Whether you’re out for a leisurely cruise or in a rush to get to work on a Wednesday morning, seeing those flashing red and blue lights behind you will surely elicit a groan of frustration. If you were intentionally going faster than the speed limit, chances are good that you were in a rush or even running late, and getting pulled over for a ticket could mean getting where you need to be even later.

Many people who hope to quickly accept a speeding ticket and be on their way feel shocked to discover that the officer has decided to cite or arrest them for reckless driving, a much more serious offense than a mere speeding ticket.

There is plenty of confusion among the public about what constitutes reckless driving under Virginia law, and some people don’t understand the fine line between exceeding the speed limit and engaging in reckless behavior on the Virginia roads.

How fast you’re going can influence the charges

There are two different ways in which a standard speeding offense in Virginia changes into a potential reckless driving case. The first scenario involves any driver going more than 20 miles an hour over the speed limit posted for the stretch of road where they get pulled over. Regardless of how much traffic there may or may not be, going more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit could increase reckless driving allegations instead of just a ticket that you can pay and forget about.

On its own, that would seem like a relatively simple rule that would be easy for Virginians to remember. Unfortunately, there’s a second scenario that can constitute reckless driving, which leaves people in Virginia often feeling confused. The law regarding reckless driving also makes it clear that anyone who’s speed exceeds 80 miles an hour, even in areas where that would not mean traveling more than 20 miles an hour over the speed limit, also drives recklessly.

Reckless driving is not a ticket you should ignore or downplay

A strong case can be made for defending against any traffic tickets, given their potential impact on your insurance rates and potentially your employment, depending on the field in which you work. However, when compared with standard traffic infractions, reckless driving infractions are misdemeanor charges that demand aggressive response, in no small part because of the significant consequences they carry.

You will likely have to deal with six points on your license, as well as fines of up to $2,500 and potentially jail time, depending on circumstances. Defending yourself can help you avoid these consequences and keep both your driving and criminal records clean.