, I would not be able to accurately guess my speed. I haven't had it for long either. If it was my primary car, I would definitely notice. And if I had any idea that I was actually going 87 MPH, I would've corrected that immediately. Clear weather/traffic or not, I know it's not safe.

2) This one does sting a little. At the time of the stop I was very polite and responsive with the officer. I know better than to do otherwise When my attorney spoke to him, the officer apparently said that he remembers me being very friendly, and that the only reason he chose to pull my vehicle over instead of another is because mine was the bigger target (a truck) and he had a clear line of sight. Nothing out of the ordinary, he says. Makes me wonder why he gave me a Reckless. Wait, no...I know the answer to that

Before going into the courtroom (2nd time) I was actually part of a little chat involving the officer and some other attorneys. Just shooting' the breeze, nothing about the case(s). So I know he's a nice guy and has nothing against me. That said, my attorney suggested that if I appeal he could try to talk to the officer to see if he would help by "taking my side". Nice idea, but given the CYA mindset I don't see how that would be possible, nice officer or not.
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Old 09-22-2007, 06:35 PM
68 posts, read 234,173 times
Reputation: 70
My suggestion is this:

"Yes, your honor, I was going too fast. I am sorry and I promise to never do it again. I work for the government and this will greatly affect my job. I am more than willing to accept the consequences of my actions; all I ask is the court's consideration. If you can reduce the charge to speeding I will gladly pay the fine and accept probation, I will not disappoint you by showing up in your courtroom again. If I do, I will cheerfully accept the full punishment."

Last edited by LLD; 09-22-2007 at 07:32 PM..
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Old 09-22-2007, 10:56 PM
4 posts, read 87,156 times
Reputation: 18
I had a little "I'm sorry speech" prepared (in memory, not paper) that was almost identical to ^ that. I was never given a chance to speak...
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Old 09-23-2007, 12:50 PM
62 posts, read 211,525 times
Reputation: 28
Who or what gives you the impression you'll lose your clearance due to a moving violation? From what I've been told, even the highest levels of clearance come with a level of tolerance. Shoot, you can obtain a clearance with DUIs - although more than a couple would be pushing it. Point being, as far as I know, driving records don't generally affect your ability to maintain a gov't clearance. Now if you pull a hit and run, or end up on one of those "World's Scariest Police Chases" shows - all bets are off.
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Old 09-24-2007, 07:12 AM
407 posts, read 2,088,269 times
Reputation: 145
Reckless Charges aren't simply moving violations, back in '03 they were Misdemeanors...which can affect security clearances.
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:25 AM
Location: Arlington, VA
349 posts, read 1,292,574 times
Reputation: 217
Agree that this a big problem for you as VA automatically considers 20 over reckless and a criminal charge. It is unfortunate as it gives judges and officers little leeway in interpreting and enforcing the law. While what you did is not the safest driving, getting a criminal charge for it is overkill and doesn't properly reflect the offense. Screwing out of state drivers doesn't help VA residents as we get reciprocated when we visit those states.

You should definitely consider appealing, possibly talk to other lawyers and also speak with your security officer about the effects of getting the charges. It definitely seems odd if the judge didn't allow you to present evidence, perhaps an appeal judge will find a procedural violation and dismiss the charges.
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Old 10-24-2007, 12:16 PM
1 posts, read 26,847 times
Reputation: 11
Default Question on Reckless Charge

I received a reckless charge as well but it was 93 in a 55 on the Dulles Toll Road. I live in Delaware too. I'm hearing that they like to give 1 day in jail per speed above 90. I'm pretty scared at this point. I'm getting an attorney and will do the calibration on my spedometer as well as taking/registering for a driving class. Did you see anyone who received jail time or do you know anything more? At this point I'm freaking out!
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Old 10-25-2007, 01:20 PM
Location: Apex, NC
3,036 posts, read 7,398,691 times
Reputation: 2494
Originally Posted by avalcik View Post
I received a reckless charge as well but it was 93 in a 55 on the Dulles Toll Road. I live in Delaware too. I'm hearing that they like to give 1 day in jail per speed above 90. I'm pretty scared at this point. I'm getting an attorney and will do the calibration on my spedometer as well as taking/registering for a driving class. Did you see anyone who received jail time or do you know anything more? At this point I'm freaking out!

No offense but why do people drive 93 mph in a 55 zone?
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