Criminal & Traffic Defense | Immigration | Personal Injury
Reckless or Harmless? How a Small But Powerful Law Change Could Impact You
Most drivers inVirginia are familiar with the statewide law that requires drivers tomove over if a police cruiser is stopped on the side of the road with its lights flashing. This law protects police officers and the occupants of the vehicles they stop from road hazards. But many drivers may not be aware that as of July 1, 2019, not changing lanes in this scenario is a crime that’s punishable by jail, a $2,500 fine, and up to a two-year license revocation. These new punishments make the law abusive and punitive for drivers whomay be choosing a safer option by staying in their lane. In addition, this law is one of the more than 17 ways drivers inVirginia can receive a reckless driving charge. (Virginia is tied for the 8th strictest in the nation when it comes to driving laws.) The important thing to remember when it comes to reckless driving is that the law does not require actual recklessness. The prosecution just has to prove the driver violated the law and therefore their actions may be deemed reckless. Recently, a client of mine was confronted with this very dilemma. This particular client was a very safe driver, often driving a few notches under the speed limit. This driver came across a police
squad car parked on the side of the road with its lights flashing, but rather than risk dangerously changing lanes, where drivers were creeping up on him at faster speeds, this experienced driver decided to slow down and stay in his lane. “Even if your conduct falls within the statute for reckless driving, I have the experience and the expertise to convince the prosecutor that it would be in their best interest to reduce the charge.” Ultimately, the police officer pulled him over and issued him a citation for the action. My client argued his case to the officer — as many of us would — explaining that moving over was dangerous. But this action made his situation worse. However, I argued that this driver had an impeccable record and often chose safety over speed. As I have done in the 4,000 reckless driving cases I have defended, I showed the court what this defendant was doing in the aftermath of the incident to improve their driving ability. I was able
to negotiate the reckless driving charge he was facing down to a minor traffic violation, but his case serves as a lesson for what drivers can do to protect themselves. Given the change in law passed by the state this summer, it’s best for drivers to understand what they are up against on the road. First of all, the law only applies to roadways that have at least four lanes, where at least two of the lanes are headed in the same direction as the officer. You must make a lane change into the lane that is not adjacent to the lane that runs next to the cruiser. If you cannot change lanes, youmust proceed at a reasonable speed for highway conditions. And if you are pulled over, never argue with the officer. This action gives the police and prosecutors more ammunition against you and they can peg you for being uncooperative and argumentative. If the officer asks why you didn’t move over, it’s acceptable (and helpful) to state the reason. Do so in a calm, respectful, and nonargumentative manner. However, even if your conduct falls within the statute for reckless driving, I have the experience and the expertise to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charge. You do learn a thing or two when you defend 4,000 reckless driving cases as I have, but drivers onVirginia roads who aren’t legal experts deserve to protect themselves. I have written a booklet withmore information on reckless driving, which you can obtain by requesting a copy onmy website at LawyerAdvocate.com. Protect yourself and your family onVirginia’s roadways, and remember that you have someone in your corner.
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