There are hundreds of traffic offences. You may be a part of an offence, and you may not know it. For example, not stopping at the stop sign or crossing the road with a U-turn where there is no turn available is traffic offences. Driving without a license is one of the bigger offences for which you can go to jail. In Virginia, you will receive several penalties for each traffic offence you commit. To make sure that you do not get tickets or reduce the charges against you, you should hire a traffic lawyer. The Prince William Virginia traffic lawyer will help you in many ways. An expert traffic attorney’s job is to help those who are in trouble because of breaking traffic rules and laws. Of course, if you do it by accident the lawyer will help you get out of trouble and pay no charges at all. He will make you come clean out of the mess. It is why having a traffic lawyer at your disposal all the time is a must.
The traffic attorneys
If you are in Virginia, you should always seek a professional and well-experienced traffic lawyer. Always hire most experienced traffic attorneys. They know all the rules, laws and regulations of traffic in Virginia, especially in the Prince William County. The lawyers are experts and they will know exactly what to do when you come to us. With the expertise and years of experience, the lawyers have the eye to see in what kind of trouble you are and solve it immediately. We also know how important it is to ensure you do not get those demerit points to your traffic profile. We work hard to reduce the charges and prove that it was not your fault for the traffic offence. It is why hiring one of the Prince William Virginia traffic lawyer is the best chance you have. The traffic lawyers are experts in handling all kinds of traffic cases. You can hire a lawyer for reckless driving charges against you. You can hire a traffic lawyer for over speeding ticket charges against you. You can come hire a traffic lawyer for DUI or the DWI charges against you. You can hire a traffic attorney for any traffic violation and charges against you.
How can he help you?
A lawyer can help you file the case. He will prepare all the legal documents which you need for your case. You cannot do it alone. The lawyer will then gather evidence to ensure that you are not guilty. It may be the officer’s mistake that he gives you a ticket. The officer’s machine may not be working properly. There are many ways in which the traffic lawyer can help you. He will ensure that you do not receive the penalty at all. He will also ensure that you do not get to pay the maximum penalty. Hiring a lawyer is a must. Hire a lawyer if you want to reduce the penalty against you.
The following are some of the traffic laws in Virginia:
Virginia Code § 46.2-870. Maximum speed limits generally.
Except as otherwise provided in this article, the maximum speed limit shall be 55 miles per hour on interstate highways or other limited access highways with divided roadways, non-limited access highways having four or more lanes, and all state primary highways.
The maximum speed limit on all other highways shall be 55 miles per hour if the vehicle is a passenger motor vehicle, bus, pickup or panel truck, or a motorcycle, but 45 miles per hour on such highways if the vehicle is a truck, tractor truck, or combination of vehicles designed to transport property, or is a motor vehicle being used to tow a vehicle designed for self-propulsion, or a house trailer.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the maximum speed limit shall be 70 miles per hour where indicated by lawfully placed signs, erected subsequent to a traffic engineering study and analysis of available and appropriate accident and law-enforcement data, on: (i) interstate highways, (ii) multilane, divided, limited access highways, and (iii) high-occupancy vehicle lanes if such lanes are physically separated from regular travel lanes. The maximum speed limit shall be 60 miles per hour where indicated by lawfully placed signs, erected subsequent to a traffic engineering study and analysis of available and appropriate accident and law-enforcement data, on U.S. Route 29, U.S. Route 58, U.S. Route 360, U.S. Route 460, and on U.S. Route 17 between the town of Port Royal and Saluda where they are nonlimited access, multilane, divided highways.
§ 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.
Prince William Reckless Driving Virginia
The following is a case that is illustrative of a reckless driving case in Virginia:
Steven Joseph Blevins appeals his conviction of reckless driving in violation of Code § 46.2-852. The appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. He also contends that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on improper driving as a lesser-included offense of reckless driving. We hold that the evidence was sufficient to prove the elements of reckless driving and the trial court properly refused the appellant’s proposed jury instruction on improper driving. Accordingly, we affirm the conviction.
