Virginia DMV Reckless Driving Fairfax VA Beach Falls Richmond Loudoun Leesburg Stafford Kent Prince GW Parkway Federal King
VIRGINIA RECKLESS DRIVING DEFENSE LAWYERS
In Virginia, a reckless driving conviction will result in six DMV demerit points on your license. It is important to try and avoid getting DMV demerit points on your driving record. Most car insurance companies look at the number of points (negative points) on your DMV record to determine what to charge you as insurance premium.
The Law Offices of SRIS, P.C. realize that most of our clients are very averse to getting DMV points on their driving record. Also, the firm realizes that most clients want a Virginia reckless driving defense attorney who is familiar with the courts in the jurisdiction that the client has received the Virginia reckless driving ticket in. To ensure that our Virginia reckless driving lawyers are familiar with the particular court, we have Virginia reckless driving attorneys who regularly practice before the Virginia courts of a particular region. We have six offices throughout the Virginia to better serve you.
In Northern Virginia, we have an office in Fairfax & Manassas.
In Central Virginia, our office is in Fredericksburg & Richmond.
In the Hampton Roads/Tidewater area, our office is in Virginia Beach.
In Western Virginia, our office is in Lynchburg.
Please be advised that in addition to receiving six DMV points on your license, you may lose your liberty (actual jail time), your privilege to drive in Virginia and a very high fine if convicted of a reckless driving ticket in Virginia. Do not take a chance with your liberty or license. Call us today. You can reach our office via our toll free number: 888-437-7747, email us or complete our fast on line form.
The list below shows how long the following reckless driving convictions will stay on your DMV record in Virginia.
Reckless Driving (Felony or Misdemeanor)
speeding in excess of 80 mph (11 years)
speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit (11 years)
racing (11 years)
passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle (11 years)
passing a school bus (11 years)
passing on the crest of a hill (11 years)
passing at a railroad crossing (11 years)
passing two vehicles abreast (11 years)
driving two vehicles abreast (11 years)
driving too fast for conditions (11 years)
failing to give a proper signal (11 years)
faulty brakes/improper control (11 years)
Driving recklessly on parking lots, etc. (11 years)
Driving with an obstructed view (11 years)
Reckless driving – generally (11 years)
Speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit (5 years)
A question the attorneys of SRIS, P.C. get routinely asked in Virginia is who decides how many points I get for a reckless driving charge?
We tell all of our clients that the judge has no direct control over the number of points you receive on your driving record if you are convicted of a reckless driving charge in Virginia. The Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the agency that places points on a person’s driving record for Virginia reckless driving conviction. There following are a couple of ways to avoid points for a Virginia reckless driving charge:
Take the matter to trial and have the judge dismiss the case or find you guilty of a lesser traffic offense.
Plea bargain with the prosecutor and ask that the reckless driving ticket be amended to a lesser traffic violation.
Plead guilty and explain to the court why you were recklessly and hope that the judge takes pity on you and lowers the reckless driving ticket to a lower point offense.
Again, the Virginia reckless driving lawyers of SRIS, P.C. strongly recommend any client who is charged with a reckless driving ticket in Virginia to go to Court with a Virginia reckless driving lawyer who is extremely experienced in handling Virginia reckless driving violations.
A charge that frequently accompanies a charge of Virginia reckless driving is that of eluding the police in Virginia. The following statute states what elements have to be proven by the Commonwealth Attorney of Virginia to obtain a conviction for eluding a police officer in Virginia.
§ 46.2-817. Disregarding signal by law-enforcement officer to stop; eluding police; penalties
A. Any person in Virginia who, having received a visible or audible signal from any law-enforcement officer to bring his motor vehicle to a stop, drives such motor vehicle in a willful and wanton disregard of such signal or who attempts to escape or elude such law-enforcement officer, is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of a violation of this subsection if the defendant shows he reasonably believed he was being pursued by a person other than a law-enforcement officer.
B. Any person in Virginia who, having received a visible or audible signal from any law- enforcement officer to bring his motor vehicle to a stop, drives such motor vehicle in a willful and wanton disregard of such signal so as to interfere with or endanger the operation of the law-enforcement vehicle or endanger a person is guilty of a Class 6 felony. It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of a violation of this subsection if the defendant shows he reasonably believed he was being pursued by a person other than a law-enforcement officer.
