In July 2014, a writer for an automotive website spent three days in jail
after he was caught speeding while he test drove a new Camaro. Patrick
George of Jalopnik.com was caught going 93 mph in a 55 mph zone on a rural
road during a press event. A rep from GM rep was riding shotgun. George
later said that the new Camaro ZL1 he was driving is "obscenely,
unbelievably fast" The supercharged V-8 engine "makes the new
Corvette Stingray — certainly no slouch in that department —
feel like the piece of s*%! Honda Civic you drove in college."
In an August 2014 article, George described his ordeal. The road where
he was stopped was not near any schools or towns, and he got along well
with the trooper that pulled him over. In a briefing before the test drive
the PR rep from GM described the prescribed route we'd be driving
on. Although his employers don't encourage his to break the law he,
had had a brand new car with crazy performance specs. He felt compelled
to push the car to do what it is designed to do. He did what a lot of
us have done.
Mr. George expected a big fine and a lecture. Instead he got one day in
jail for every mph over 90. Once in jail his cell mates were drug offenders
and felons waiting to be shipped to higher security prisons. One fellow
inmate was there because he strangled his girlfriend. He described what
jail is like for a person that doesn't expect to be there
"To answer your inevitable questions right away, I didn't get
raped. I didn't get my ass kicked (that does happen in jail but it
didn't happen to me)....My jail experience sucked just fine on its
own. You might think you can just wait it out, like you're stuck at
an airport, but it's not like that at all. There's nothing nice
about being confined somewhere, cut off from the outside world."
Jail Just for Speeding?
YES! A colleague once told me about his client with a spotless record that
was pulled over for driving 100 mph. After the traffic stop, police searched
his car and found a small amount of cocaine. That driver ended up doing
more time for the driving offense then for the schedule one drug possession.
Virginia courts make special provisions for first-time drug larceny or
even domestic violence offenders. There are no such provisions for reckless driving.
In Virginia reckless driving is a class one misdemeanor. That means up
to 12 months in jail. Any driving speed 20 miles over the limit or any
driving over 80 mph is reckless driving. Almost every jurisdiction in
Virginia will consider jail time for speeds over 100 mph. Many will consider
jail for speeds 30 miles over any speed limit.
"But I Have a Good Driving Record"
A good or even perfect driving record will not save you. Your driving history
does matter. If you have a bad driving history your chances of going to
jail are much higher when you're driving at excessive speeds. Still,
even drivers with good records are sent to jail for speeds in excess of 90 mph.
"But I Have a Family and I've Never Been in Trouble Before"
Being a professional or never having been to jail before also will not
save you. Some judges and prosecutors seem to revel in the idea that imposing
jail term for a good citizen's driving behavior will deter other drivers
from speeding. In 2013 I sat in court and watched (not my client) a doctor
and father of three children get 5 days in jail for driving 115 mph in
a rural highway in southwestern Virginia.
"What Should I Do?"
A person charged with reckless driving for extremely high speeds needs
to very quickly contact an attorney. Good legal strategies can lessen
the impact of one of these driving offenses. Judges and prosecutors will
recognize certain actions as proactive. These actions do not guarantee
a painless result but they give the driver a greater chance of avoiding
There are a number of tactics available. First, go to defensive driving
school before court. Virginia has several extreme defensive driving classes
that are recognized by judges. Second, performing community service prior
to a court appearance will be viewed as reflective of contrition. Third,
calibration of the subject vehicle's speedometer is helpful. A report
from a calibration expert will not be enough to convince a judge that
a driver was not speeding. However each mile over the speed limit counts.
95 versus 90 can be the difference between jail or a fine.
The last line of defense in a reckless driving case is appeal and possible
demand for a jury. Some prosecutors will make concessions in order to
avoid having to explain to a circuit court judge why they have wasted
an entire day of resources and the courts time empaneling a jury on a
speeding offense. If a reckless driving case does go to trial by jury,
jurors are less inclined to incarcerate a person for a behavior as innocuous
The lesson here is that in Virginia, reckless driving is no joke. If you
are charged with a non-pre-payable speeding violation you should immediately
contact Vaughan C. Jones, Attorney at Law.