This case arises from a accident that occurred on Interstate 95 in Stafford County Virginia. The appellant was driving his pickup truck and hit a car driven by Dale Robertson. A passenger in that car died as a result of the wreck.
The following evidence was presented at the appellant’s trial for reckless driving. Robertson testified that as he drove past the appellant’s truck, he heard the truck engine “rev . . . like the appellant was attempting to pass the….” The appellant’s truck crossed into Robertson’s lane. The front passenger side bumper of the truck struck Robertson’s rear driver’s side bumper. As a result, Robertson’s car spun off the road, flipped, and hit a tree. The passenger in Robertson’s car died, and Robertson suffered numerous injuries.
Robertson testified that the accident occurred on a rainy night with light to moderate speed on the interstate. Additionally, according to Robertson, the appellant traveled near his vehicle for approximately forty-five minutes before the accident occurred. The appellant was driving his truck in the left lane. Robertson was driving his car in the center lane, initially behind the appellant. They drove in those respective lanes for approximately twenty minutes before the accident. Robertson was driving about seventy miles per hour. He testified that he and the appellant were driving appropriately for the conditions that night. He also stated that the appellant was not driving erratically.
Virginia State Trooper M.A. Oliver testified that he investigated the accident. He stated that the posted speed limit was sixty-five miles per hour. The appellant admitted to the trooper that he was driving between seventy-five and eighty miles per hour. He also told Oliver that he felt his truck shake and “pull in toward the left lane.” Further, the appellant said that “his back end of the truck started to slip.” He explained to the trooper that he had recently gotten his truck back after “getting some work done on it.” The appellant provided two written statements to the police that were generally consistent with his verbal statements to Oliver.
The appellant testified at trial. Much of his testimony was consistent with what he had previously told the police. He stated that he was driving between seventy and seventy-five miles per hour at the time of the accident. As Robertson drove partially past the appellant on the right, the appellant “clipped” Robertson’s car when he crossed into Robertson’s lane. The appellant stated, “I didn’t lose control, but I did drift over.” At that point, the appellant’s truck struck the side rear portion of the car. The appellant noted that because his truck was an automatic, he could not “just rev his engine . . . . It stays in gear.” The appellant further explained that he recently had the motor replaced.
After the completion of all of the evidence, the appellant offered a jury instruction to allow the jury to consider whether the circumstances warranted a conviction for improper driving rather than reckless driving. The trial court determined that the appellant was not entitled to the instruction. The court reasoned that the plain language of the improper driving statute limited “the reduction of a charge of reckless driving solely to the discretion of the Court and not a jury hearing the case.”
The jury found the appellant guilty of reckless driving. Based on the jury’s recommendation, the trial court sentenced the appellant to ten months in jail. The appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction as well as the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury on improper driving.
- Sufficiency of the Evidence
The appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to strike the evidence. He asserts that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he was driving in disregard of life, limb, or property. We hold that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, was sufficient to support the jury’s finding of recklessness. Therefore, the trial ct did not err in denying the motion to strike.
In this ct’s review of the sufficiency of the evidence we must uphold the conviction unless it was plainly wrong or lacked evidence to support it. See, e.g., Hamilton v. Commonwealth, 279 Va. 94, 103, 688 S.E.2d 168, 173 (2010); Spencer v. City of Norfolk, 271 Va. 460, 463, 628 S.E.2d 356, 358 (2006); Sarafin v. Commonwealth, 62 Va. App. 385, 403, 748 S.E.2d 641, 649 (2013). Additionally, on appellate review, this ct “examines the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, granting to it all reasonable inferences fairly deducible” from that evidence. Crest v. Commonwealth, 40 Va. App. 165, 168, 578 S.E.2d 88, 89 (2003); see also Greenway v. Commonwealth, 254 Va. 147, 149, 487 S.E.2d 224, 225 (1997). To do so, we “‘discard the evidence of the accused in conflict with that of the Commonwealth, and regard as true all the credible evidence favorable to the Commonwealth and all fair inferences that may be drawn therefrom.'” Crest, 40 v. App. at 168, 578 S.E.2d at 89 (quoting Watkins v. Commonwealth, 26 v. App. 335, 348, 494 S.E.2d 859, 866 (1998)).
