Should a Public Defender or Private Attorney Represent You in a Virginia Reckless Driving Case?

February 5, 2024
teenage driver on his cellphone while driving his car at night

Getting charged with reckless driving in Virginia is no joke.  Unlike a simple speeding ticket, reckless driving is a criminal offense that can have serious, long-term consequences. If you’re facing this type of charge, your best defense is legal representation. The question then becomes: should you seek a public defender or hire a private attorney?

Understanding Reckless Driving in Virginia

Reckless driving in Virginia encompasses a wide array of actions beyond merely surpassing speed limits. This offense is considered a serious criminal charge rather than a simple traffic violation, reflecting the state’s commitment to road safety. Virginia’s legal framework categorizes numerous driving behaviors under the umbrella of reckless driving, each potentially leading to significant legal consequences. Here, we delve into these behaviors to offer a clearer understanding of what constitutes reckless driving in the state.

Speed-Related Offenses

In Virginia, driving 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or exceeding 85 miles per hour regardless of the limit qualifies as reckless driving.

General Recklessness

Another form of reckless driving is driving a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers life, limb, or property. This could include various driving behaviors.

Passing a Stopped School Bus

Virginia law takes the safety of school children very seriously. Passing a stopped school bus that is picking up or dropping off children is a reckless driving offense.

Driving too Fast for Road Conditions

The state also recognizes driving too fast for the condition or circumstances present on the road as a form of reckless driving. This is because conditions should be taken into account when maintaining safety on the highway.

Vehicle Defects and Maintenance Issues

Interestingly, Virginia’s reckless driving statutes extend to the condition of the vehicle itself. Operating a vehicle with faulty brakes or other poor maintenance that renders it incapable of proper control is considered reckless.

Consequences of a Reckless Driving Conviction

The legal repercussions of a reckless driving conviction in Virginia are substantial, reflecting the seriousness with which the state regards these offenses. This means you could face:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Fines up to $2,500
  • Six demerit points on your driving license
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 6 months

Beyond these immediate penalties, a reckless driving conviction remains on your record, potentially affecting your employment, insurance rates, and even housing options.

Public Defenders vs. Private Attorneys: What’s the Difference?

If you are unable to afford a private attorney, the court may appoint a public defender to represent you. Public defenders are experienced attorneys, but they often handle large caseloads, potentially limiting the amount of focused attention they can give to your case. More importantly in the context of Reckless Driving, the Court will not appoint a public defender if jail time is waived. In that scenario, however, you still face the full breadth of all the other penalties associated with Reckless Driving.

When you hire a private criminal defense attorney in Fairfax, VA, you pay for their services yourself. This gives you more control over your choice of representation and allows you to select a lawyer focusing on traffic and reckless driving cases. A private criminal lawyer in Fairfax, VA typically has more time and resources to invest in your defense.

Deciding on Representation: Key Considerations

Here are some essential things to keep in mind when choosing between a public defender and a private attorney:

Severity of Charges

The complexity and severity of the charges can influence your decision.  If there are additional complexities or the potential for severe penalties, a private Fairfax criminal attorney might be the better choice for you. Though public defenders can be fine lawyers, the control over who represents you by choosing private counsel will likely inspire confidence when you have a complex case.


Seek an attorney, whether public or private, with experience handling reckless driving cases in Virginia. A lawyer who deeply understands the nuances of the law can significantly impact your chances of getting a favorable outcome.

Comfort Level

Your comfort with an attorney is vital. Your willingness to be transparent with your lawyer and your trust in their ability to represent you can heavily influence the success of your defense.

Making an Informed Decision

Don’t underestimate the seriousness of a reckless driving charge in Virginia. While a public defender can provide representation, selecting a private criminal defense attorney focusing in traffic offenses may be the better fit for you.

When searching for Virginia criminal defense lawyers, look no further. At Rudolphi Law, we have extensive experience in Virginia’s traffic courts. If you’re facing a reckless driving charge, it’s well worth exploring your options. Schedule a consultation with Rudolphi Law today. Let us work to protect your rights and your driving record.