Nationals baseball player Jayson Werth appeared in Fairfax County Circuit Court today in order to set a trial date for his charge of Reckless Driving. The court scheduled the jury trial for February 3, 2015 at 10 AM. At this time a judge has not been assigned to the case. Typically judges in Fairfax County are not assigned to a criminal trial until the actual date of the hearing.
Jayson Werth was convicted by a General District Court Judge in Fairfax County of Reckless Driving under Virginia Code Section 46.2-862. He was alleged to have been driving his sportscar at 105 mph in a 55 mph zone on the I-495 beltway in Fairfax County. The General District Court judge imposed a 10 day jail sentence and a 6 month loss of license.
In Virginia, a person driving just 20 mph above the posted speed limit or at a speed of 80 mph or greater can be charged with Misdemeanor Reckless Driving. What many people don’t realize is that a person does not need to drive “recklessly” – switching lanes, tailgating, swerving, or squealing tires- to be charged with Reckless Driving under Virginia law. All that is required is speed.
In Virginia, a person convicted of a misdemeanor in General District Court may file an appeal. Once an appeal is filed, whatever punishment was imposed the the lower court judge is eliminated, and the person has a right to a new trial in Circuit Court. The determination of guilt or innocence is made by a jury or a judge. Either party, the Commonwealth or the Defendant, may request a jury trial.
If a person is tried by a jury, the panel of jurors first must decide whether there is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to convict the Defendant of the crime. If a person is found guilty, the jury issues a recommended sentence. The potential sentence for Reckless Driving in Virginia can be up to 12 months in jail, a $2500.00 fine, and/or a 6 month loss of his privilege to drive in Virginia.
After a trial and sentencing, a Circuit Court judge may choose to reduce a jury recommended sentence and/or suspend part of a jail sentence and fine. The judge cannot increase the punishment recommended by the jury.
Alex Gordon is a criminal defense attorney that has more than 15 years of experience representing people in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Prince William County. He has been practicing law for more han 20 years and is member of the Florida, Georgia, and the Virginia State Bar. The Gordon Law Firm has helped more than 2000 people accused of Reckless Driving in Virginia.