Critical to our analysis is that this ct applies a very specific standard of review on appeal. The fact finder was in the position to see and hear the witnesses as they testified and to make credibility determinations. Consequently, decisions regarding the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of the evidence are matters left solely to the fact finder below, in this case the jury. See Redmond v. Commonwealth, 57 v. App. 254, 265, 701 S.E.2d 81, 86 (2010). In other words, we do not substitute as the trier of fact.
Further “merely because a defendant’s theory of the case differs from that taken by the Commonwealth does not mean that every reasonable hypothesis consistent with his innocence has not been excluded. What weight should be given evidence remains a matter for the fact finder to decide.” Miles v. Commonwealth, 205 v. 462, 467, 138 S.E.2d 22, 27 (1964). The appellate ct asks only whether a reasonable finder of fact could have rejected the defense theories and found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Jordan v. Commonwealth, 273 v. 639, 646, 643 S.E.2d 166, 170 (2007).
In this case, the Commonwealth was required to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant was guilty of reckless driving. Bacon v. Commonwealth, 220 v. 766, 769, 263 S.E.2d 390, 392 (1980). Code § 46.2-852 provides: “Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.”
The term “‘recklessly . . . imparts a disregard by the driver . . . for the consequences of his act and an indifference to the safety of life, limb, or property.'” Spencer, 271 v. at 463, 628 S.E.2d at 358 (alterations in original) (quoting Powers v. Commonwealth, 211 v. 386, 388, 177 S.E.2d 628, 630 (1970)). “The essence of the offence of reckless driving lies not in the act of operating a vehicle, but in the manner and circumstances of its operation.” Powers, 211 v. at 388, 177 S.E.2d at 630. Factors tending to show recklessness include erratic driving, “the likelihood of injury to other users of the highways,” lack of control of the vehicle, driving in excess of the speed limit, “dangerous driving behavior,” intoxication, and noncompliance with markers. See, e.g., Spencer, 271 v. at 464, 628 S.E.2d at 358; Mayo v. Commonwealth, 218 v. 644, 648, 238 S.E.2d 831, 833 (1977); Miles, 205 v. at 468, 138 S.E.2d at 27; Sheckler v. Anderson, 182 v. 701, 705-06, 29 S.E.2d 867, 868-69 (1944); Crest, 40 v. App. at 172, 578 S.E.2d at 91; Hall v. Commonwealth, 25 v. App. 352, 355 n.3, 488 S.E.2d 651, 653 n.3 (1997); Phillips v. Commonwealth, 25 v. App. 144, 156, 487 S.E.2d 235, 241 (1997). However, “‘fast’ driving alone, without the element of endangering life, limb, or property, is not sufficient to support a conviction for reckless driving.” Spencer, 271 v. at 464, 628 S.E.2d at 358.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the record completely supports the jury’s conclusion that the appellant was guilty of reckless driving. The appellant was driving on the interstate on a rainy night at a speed between seventy-five and eighty miles per hour, which was ten to fifteen miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Visibility was limited, and the road was wet. When Robertson started to pull his car ahead of the appellant, the appellant increased his speed. When he did so, his truck went into the lane occupied by Robertson’s vehicle and caused the collision. The appellant’s front bumper on the passenger’s side of the truck struck Robertson’s rear driver’s side bumper. The impact from the collision caused Robertson’s car to veer off of the road. Robertson’s vehicle flipped and hit a tree. The passenger in the car was killed.
The combined evidence of the appellant’s speed on a rainy night with limited visibility, his aggressive driving, his failure to control his truck, and the death and injuries associated with the collision, provided a sufficient basis for the jury to conclude that he acted with disregard to life, limb or property. See, e.g., Miles, 205 v. at 464, 138 S.E.2d at 24; Crest, 40 v. App. at 174-75, 578 S.E.2d at 92-93; Travis v. Commonwealth, 20 v. App. 410, 417, 457 S.E.2d 420, 423 (1995). Therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict of reckless driving, and the trial ct did not err in denying the motion to strike the evidence.
