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Difference Between Reckless Driving and a Traffic Ticket in Leesburg

A traffic ticket, also known as traffic infraction, is an offense punishable by a maximum penalty of a $250 fine. On the other hand, reckless driving is a serious Virginia criminal offense punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2500 fine, or a combination thereof.

In addition, there are more serious consequences for a Virginia reckless driving charge than there are for traffic infractions. Traffic infractions may carry negative 3, negative 4 or negative 6 for a certain period of time in Virginia Uniform Demerit System as governed by the Virginia DMV. Reckless driving offense will always carry the highest demerit points, a negative 6 and for the longest period of time which is 11 years. As a result of these serious consequences, it is important that those accused reach out to a Leesburg reckless driving lawyer as soon as they know they are being charged, so that the attorney can begin looking at the facts of their case and building a defense.

Court Obligations for Reckless Driving vs Traffic Tickets

If you are charged with reckless driving, you are given a Virginia Uniform Summons indicating that your appearance is required in court. Depending on facts and circumstances of your case, including the offense for which you are charged and level of severity of your alleged offense, you may not have to appear in court at all.

Regardless, you want to contact your Virginia reckless driving attorney to discuss whether or not they can appear on your behalf. Typically, if your appearance is required on the Virginia Uniform Summons you do need to appear. The worst thing that you can do in this kind of situation is that you can mail in the ticket and hope that it goes away. It won’t.

In addition, Virginia reckless driving offenses are not pre-payable offenses. This means you must appear in the court or the judge may find you guilty in your absence. In other circumstances the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest for ‘Failing to Appear’.

Traffic tickets, on the other hand, are generally pre-payable. Commonly issued traffic tickets include simple speeding, failing to obey a highway sign or failure to obey a traffic signal. These tickets are governed by the Virginia Uniform Fine System (pdf) and will have a fine based upon the applicable code section. In addition, you may receive Virginia DMV points for traffic infractions depending on the severity of the offense.

Can You Get Arrested for Reckless Driving?

In vast majority of reckless driving cases you are not ‘placed under arrest’ and taken to the local jail at the time of the offense.   A very high percentage of reckless driving cases originate with an individual being pulled over for their driving behavior or an officer arriving on the scene of the accident. When that stop occurs and the officer makes a decision to charge you with reckless driving, they will most likely do so by issuing a Virginia Uniform Summons.

A Virginia Uniform Summons is identical to the documentation you will receive when you are charged with a simple traffic infraction, however it is much more serious. The officer will scratch out the information about prepaying the penalty and will tell you have to appear in court on the date given.  The law enforcement officer will ask you to sign the summons, not admitting guilt, but rather simply promising to appear on the date on the summons. In the minority of reckless driving cases, the accused is placed under arrest and taken to the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center for processing. This may occur in serious accident cases or cases in which you are charged with reckless driving in conjunction with other criminal offenses.

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