I might get a misdemeanor for reckless driving, what should I do!?
February 22, 2009 6:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to go to trial for a reckless driving charge in the state of Virginia. According to the cop who pulled me over, I was going 95 in a 65 mph zone. I'm very scared right now of what could happen to me. In VA, reckless driving counts as a Misdemeanor.

Currently, I work as a Substitute teacher and go to college at night. If I am charged of a Misdemeanor, I could lose my license and possibly my job if my employers do another background check in the future. My driver's license is my lifeline. I'm a young lady in my early 20s who lives on my own, pays my own school tuition, and pays my own rent. There is no one who can drive me around to school and work should I lose my license. I'd basically be...unemployed...unable to go to school...and homeless.

I've taken all the typical steps to avoid the worst in a court conviction. I've hired a lawyer, taken a driver's improvement course, and I'm about to get my boyfriend's car, the car I was driving, calibrated at garage.

Is there anything else I should do? Has anyone else out there been in my shoes? Thanks Metafilter!
posted by BettyBurnheart to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Do whatever your lawyer advises. Frankly, I'm not sure what else we could add.
posted by jquinby at 6:47 PM on February 22, 2009

What jquinby said, although if it's any help. I had the same thing happen when I was 18. I requested a hearing and the state lawyer knocked the charge down before it went to court. It's really not an efficient use of the courts time and money to take this before a judge, so if it's your first offense it sounds like you've done all you can.
posted by jeremias at 6:54 PM on February 22, 2009

Make sure your lawyer knows all this. Depending on who the judge is, he may be more lenient if this

Misdemeanors are not felonies. I really wouldn't worry about the long-term ramifications, as long as you're honest about it and chalk it up to a mistake if you're convicted (and don't let it happen again, of course).
posted by j1950 at 6:54 PM on February 22, 2009

Virginia has a hardship liscence program. Make sure if things don't go your way that you get immediately started in that direction...
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:59 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

@scarello take it easy tiger, she's not posting under her real name, and is clearly very distraught, so lets try to be helpful. Let those with out sin, and all that...

Anyhow. Listen to your lawyer. Your lawyer will probably tell you all this but when you talk to the judge, apologize, highlight the fact that it's your first offense, and how much of a hardship any punishment that jeopardizes your ability to drive would be.

And slow down.
posted by pyro979 at 7:06 PM on February 22, 2009

Best answer: I got a reckless driving ticket when I was 17 in Virginia (this was 10+ years ago, I think Va has gotten stricter about speeding in the last few years). When I went to court, I was ordered to take a driving course, and the judge made me take the school bus to school and get the driver's signature every day, to and from school, for a month. Taking rides with friends was out of the question - I needed signatures. He did not take away my license, but this was to make me really think about my actions as a now totally uncool senior in high school.

Listen to your lawyer. Tell the judge you made a mistake, and you know speeding is a bad thing to do - not because you might lose your license, but because you are aware and take seriously how it impairs your ability to be a safe driver. The judge might give you some creative "punishments" but it is possible that you will not have your license revoked. Breathe.
posted by raztaj at 7:19 PM on February 22, 2009

Ask your lawyer if there is any program in Virginia offering deferred sentencing that will result in dismissal if you comply with certain conditions (sometimes called "deferred adjudication" or "pretrial diversion"). I am a lawyer in another state, and my default way of dealing with a situation like yours (assuming the prosecutors were not willing to reduce the charge) would be to arrange for a deferred sentencing and dismissal upon your compliance with the agreed conditions of deferment.

If you were in my state, this would solve all of the problems you listed above. It would not result in a conviction unless you violated the agreed conditions of deferment. It would result in a dismissal upon the agreed probationary period.
posted by jayder at 7:40 PM on February 22, 2009

Best answer: Do you know what your lawyer's strategy is in setting this matter for trial? Often, I will set minor cases like this for trial, in the hope that the state's key witnesses will not show up and I can get a straight dismissal. I will set them for trial with no intention of actually having the trial if the witnesses show up. If the witnesses show up in such cases, and I believe my client is in serious risk of conviction, I will routinely advise an eligible client to take a deferred adjudication and we don't do the trial. (The prosecutor is always grateful to not have to go through with the trial.)

I wonder whether your lawyer has just set this for trial hoping that there will be a dismissal.

MeFi mail me if you need more info (not legal advice).
posted by jayder at 7:46 PM on February 22, 2009

On a long term basis, an expensive lawyer will always be less expensive to you than a cheap lawyer. jquniby said it first and best.

Here in California, a misdemeanor is nothing, though. Just don't worry very much and you'll be fine.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 7:50 PM on February 22, 2009

I actually have collected two of these Virginia reckless driving citations. Once I had a lawyer and she somehow managed to get everything dismissed (that one was for 104 in a 55, so it would have been ugly) and the other time I just showed up in court and the judge knocked it down to a regular speeding ticket. Unless you have a terrible driving record, you are fairly unlikely to get stuck with the misdemeanor, I suspect. You might not have as good a result as I did, because my lawyer is awesome. That is why I married her.
posted by Lame_username at 7:58 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would relax. Anything is possible in this wide world, I know, but I have never heard of a teaching license being pulled over a traffic infraction.

In fact I know of teachers who've been charged with multiple OWIs.

I have been to traffic court, and my experience has been that they are happy to plea bargain with willing defendants, especially those with lawyers, but conversely ready to throw the book at obstinate innocent-at-all-costs pleaders. It's a bit of a paradox. If you were concurrently charged with speeding you may have the option of pleading guilty to the speeding and having the reckless dismissed. Be ready to tell the judge you are remorseful, you didn't intend to be going that fast, you were in an unfamiliar area, and so forth. Just don't challenge the cop or pull radar-gun evidence challenges. The course you took really should make you look good before the court.
posted by dhartung at 11:08 PM on February 22, 2009

Hopefully with the help of your lawyer you can work something out.

However if you do lose your license for a bit, get a bike.
posted by mikepop at 7:10 AM on February 23, 2009

As a point of reference, I was caught doing 82 in a 55 and the judge did order my license suspended. As it happens, I wasn't a VA resident at the time, so the clerk just handed my out-of-state license back to me and said they couldn't take it. But definitely don't assume they won't.
posted by callmejay at 2:05 PM on February 23, 2009

Response by poster: Everything turned out okay. I didn't have to go to jail or get my license revoked. Either I got lucky or was just worrying too much. Thanks for your advice and concern though! It helped.
posted by BettyBurnheart at 8:53 AM on March 5, 2009

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