C. When any person in Virginia is convicted of an offense under this section, in addition to the other penalties provided in this section, the driver’s license of such person shall be suspended by the court for a period of not less than thirty days nor more than one year. However, in any case where the speed of such person is determined to have exceeded the maximum allowed by twenty miles per hour, his driver’s license shall be suspended by the court trying the case for a period of not less than ninety days. In case of conviction and suspension, the court or judge shall order the surrender of the license to the court, which shall dispose of it in accordance with the provisions of § 46.2-398.
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The following case is an example of the fact that a charge of eluding a police officer in Virginia and reckless driving can arise from the same set of facts.
Court of Appeals of Virginia.
Martin L. SHAW
COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.Record No. 0496-88-4.Jan. 23, 1990.9 Va.App. 331, 387 S.E.2d 792
 Code § 19.2-294.1 provides that whenever a person is charged with both reckless driving and driving while intoxicated “growing out of the same act or acts” and is convicted of one of the offenses, the trial court shall dismiss the remaining charge. Martin L. Shaw, the appellant, contends that his conviction for eluding a police officer in violation of Code § 46.1-192.1 (now Code § 46.2-817) constituted a conviction for reckless driving, thereby requiring the trial court, in obedience to Code § 19.2-294.1, to have dismissed a driving while intoxicated charge against him which arose out of the “same acts.” We hold that, because the offense of eluding a police officer was not reckless driving on the date of the offense, January 9, 1988, Code § 19.2-294.1 did not pose a statutory bar to Shaw’s conviction for driving while intoxicated in violation of Fairfax County Code 82-4-17. Thus, we affirm the conviction.The dispositive question which controls this case is whether the 1984 amendment to Code § 46.1-192.1 changed the offense of eluding a police officer so that it no longer constituted the offense of reckless driving. Prior to July 1, 1984, Code § 46.1-192.1 FN1 expressly provided that any person violating the statute was guilty of reckless driving. The statute further directed that the operator’s license of any person convicted of reckless driving would be suspended and specified the range of punishment for the offense. Effective July 1, 1984, the General Assembly amended Code § 46.1-192.1 by deleting all references to reckless driving and by specifying that the offense of eluding a police officer would be punishable *333 as a Class 2 misdemeanor.FN2FN1. Effective October 1, 1989, Title 46.1 was repealed and recodified as Title 46.2. In the recodification former Code § 46.1-192.1 was removed from Chapter 4, Article 3, “Reckless Driving, Speeding, etc.” and relocated as Code § 46.2-817 in Chapter 8, Article 1, “General and Miscellaneous.”FN2. Effective July 1, 1988, a violation of Code § 46.1-192.1 was reclassified as a Class 1 misdemeanor.The appellant argues that the 1984 amendment was simply intended to redefine the punishment for the offense as a Class 2 misdemeanor, in effect reducing the maximum punishment for the offense. He contends that the legislative intent in deleting the language in the statute which denominated the offense as reckless driving was to accommodate the change in the punishment from the range previously specified to a Class 2 misdemeanor. He reasons that because Code § 46.1-192.1, prior to 1984, contained punishment provisions different from the other acts of reckless driving specified by Code § 46.1-192 , the eluding a police officer statute needed the “reckless driving” language to make clear that it was, in law and in fact, reckless driving. Appellant contends that after the penalty was specified as that for a Class 2 misdemeanor, the separate designation of the offense as reckless driving became superfluous. We find the argument unpersuasive because, after the 1984 amendment, as before, the punishment for eluding a police officer was different from the forms of reckless driving proscribed by Code § 46.1-192 .The appellant also contends that after the 1984 amendment violations of Code § 46.1-192.1 continued to be reckless driving because (1) the statute retained the headline of the code section-”Reckless Driving , Speeding, etc.”