Preparing for Trial
Get an Attorney as Soon as Possible
If you receive a summons for reckless driving, get the best attorney you can afford as soon as possible. You have several defenses and options that may expire before trial. Without an attorney, you may lose important options. Additionally, the closer it is to your court date, the less likely it is that the reckless driving attorney that you want to hire will be able available on your court date.
Besides, you are going to pay the same price for an attorney no matter when you hire one, so you might as well hire one sooner and get more service for your money. A good reckless driving attorney will help you prepare for trial.
Proving Innocence and Mitigating Damages
There are two types of evidence: 1) evidence that proves innocence, and 2) mitigating evidence. Mitigating evidence is evidence that suggests you deserve a less severe punishment. You need to gather both types of evidence.
Write Down Everything
As soon as you are ticketed, write down all of the details you can remember. In Virginia, the prosecution may not have to notify your defense attorney about the evidence it has against you before trial. Therefore, your attorney’s most important source of information is you.
Write down the following:
- Everything the officer said to you (exact words)
- Everything you said to the officer (exact words)
- Draw a map of the road. Mark where you were, where the officer was, and where any other cars were on the road (use Google Maps and Google Street View to help)
- Write down the names, contact information, and details about any witnesses.
- Any other details that you believe are relevant.
Do not procrastinate gathering evidence. A good attorney can help you know what types of documents you need and what formats they should be in, so retain your attorney sooner rather than later so that your reckless driving attorney can help you gather your documents.
Typically you will want:
- A certified copy of your DMV records from all the states that have issued you a driver’s license in the last 5 years.
- Photos of signs, accident scenes, damage to cars, injuries, etc. (if applicable).
- Photos and maps of pertinent locations (where you were, where the officer was, where the cars around you were).
- Driving Improvement Certificates (Read the section on Driving Improvement Course before taking any classes)
- Speedometer calibration certificates (for speed cases).
- Proof of any repairs (e.g. fixed brake lights)
If you are charged with reckless driving by speed you may want to get your speedometer calibrated. If your speedometer is even a few mph low it may be used as mitigating evidence.
For example, if at 82 mph your speedometer reads 79 mphs then your speedometer is 3 mph low. This is important because many judges and prosecutors take a formulaic approach to punishing reckless driving cases (e.g. at 80-84 mph they always do X). Some of these judges will treat your case as if you were driving the speed reflected on your speedometer. So a 3 mph reduction in speed may place your case in a different category in that judge’s mind.
In Virginia, speedometer calibrations can also be evidence of innocence if you are planning on testifying that you were not going the speed you are accused of. If you are going to testify that you know you were not speeding because you were watching your speedometer then you need to have a speedometer calibration in order for the court to rely on your speedometer reading.
Taking a defensive driving course can be a great help to your case or it can be a big mistake. Talk to a local reckless driving attorney before signing up for any defensive driving courses in order to make sure that you sign up for the right class and that it is the right thing to do for your case. Make sure you have this conversation with you attorney as soon as possible so that you have enough time to complete the class before your trial date without needing a continuance.
If reckless driving results in an injury or destruction of property, the driver, only after talking to his attorney, may want to pay restitution to the other party before trial in order to increase the likelihood of a reduced sentence. However, make sure you consult your attorney first so that you do not inadvertently admit guilt by paying restitution.
Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario
No matter what make sure that you are ready for the worst-case scenario on the day of trial. Do not drive yourself to the courthouse if there is any chance of a license suspension. If you are found guilty and either lose your license or are sentenced to jail, you may not be able to drive home.
Take the time before trial to get your finances in order so that you can pay any possible fines on time. Arrange to take the time off work to go to court or to serve jail time. Talk to your attorney about the possibilities of the various sentences, and get your life in order in case of the worst-case scenario. Also, leave all valuables (cell phone, cash, watches etc.) at home, so you will not risk losing them in the jail’s property room if you are sentenced to jail.
Can I Get a Continuance?
Continuances are very important and should never be wasted. If the police officer does not show up at your trial, the prosecution may ask for a continuance to keep your case from being dismissed. A continuance can be used to discover what evidence the prosecution has against the driver. Being granted a continuance may increase the odds that the court will grant the other side a continuance if it asks for one. Continuances can have additional strategic value as well and should never be squandered.
Do not put yourself in a position where you or your attorney will have to waste continuances. Find a quality reckless driving attorney immediately.