What is Aggressive Driving in Virginia?
A person is guilty of aggressive driving if (i) the person violates one or more of the following: § 46.2-802 (Drive on right side of highways), § 46.2-804 (Failure to observe lanes marked for traffic), § 46.2-816 (Following too closely), § 46.2-821 (Vehicles before entering certain highways shall stop or yield right-of-way), § 46.2-833.1 (Evasion of traffic control devices), § 46.2-838 (Passing when overtaking a vehicle), § 46.2-841 (When overtaking vehicle may pass on right), § 46.2-842 (Driver to give way to overtaking vehicle), § 46.2-842.1 (Driver to give way to certain overtaking vehicles on divided highway), § 46.2-843 (Limitations on overtaking and passing), any provision of Article 8 (§ 46.2-870 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 46.2 (Speed), or § 46.2-888 (Stopping on highways); and (ii) that person is a hazard to another person or commits an offense in clause (i) with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person.Va. Code § 46.2-868.1
What does this mean for you?
A driver is guilty of Aggressive Driving in Virginia if he or she (1) commits any one or more of 12 different specific driving offenses listed above, and (2) that person is a hazard to another person or commits the driving offense with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person.
How is Aggressive Driving punished in Virginia?
Unless there is intent to injure another person, Aggressive Driving in Virginia is a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Penalties for a Class 2 Misdemeanor include:
- Confinement in jail for not more than six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months.
- DMV points: An aggressive driving conviction will give you 4 demerit driving points on a Virginia license.
- You may also have to successfully complete an aggressive driving program.
- Lifetime Criminal record: In Virginia you cannot expunge a criminal record. If you are convicted of Aggressive Driving in Virginia, you will have the misdemeanor conviction on your record for the rest of your life. Therefore, even if you do not get jail or a large fine, you will still end up with a criminal record, which can affect many areas of your life including immigration status, security clearance, and background checks for employment.
In the case where the aggressive driver intended to injure another person, it is a Class 1 Misdemeanor which carries a fine of up to $2,500 and a possible jail sentence of 0-12 months, along with the other consequences noted above.
Should you just show up and Plead Guilty?
No. While it is certainly easiest to just show up, plead guilty, and pay the fine, you will have a criminal misdemeanor on your permanent record–in addition to the other possible penalties mentioned above.
Likewise, showing up and admitting guilt but explaining your circumstances (you were passing another merging vehicle, you were running late for an important event, you were driving safely) will also likely end up in a guilty conviction. While the judge may appreciate your candor, it is still an admission of guilty. You should consult an attorney to see the range of mitigating factors that can help you get a reduced punishment or charge reduction.
Should you get an attorney?
Yes, as mentioned, pleading guilty to an aggressive driving charge admits guilt to a Class 1 or 2 Misdemeanor. And in many Northern Virginia jurisdictions (like Fairfax County), the commonwealth’s attorney (the prosecutor) will not speak with a client who is not represented by counsel. This means that unfortunately you cannot show up at the court date in a County like Fairfax and try to negotiate the charge with the prosecutor.
Speaking to an attorney allows you to explore your specific circumstances surrounding your charge including but not limited to possible defenses, weaknesses in your case, reduced punishments, and even a reduced charge given your criminal and driving history.
Contact the office today for a consultation regarding your aggressive driving charge.