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Virginia DUI vs. Reckless Driving: What’s the Difference?

Many defendants ask about the difference between a Virginia DUI or a charge of reckless driving. They are different and may have unique impacts on your life. Both are Class One misdemeanors but they can change your life in very different ways. 

Our Manassas DUI lawyers explain the differences between Virginia DUI and reckless driving charges. We want you to fully understand what you face and how to defend against these charges. Schedule a consultation to learn more about your case.

DUI or Reckless Driving?

Under Virginia law, a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) is also called driving while intoxicated (DWI). These are the same offense, but the two terms are used interchangeably. A reckless driving charge is often related to a DUI charge, but the two offenses are different. In many cases, a DUI arrest may happen after a person is stopped for recklessly driving their vehicle.

The prosecutor could bring reckless driving charges against you even without evidence of intoxication. Other actions could meet the elements of a reckless driving charge if the prosecutor cannot pursue DUI charges.

Virginia Reckless Driving Charges

To prove a reckless driving charge, the Virginia prosecutor must show that:

  • You were driving a vehicle
  • You driving a vehicle on a “highway” as defined by Virginia Code § 46.2-100
  • You endangered other’s limbs, lives, or property through your actions

Under Virginia Code § 46.2-852, the Commonwealth may also be able to prove reckless driving based on the vehicle’s speed. If you were driving on a highway at 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or more over the speed limit, or above 80 miles per hour regardless of the speed limit, you could face reckless driving charges.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is a Class I misdemeanor under Virginia law. It carries penalties such as:

  • A possible 1 year jail term
  • A fine of up to $2,500
  • Demerit points on your driver’s license

Virginia DUI Charges

Virginia prosecutors can prove a DUI in several different ways, based on the circumstances of that unique case. Below are some of the ways you could be convicted of a DUI:

  • If you were driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher
  • If you are under 21 with a BAC of 0.02% or higher
  • With an enhanced penalty if your BAC was 0.15% or higher, and further enhanced if it was 0.20% or higher
  • If the officer observes your intoxication during the traffic stop
  • Through the use of field sobriety tests
  • If you were under the influence of drugs

These and several other methods could be used to prove a Virginia DUI. Each requires some evidence that you were under the influence of an intoxicating substance, unlike a reckless driving charge. 

Virginia DUI Penalties

A DUI is also a Class 1 misdemeanor. A first-time offense may result in:

  • Mandatory minimum fine of $250
  • Maximum possible fine of $2,500
  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • If blood alcohol content (BAC) is .15 or greater but .20 or less, 5 days in jail
  • If BAC is greater than .20, 10 days in jail
  • A 7-day administrative license suspicion
  • Ignition interlock device required for your vehicle
  • 12 month license suspension by the court

For subsequent convictions, the penalties become even more severe. Speak to a qualified DUI attorney to better understand what you face in your unique case.

Get Help With Virginia DUI or Reckless Driving Charges

You can defend against DUI and reckless driving charges with the help of the experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyers from Battlefield Law Group PLLC. Our team can help explain the differences between these two charges and apply the law to your situation. We can build a customized legal defense to protect your constitutional rights.

Contact us today for a free consultation.