Reckless Driving and Speeding Tickets
In Virginia traffic cases where speeding is alleged, such as in Virginia Reckless Driving by speed cases, a traffic defense attorney should review the police officer’s or trooper’s calibration certificate. Section 46.2-882 of the Virginia Code requires that “No calibration or testing of such device shall be valid for longer than six months.”
Certificate errors can result in a dismissal of the case if a traffic defense attorney can point out the deficiencies in the certificate and its application to the case in chief. The most common error is where an officer has a calibration certificate but the date of the certification is outside of the 6 month window from the date of the traffic stop. Judges will strike the officer’s testimony concerning a defendant’s speed if a proper motion to strike the evidence is made.
Typically, I meet with an officer before court to ask questions regarding the certificate, as well as whether it’s a certificate for a RADAR or LIDAR device or if he or she established the speed by what’s commonly known as “pacing” the client’s vehicle. This can sometimes have an effect on the case and your approach to properly defending the case.
Remember, reckless driving cases become harder to prove without eyewitness testimony of the driving conduct. This is particularly important when the person charged has not made an incriminating statements to law enforcement. In Powers vs. Commonwealth, a driver left a Tavern in his vehicle, described by one witness as going rather fast. Within 5-10 minutes later, a friend left in the same direction and found the driver’s car wrecked about a mile down the road. The driver was found outside his car on one side of the road and the vehicle (and its engine projected from the car) was found in a ditch on the other side of the road. The Supreme Court of Virginia stated that the fact of an accident occurring does not give rise to an inference of reckless driving. Further, the court said, “We have no way of determining from the evidence in this record how and why the accident happened.” The point is this – to be convicted of reckless driving there has to be evidence of reckless driving conduct.
Having your vehicle’s speedometer calibrated may be helpful when you are defending against a reckless driving or a speeding charge. In some cases, the certificate will indicate that the speedometer was giving an incorrect reading that was below the speed you were traveling the day the officer stopped you. A mechanic you hire should run tests on your car and produce a notarized affidavit that can be admissible in court. The speedometer certificate will show the test results for various speeds and show how much your speedometer display is off compared to the actual speed of the car. Some people are surprised that the age of the car is not necessarily indicative of how accurate their speedometer is.
Depending on the court and the judge, often a judge or prosecutor may amend your speed to reflect the speed shown on your speedometer. So if you were charged with reckless driving and the officer states that you were going 77 mph in a 55 mph zone, a calibration showing that your speedometer was lower than your actual speed by 3 miles per hour would bring you to 19 mph over the speed limit. This would be enough to get you out of the reckless driving criminal misdemeanor category and into the “Speeding – 10-19 mph over the Posted Limit” category.
If you have recently received speeding or reckless driving tickets, contact us today.