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Virginia Appellate Court Reverses Defendant’s Reckless Driving Conviction

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2020 | Traffic Law, Virginia Case Law

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia reckless driving case, reversing the defendant’s conviction based on a lack of evidence. The court based its decision on the fact that the evidence presented failed to show that the defendant acted recklessly when he struck a motorcycle from behind at nearly 50 miles per hour.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving a car on a clear day when he struck a motorcycle from behind. The motorcyclist was stopped, waiting to make a left-hand turn into his home. A truck driver coming from the opposite direction as the defendant witnessed the accident. He explained that the defendant’s car did not appear to slow down or swerve before it hit the motorcyclist.

The motorcyclist died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident, and the defendant was charged with reckless driving. A jury convicted the defendant, who appealed his conviction. On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was reckless.

The evidence showed that responding police officers “found no bags, beverages, GPS or navigation devices, food, maps, or electronic devices such as an iPad” that could have distracted the defendant. In fact, there was no evidence that the defendant was distracted. An expert witness testified that the defendant may have experienced “situational blindness,” which is “the phenomenon of looking somewhere but failing . . . to recognize or notice or process exactly what’s there.”

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The court agreed with the defendant that the evidence was insufficient to show that he was reckless. The court began its analysis by noting that there was no direct evidence of the defendant’s negligence, and that the only evidence suggesting he was negligent was circumstantial. The court went on to explain that this requires the prosecution to “exclude every reasonable hypothesis except that of guilt.” Finally, the court noted that the mere fact that an accident occurred does not give rise to an inference of negligence. Instead, courts look to whether there was erratic driving, speeding, intoxication, or dangerous driving behavior.

Here, the court held that the defendant was not reckless. The court noted that the defendant was not speeding, intoxicated, or driving erratically. The court also pointed to the fact that there was no evidence of distraction. The court acknowledged that the defendant was negligent in failing to notice the motorcyclist, but without more, the court could not say that the defendant was reckless.

Have You Been Charged with a Serious Virginia Traffic Offense?

If you have recently been charged with vehicular manslaughter in Virginia, or another serious traffic crime, contact Robinson Law, PLLC. At Robinson Law, we proudly represent clients facing all types of allegations, including those involving fatal traffic accidents. Our attorneys want to do everything possible to help you overcome the charges you are facing so that you can move on with your life. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 703-542-3616.