DUI vs. Reckless Driving: What Do My Charges Mean?

drinking while driving

For criminal defense attorneys, it’s a well-known tactic to argue for or accept a lesser charge in exchange for dropping a harsher one.

It’s a common enough occurrence that even first-time defendants might recognize the scenario: a prosecutor will try a case for a person accused of driving under the influence, but cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated. Thus, the defense is in a strong position to lower the charge to reckless driving.

However, Virginia law doesn’t just see reckless driving as a “lesser version” of DUI. It is a separate and distinct crime from DUI, enough that Virginia law stipulates that if a person is charged with both reckless driving and DUI, the court can only convict one charge and dismiss the other (§ 19.2-294.1).

Then What Is Reckless Driving?

So what’s the distinction between the two? Virginia’s general reckless driving rule says the following:

“Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.”

Fairly self-explanatory—to be found guilty of reckless driving, it must be proven that you were driving in a way that put other people or property at risk. It’s easy to see how reckless driving could be folded into DUI as a lesser charge. The assumption of any DUI law, after all, is that driving while drunk puts other people at greater risk.

However, there are other reckless driving statutes that are more specific:

  • Poor brakes
  • Passing on a curved road
  • Passing two vehicles at a time
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • Failing to signal
  • Driving 20 mph over the speed limit
  • Racing

Because these more specific, Virginia law allows these charges to be added onto a DUI charge. That means added fines, added jail time, and added convictions on your criminal record.

If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, you need a defense attorney who understands the ins and outs of Virginia courts, who knows how to fight for the best possible result. For 18 years, the Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller have successfully fought for acquittals, dismissals, and reduced charges.

You can entrust your case to us. Call (757) 267-4949 for a free consultation now.

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