-and, (2) the statute continued to be codified in Article 3 of Chapter 4 in Title 46.1. He argues that the headline to the statute and its location within the Code are further evidence of legislative intent. In support of this argument, he points out that the General Assembly did not amend in 1984 or thereafter Code § 46.1-192.2, which immediately followed the eluding police officer statute, **794 and which authorized trial courts to find persons charged with “the foregoing offenses,” which he argues includes eluding a police officer, guilty of improper driving “where the degree of culpability is slight.” Thus, he reasons that because a person violating Code § 46.1-192.1 could be found guilty of improper driving, necessarily the legislature intended that the offense continue to be reckless driving. For all these reasons, the appellant contends that when he was convicted of eluding a police officer he was convicted of reckless driving and, therefore, Code § 19.2-294.1 bars his conviction for the *334 concurrent charge of driving while intoxicated in violation of the Fairfax County ordinance.We construe the 1984 amendment to Code § 46.1-192.1 to make violation of the statute an offense distinct from reckless driving. The appellant would have us hold that a legislative deletion was of no consequence. We will not construe legislative action in a manner that would ascribe to the General Assembly a futile gesture. Legislative amendments are presumed as intended to effect a change in the law. Wisniewski v. Johnson, 223 Va. 141, 144, 286 S.E.2d 223, 224-225 (1982). The General Assembly, by deleting the language denominating violations of the statute as reckless driving, clearly intended that such violations would no longer constitute a reckless driving offense. We give to the amended statute the plain and unambiguous meaning which appears on its face. See Portsmouth v. Chesapeake, 205 Va. 259, 136 S.E.2d 817 (1964). We will not read into the statute language which the legislature purposefully deleted. We also reject the various arguments which the appellant has advanced in support of his position that the amendment was not intended to make the offense not reckless driving. We find no merit in the view that, because the legislature saw fit in 1984 to change the punishment for eluding a police officer, the deleting of the reckless driving language did not affect a change. Also, the location of the statute in Article 3, of Chapter 4 of Title 46.1 does not control the nature of the offense. Even so, Article 3 contains a number of offenses other than reckless driving. Retaining a headline after the 1984 amendment similar to that which appeared prior to the amendment, “Same [connoting reckless driving]; disregarding signal to stop by police officers; penalties,” does not control the classification of the statute or take precedence over the language adopted by the legislature. See Code § 1-13.9. Finally, we are unpersuaded by the appellant’s argument that after the 1984 amendment, Code § 46.1-192.2 continued to permit trial courts to find the accused guilty of improper driving when charged with eluding a police officer, thereby demonstrating a legislative intent that the offense of eluding a police officer remain a form of reckless driving. After 1984, eluding a police officer was no longer one of “the foregoing offenses” proscribed by Code § 46.1-192.2 because it was not reckless driving.*335 For the foregoing reasons we affirm the decision of the trial court.Affirmed.
In this case, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that two different charges of reckless driving in Virginia arising from the same set of facts in two different counties could not be prosecuted twice.
Supreme Court of Virginia.
Demaris Haynes PADGETT
COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.
Record No. 790468.
Feb. 29, 1980.
Defendant, who had been convicted of reckless driving in another county, was convicted in the Bedford County General District Court of driving while intoxicated, and he appealed. The Circuit Court of Bedford County, William W. Sweeney, J., denied defendant’s motion to dismiss and defendant was convicted of driving while intoxicated, and defendant appealed. The Supreme Court held that charges of reckless driving in one county and reckless driving and driving while intoxicated in another county, arising out of a single high-speed chase, grew out of same act or acts within meaning of code section providing for dismissal of one of dual charges for driving while intoxicated and reckless driving upon conviction of other charge; thus, earlier conviction in one county of reckless driving required dismissal of driving while intoxicated charge.
Reversed and dismissed.
Code s 19.2-294.1 is the focal point of the controversy in this case. This section provides:
“Whenever any person is charged with a violation of s 18.2-266 (the statute prohibiting driving while intoxicated) or any similar ordinances of any county, city, or town and reckless driving growing out of the same act or acts and is convicted of one of these charges, the court shall dismiss the remaining charge.”
The question of the statute’s applicability arose in this situation:
On August 8, 1978, while operating his automobile in the City of Lynchburg, the defendant, Demaris Haynes Padgett, failed to obey a “lane direction control signal.” A Lynchburg police officer observed the infraction, and he attempted unsuccessfully to stop the defendant. A high-speed chase ensued. The chase led from a point more than one mile inside Lynchburg to a location more than one mile into adjoining Bedford County. During the chase, the Lynchburg officer was joined by a fellow city policeman and a state trooper.