- Jury Instruction
The appellant argues that the trial ct erred by refusing to instruct the jury on improper driving as a lesser-included offense of the general offense of reckless driving. The appellant asserts that the trial ct erroneously held that the improper driving statute “precluded a jury from finding guilt on the reduced charge of improper driving.” The Commonwealth contends that the language in the improper driving statute precludes a jury from considering whether a charge for reckless driving should be reduced to improper driving. The Commonwealth cites Chibikom v. Commonwealth, 54 v. App. 422, 426-27, 680 S.E.2d 295, 297 (2009), in support of this argument. We hold that, based on Code § 46.2-869, the applicable statute, the culpability determination for improper driving was exclusively the prerogative of the trial ct, and in this case the ct made no such finding. Consequently, the appellant’s proffered instruction was neither legally appropriate nor did it present a factual determination within the purview of the jury.
The matter of granting and denying jury instructions rests within the broad discretion of the trial ct. Cooper v. Commonwealth, 277 v. 377, 381, 673 S.E.2d 185, 187 (2009); Gaines v. Commonwealth, 39 v. App. 562, 568, 574 S.E.2d 775, 778 (2003) (en banc). It is axiomatic that “‘the purpose of any jury instruction is to inform the jury of the law guiding their deliberations and verdict.'” Morgan v. Commonwealth, 50 v. App. 120, 132, 646 S.E.2d 899, 905 (2007) (quoting Keen v. Commonwealth, 24 v. App. 795, 807, 485 S.E.2d 659, 665 (1997)). However, a jury instruction is erroneous if it “incorrectly states the law.” Lawlor v. Commonwealth, 285 v. 187, 228, 738 S.E.2d 847, 870 (2013). “‘Whether a jury instruction accurately states the relevant law is a question of law that we review de novo.'” Id. (quoting Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy Assocs., Inc. v. Summit Group Props., LLC, 283 v. 777, 782, 724 S.E.2d 718, 721 (2012)).
The statute governing improper driving provides:
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this article, upon the trial of any person charged with reckless driving where the degree of culpability is slight, the ct in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving. However, an attorney for the Commonwealth may reduce a charge of reckless driving to improper driving at any time prior to the ct’s decision . . . . Improper driving shall be punishable as an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $500.
Code § 46.2-869. There is no other code section governing improper driving. Thus, Code § 46.2-869 and the relevant case law frame our analysis of the issue.
This ct is bound by the plain meaning of the statute unless a literal interpretation of the language would result in a “manifest absurdity.” See, e.g., Kozmina v. Commonwealth, 281 v. 347, 349-50, 706 S.E.2d 860, 862 (2011); Breit v. Mason, 59 v. App. 322, 335-36, 718 S.E.2d 482, 488-89 (2011) (construing separate state statutes together under the presumption that the legislature did not intend to enact the manifest absurdity of contradictory code sections), aff’d, L.F. v. Breit, 285 v. 163, 736 S.E.2d 711 (2013). The plain and unambiguous language of the improper driving statute limits the authority “to make the lesser degree of culpability determination” to the discretion of the “trial judge and not the jury,” or alternatively, the Commonwealth’s attorney. Chibikom, 54 v. App. at 426-27, 680 S.E.2d at 297. In short, “only the trial judge, or the prosecutor before the verdict is rendered, has the prerogative to reduce a reckless driving charge to improper driving under Code § 46.2-869.” Id. at 427, 680 S.E.2d at 297.
