Our 10.0 top rated criminal defense lawyers understand that driving is a part of nearly everyone's daily lives. Whether commuting to and from work, picking up the kids from school or activities, or running errands, it's easy to spend a lot of time on the roads driving. While you may practice safe driving, traffic violations can still occur. Regardless if the offense is minor or major, a citation can come with consequences that cause you money, points on your license, and even jail time.
Our experienced criminal defense lawyers believe that everyone deserves a thorough and vigorous defense. We have practiced criminal law in Maryland and Virginia for more than 20 years. We are familiar with area courts, judges and prosecutors and have obtained successful results in felony and misdemeanor cases.
- Maryland Reckless Driving
- Maryland Negligent Driving
- Maryland Traffic Offense Preliminary Hearings
- Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Hearings
- Virginia Reckless Driving
Serious Traffic Offenses
In the sections below, we outline the serious traffic offenses that can arise in Maryland and Virginia, specifically reckless driving and negligent driving charges.
Maryland Reckless Driving (Section 21-901.1)
Maryland distinguishes between minor traffic offenses (i.e. speeding and failure to obey a properly placed traffic control device) and serious traffic offenses (i.e. DUI and driving with a suspended license). Reckless driving is another example of one of the serious traffic offenses.
You can be charged with reckless driving if you are found to have driven your vehicle in wanton and willful disregard for the safety of persons or property, or you have driven your vehicle in a manner that indicates a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property. Often times when a police officer pulls you over for a serious traffic offense, such as a DUI, the officer will add a reckless driving charge to the long list of other charges. Reckless driving can also be associated with speeding in excess of 20 mph of the posted speed limit.
In some Maryland traffic cases, we will recommend to our clients that they participate in a Driver Improvement Program (DIP). The DIP program is a 4-8 hour instructional program that is intended to provide driver rehabilitation. In addition, we ask our clients to obtain a certified copy of their driving record.
In Maryland, penalties for reckless driving include:
- A misdemeanor conviction and a fine up to $1,000
- If the reckless driving resulted in a loss of life or serious injury, jail time is possible and MVA may suspend your driver’s license
- Administrative penalties that result in 6 points on your license
Maryland Negligent Driving (Section 21-901.1)
Negligent driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner that endangers any property or the life or person of any individual. Just like reckless driving, negligent driving will result in serious penalties and is another charge that police officers often add to the list of charges in a DUI.
Reckless driving and negligent driving are very similar and often go hand-in-hand. An experienced criminal defense attorney can craft an effective argument in order to limit the most severe consequences. Negligent driving is considered a much less severe offense than reckless driving. As a result, penalties are much less serious and only result in a fine up to $140 and 1 point on your driver’s license.
Negligent driving and reckless driving charges are often able to be negotiated down to a dismissal by your attorney when they’re part of a long list of traffic offenses associated with a DUI. Your attorney may be able to work out a deal with the State’s Attorney to have the judge grant probation before judgment to avoid any points on your license. Probation before judgment means that there is no conviction, and if the defendant does not get into any more trouble over the next year, the charge will be able to be expunged.
Maryland Traffic Offense Preliminary Hearings
Once serious traffic charges are filed with the court, the first step in most cases is a preliminary hearing. Some counties in Maryland require that a defendant appear in court for a preliminary hearing (sometimes called a preliminary inquiry). During this hearing, the judge simply reads the charges against you along with the maximum penalties that you are facing.
The judge will also advise you of your right to counsel and the importance of having an attorney represent you. You have the option to hire a private defense lawyer or request a lawyer through the Public Defender’s office.
In some of the counties that require these preliminary hearings, it is possible to have them waived. For example, in Montgomery County District Court, if you hire an attorney and they file their entry of appearance with the court prior to the preliminary inquiry, the court clerk will waive the hearing and set the case in for trial.
Other counties in Maryland have different procedures. For example, in Howard County District Court, as soon as you are charged, you are given a notice to appear before a District Court Commissioner within seven days. This is effectively the same thing as a preliminary hearing because you are read the charges against you and advised of the importance of hiring an attorney. By appearing before the commissioner during this period, you will have your trial scheduled at that time.
There is a great benefit to hiring an attorney immediately after being charged with a serious traffic offense. You’ll give yourself the best chance at succeeding in court and avoiding the most serious consequences. In addition, you’ll give your attorney the opportunity to waive any preliminary hearings to avoid unnecessary court appearances. If you wait until the day of or the day before a preliminary hearing, it is very unlikely to have the court clerk waive the hearing and attendance will be required, or else risk having a warrant issued for failure to appear in court.
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Hearings
When a person is charged with a serious traffic offense, such as a DUI, driving with a suspended license, or driving with a revoked a license, there is a separate administrative hearing to determine the effect on your license. In these types of cases, there is an adjudicatory hearing in a court of law to determine guilt for the criminal or traffic charges. However, there are also administrative sanctions that can result, and these are heard by an administrative law judge.
If you are charged with a DUI in Maryland and your blood alcohol content (BAC) was under 0.15, you will have the option to request an MVA hearing to request a restricted license that would allow you to continue driving during the suspension period for work and school. If your BAC results were 0.15 or over, or you refused the test, you do not have the option to request an MVA hearing to get a restricted license. Your license will be suspended for 270 days unless you elect to participate in the ignition interlock program for a period of one year.
Other situations where an MVA hearing can be requested involve suspended or revoked driver’s licenses. A person may request an MVA hearing to go before an administrative law judge to argue why their license should not be suspended or revoked, or why they deserve a restricted license.
If you have been charged with a DUI or are facing suspension of your driver’s license, call the attorneys at Portner & Shure for a free consultation.
Virginia Reckless Driving (Section 46.2-852)
Virginia has some of the strictest traffic laws in the country, especially when it comes to speeding. Reckless driving charges can result in many different ways. The most common being related to speeding. Driving over 80 mph or 20 mph over the posted speed limit will result in a reckless driving charge.
Some other actions that may result in a reckless driving charge include:
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
- Aggressive driving
Reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, which is a criminal charge. It is not your typical civil citation speeding ticket. In Virginia, a class 1 misdemeanor penalty may include imprisonment up to 1 year and a fine up to $2,500.
If you have been charged with reckless driving in Virginia, it is extremely important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney because jail time is a possibility. Your attorney can try to limit some or all of the possible jail time and will try to have your speed amended in order to avoid a criminal conviction.
Contact a Maryland and Virginia Traffic Violation Lawyer Today
If you've been cited for a traffic violation in the Maryland or Virginia areas, contact the experienced lawyers at Portner & Shure today at 410-995-1515 or 301-854-9000 for assistance in Maryland, 703-734-8790 for service in Virginia, 804-282-0011 in Richmond for your free consultation.