As a result of the incident, the defendant was charged, among other offenses, with reckless driving in Lynchburg and with reckless driving and driving while intoxicated in Bedford County. On September 19, 1978, the defendant was tried in Lynchburg **389 and convicted of the offense of reckless driving which had been lodged against him there.
On October 12, 1978, the defendant appeared in Bedford County General District Court on the reckless driving and driving while intoxicated charges pending against him in that jurisdiction. Citing Code s 19.2-294.1, he moved to dismiss the driving while intoxicated charge on the ground that it grew out of the same act or acts as the reckless driving charge for which he had been convicted earlier in Lynchburg. The motion was denied, and the defendant was convicted of driving while intoxicated. The Bedford reckless driving charge was dismissed.
The defendant appealed his driving while intoxicated conviction to the Circuit Court of Bedford County. Again relying upon Code s 19.2-294.1 and his contention that the earlier Lynchburg reckless driving conviction barred prosecution of the driving while intoxicated charge, he moved to dismiss the latter charge. The motion was denied, *760 and the court, sitting without a jury, convicted the defendant of driving while intoxicated.
On his appeal here, the defendant argues that the Lynchburg charge of reckless driving and the Bedford charge of driving while intoxicated both grew out of the same act, viz., “the high speed chase.” Under Code s 19.2-294.1, therefore, he asserts, the earlier Lynchburg reckless driving conviction required dismissal of the Bedford charge of driving while intoxicated. His crossing of the boundary between Lynchburg and Bedford County is irrelevant to the application of s 19.2-294.1, he opines, because the crossing was not an act out of which grew either of the two charges in question but was determinative only of the venue for trial of the charges. And, the defendant concludes, because venue may have been laid in different localities, it does not follow that the charges grew out of different acts.
In his argument, citing Jones v. Commonwealth, 208 Va. 370, 375, 157 S.E.2d 907, 910 (1967), the Attorney General says that “two or more distinct and separate offenses may grow out of a single incident or occurrence, warranting the prosecution and punishment of an offender for each.” Further, citing Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304, 52 S.Ct. 180, 182, 76 L.Ed. 306 (1932), the Attorney General states that “where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one is whether each provision requires proof of a fact which the other does not.” The Attorney General then argues that, because the Lynchburg reckless driving charge required proof of venue different from the venue required to sustain the Bedford driving while intoxicated charge, the two charges did not grow out of the same act and, consequently, the Lynchburg conviction did not bar the Bedford prosecution.
The question here, however, is not whether two distinct and separate offenses were involved so that the prosecution for both could have proceeded without violating double jeopardy principles. If that were the question, the Blockburger test, which was enunciated in a double jeopardy setting, would permit both convictions to stand in this case because the Lynchburg reckless driving charge could have been established without proof that the defendant was intoxicated and the Bedford driving while intoxicated charge could have been sustained without proof that the defendant drove recklessly.
But the bar of Code s 19.2-294.1 encompasses offenses which, although separate and distinct, grow out of “the same act or acts.” Thus, the real question in the case is the meaning of this statutory phrase.
Because s 19.2-294.1 relates to matters of a penal nature and is *761 remedial in character, it must be construed strictly against the Commonwealth and favorably to the accused. So construing it, we do not believe that the difference in venue involved in this case alters the singular nature of the act or acts out of which the charges against the defendant arose. We interpret the language, “the same act or acts,” to mean “the same act or acts” of driving and to contemplate**390 a continuous, uninterrupted course of operation of a motor vehicle, without regard to the crossing of the boundary line between two localities.
From the moment he was first observed by the police in Lynchburg until he was finally apprehended in Bedford County, the defendant engaged in a continuous, uninterrupted course of driving. The charges against him, therefore, grew out of the same act or acts within the meaning of Code s 19.2-294.1. Hence, the earlier Lynchburg conviction of reckless driving required the dismissal of the Bedford driving while intoxicated charge. Accordingly, the judgment convicting the defendant of the Bedford charge will be reversed and the charge will be dismissed.