The appellant argues that by not specifically prohibiting juries from reducing a reckless driving charge to improper driving, the legislature left open the possibility that juries do, in fact, have that power. However, if the “legislature had intended to permit the jury to make the lesser-degree of culpability determination under Code § 46.2-869, it could have included language . . . to reflect that intent.” Id. at 427 n.3, 680 S.E.2d at 297 n.3. “‘Where a statute speaks in specific terms, an implication arises that omitted terms were not intended to be included within the scope of the statute.'” Conkling v. Commonwealth, 45 v. App. 518, 522, 612 S.E.2d 235, 237 (2005) (quoting Commonwealth v. Brown, 259 v. 697, 704-05, 529 S.E.2d 96, 100 (2000)). Simply stated, when reviewing a statute, the appellate ct must conclude that the General Assembly meant what it said. See, e.g., Johnson v. Commonwealth, 58 v. App. 625, 641, 712 S.E.2d 751, 759 (2011) (“‘We can only administer the law as it is written.'” (quoting Uninsured Emplrs. Fund v. Wilson, 46 v. App. 500, 506, 619 S.E.2d 476, 479 (2005))).
“When a statute contains a given provision with reference to one subject, the omission of such provision from a similar statute dealing with a related subject is significant to show the existence of a different legislative intent.” Williams v. Matthews, 248 v. 277, 284, 448 S.E.2d 625, 629 (1994). A “‘comparison to other, similar statutes'” demonstrates “‘that the General Assembly clearly knew how to create such authority . . . when it so desired.'” Layne v. Crist Elec. Contr., Inc., 62 v. App. 632, 642, 751 S.E.2d 679, 684 (2013) (alterations in original) (quoting Schwartz v. Schwartz, 46 v. App. 145, 157-58, 616 S.E.2d 59, 66 (2005)).
The legislature, when establishing the punishment for offenses, has commonly used the phrase “in the discretion of the jury or the ct trying the case without a jury.” See, e.g., Code §§ 18.2-10(e)-(f) (providing the punishments for Class 5 and Class 6 felonies); -22(a)(3) (conspiracy to commit a felony); -91 (statutory burglary); -95 (grand larceny); see also Code § 18.2-61(B) (using the phrase “in the discretion of the ct or jury”). Likewise, the legislature has specifically given the jury and the trial ct the authority to find a defendant guilty of certain lesser-included offenses. See, e.g., Code §§ 18.2-54 (unlawful wounding); 19.2-266.1 (homicide). These code sections demonstrate that, with regard to Code § 46.2-869, the General Assembly would have used express language to include the jury if it had intended to do so. See, e.g., Ratliff v. Commonwealth, 53 v. App. 443, 447, 672 S.E.2d 913, 915 (2009) (holding that “if the legislature had intended to embrace the definition of intoxication” supported by the defendant, it would have included express language doing so).
The plain language of Code § 46.2-869, the only statute that addresses improper driving, is, as we have explained, unambiguous and simply does not allow the jury in any circumstances to reduce a charge of reckless driving to a conviction for improper driving. The literal language authorizes trial judges and prosecutors more discretion than given to the jury. Virginia law has numerous leniency provisions that are likewise reserved to the discretion of trial judges, not juries. For example, the statute proscribing improper boating provides that “upon the trial of any person charged with reckless boating where the degree of culpability is slight, the ct in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless boating but guilty of improper boating.” Code § 29.1-738.01. Additionally, the statute prohibiting destruction of property authorizes the trial ct to, “in its discretion, dismiss the charge if the locality or organization responsible for maintaining the injured property . . . files a written affidavit with the ct stating it has received full payment for the injury.” Code § 18.2-137. Thus, the only conclusion that can be reached is that the General Assembly intended to reserve the act of leniency regarding reckless driving where the decree of culpability is slight to the trial ct, or the prosecutor before the verdict. There is simply no statutory framework for instructing a jury on improper driving.
We hold that the improper driving statute does not provide the jury the discretion to reduce a general reckless driving charge to an improper driving conviction. Therefore, the trial ct correctly interpreted the law and did not abuse its discretion by refusing to instruct the jury on improper driving.
The evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s finding of recklessness and sufficient to support the conviction for reckless driving. Accordingly, the trial ct did not err in denying the appellant’s motion to strike the evidence. Further, the trial ct did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the appellant’s proposed jury instruction on improper driving because as a matter of law the jury does not have the statutory authority to reduce a reckless driving charge to an improper driving conviction. Consequently, we affirm the conviction.