Reversed and dismissed.
The following case is explains the difference between reckless driving in Virginia and improper driving in Virginia.
Court of Appeals of Virginia,
James Edward BAYNE
COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.
Record No. 2395-04-3.
March 28, 2006.
MEMORANDUM OPINION FN*
The sole issue to be decided on this appeal is whether the evidence was sufficient to prove James Edward Bayne guilty of improper driving as proscribed by Code § 46.2-869. We hold that it was.
Police Officer Chad Nestor was parked in his police cruiser at approximately 11:00 p.m. when he heard a “very loud” exhaust and then noticed two cars accelerating on a city street side by side. Officer Nestor described further his initial observation:
They were both side by side as they left through the intersection when I looked up. They were accelerating-you could tell that they weren’t what you call normally pulling out of the-from the light, like a normal person would drive from the intersection. They were neck and neck going as fast-really fast going down towards downtown.
Though he was not certain of the cars’ actual speeds, Officer Nestor believed that both cars were traveling in excess of the posted 35 miles-per-hour speed limit.
Officer Nestor followed the cars and lost sight of them as they “rounded [a] turn.” When he saw the cars again, one car had accelerated past the other. Officer Nestor testified that he had to accelerate “pretty good” to catch the cars. When he did, he directed the lead car to stop in a parking lot, continued until he caught the next car, and directed the driver of the second car to the parking lot where the other car waited. Officer Nestor obtained identifications from both drivers. James Edward Bayne was the driver of the first car Officer Nestor stopped. When he asked Bayne to explain what he was doing, Bayne said that he was “just playing around.” Officer Nestor issued a summons to Bayne for racing, a reckless driving offense in violation of Code § 46.2-865.
Bayne testified he was driving a car his brother had purchased earlier that day and he was driving it for the first time. Bayne recalled that he was traveling approximately 35 to 40 miles per hour when he approached the area where Officer Nestor was parked, but said he could not “quite remember [his speed].” He testified that he thought he slowed a bit when he saw the officer’s car and that he and the other driver, whom he denied knowing, both stopped at an intersection near the lot in which Officer Nestor was parked. Bayne denied having a loud muffler on his car and speeding away when the traffic light changed. He also denied making any statements to Officer Nestor.
The trial judge found that the two cars were moving fast down the city street “side by side,” and he accepted as true the officer’s testimony that Bayne said he was fooling around. The judge convicted Bayne of improper driving and imposed a fine.
Code § 46.2-865, the statute charged in the summons, provides in part that “[a]ny person who engages in a race between two or more motor vehicles on the highways … shall be guilty of reckless driving.” The statute proscribing improper driving provides as follows:
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 court in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless driving but guilty of improper driving …. Improper driving shall be punishable as a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $500.
*2 Code § 46.2-869. To sustain a conviction for improper driving , the evidence must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Bayne notes that “he was not charged with speeding.” He argues that Officer Nestor could not testify with certainty about the speed of the cars and, therefore, that no evidence proved his driving endangered life, limb, or property. The Commonwealth argues that the manner and circumstances in which Bayne operated the car proved he drove improperly.
Officer Nestor testified the posted speed was 35 miles per hour. He also testified that Bayne’s speed was “really fast” based on his observation of Bayne’s car and his pursuit to stop the cars.
“An estimate of the speed at which an automobile was moving at a given time is generally viewed as a matter of common observation rather than expert opinion, and it is accordingly well settled that any person of ordinary experience, ability, and intelligence having the means or opportunity of observation, whether an expert or nonexpert, and without proof of further qualification may express an opinion as to how fast an automobile which came under his observation was going at a particular time…. Speed of an automobile is not a matter of exclusive knowledge or skill, but anyone with a knowledge of time and distance is a competent witness to give an estimate; the opportunity and extent of observation goes to the weight of the testimony.”
Greenway v. Commonwealth, 254 Va. 147, 152, 487 S.E.2d 224, 227 (1997) (quoting Moore v. Lewis, 201 Va. 522, 525, 111 S.E.2d 788, 790 (1960) (citations omitted)).
The evidence that the trial judge accepted to be true was the officer’s testimony that the cars moved away from the traffic light “accelerating … neck and neck going … really fast.” The quality of the officer’s observations was a matter of credibility. Greenway, 254 Va. at 152, 487 S.E.2d at 227. In addition to this evidence of unusual speed by two cars accelerating from a stopped position, the evidence also proved Bayne acknowledged to the officer that he was “just playing around.”
The trial judge was not required to accept as credible Bayne’s testimony that he saw the officer’s car in the parking lot and, therefore, did not speedily drive from the traffic light or that he did not tell the officer he was engaged in frivolity with the other driver. This was a credibility determination that properly rests with the trial judge as the fact finder. Sawyer v. Commonwealth, 43 Va.App. 42, 53, 596 S.E.2d 81, 86 (2004) (holding that we defer to the fact finder’s determination that the witness’ self-serving testimony is not worthy of belief). “Where the trier of fact believes a witness has knowingly testified falsely in any material fact, he has a right to give the testimony such weight and credit as in his opinion it was entitled.” Kennedy v. Commonwealth, 1 Va.App. 469, 472, 339 S.E.2d 905, 907 (1986). The trial judge resolved the conflicts in the evidence against Bayne.
*3 Bayne argues that the conviction was based on speculation and failed to satisfy the standard announced in Bacon v. Commonwealth, 220 Va. 766, 263 S.E.2d 390 (1980). We disagree. In Bacon, the defendant’s explanation of the events that led to a conviction for improper driving was “not contradicted.” 220 Va. at 768, 263 S.E.2d at 391. The defendant testified that he “was forced off the highway by another vehicle … [and] was confronted with a sudden emergency that was not caused by his own negligence.” Id. Reversing the conviction for improper driving, the Supreme Court held that “the mere fact that an accident happened … does not give rise to an inference … of improper driving.” Id. at 769, 263 S.E.2d at 392. In view of the uncontradicted evidence, the conviction in Bacon was supported only by “speculat[ion] … that [the accident] was due to excessive speed, to inattention by the driver, or to alcohol.” Id.
In this case, however, Officer Nestor’s testimony was credible evidence that the speed at which Bayne was traveling was improper under the circumstances. The officer’s testimony of the manner in which the cars quickly accelerated from the traffic light, driving side-by-side and the evidence of Bayne’s admission of “playing around” while he was accelerating and driving beside the other car were sufficient to prove that the manner and circumstances of Bayne’s driving conduct was unsafe. See Hale v. Commonwealth, 23 Va.App. 587, 591, 478 S.E.2d 710, 711-12 (1996) (holding that improper driving includes failure to operate a vehicle in a safe manner and under control). We hold that this evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt improper driving.
For these reasons, we affirm the conviction.
The following case stands for the proposition that a single car accident does not necessarily result in a reckless driving conviction in Virginia.
211 Va. 386, 177 S.E.2d 628
Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia.
Dale Leon POWERS
COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.
Nov. 30, 1970.
Dale Leon Powers, defendant, was charged in a warrant with unlawfully operating a motor vehicle on a public highway in a reckless *387 manner in violation of Code s 46.1-189, as amended, 1967 Repl.Vol. Trial by jury was waived and the court, after hearing evidence, found defendant guilty as charged and fixed his punishment at sixty days in jail and a fine of $100.00. The court also revoked his driving privileges for a period of six months. Defendant is here on a writ of error and supersedeas to the judgment.
The sole question involved is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction.
The evidence shows that the defendant and four friends had been ‘riding around’ in automobiles on the night of May 3, 1968. The defendant was driving alone in his father’s 1967 Plymouth, and the others were riding in two separate cars. After meeting at the Second Union School in Goochland County, the group decided to drive to George’s Tavern (also called Fife) which is approximately two miles south on Route 606. Sometime after the first car left with a passenger, the defendant started out alone in his car ‘in kind of a rapid manner.’ Five to ten minutes later the third car followed. Approximately eight-tenths of a mile from the school the occupants of the third car came upon defendant’s wrecked automobile in a ditch on the side of the highway, and the defendant was found lying in a ditch on the opposite side of the highway. No one else was in the vicinity.
Trooper W. R. Norship, of the Virginia State Police, arrived on the scene within an hour of the accident, which occurred at approximately 12:15 a.m. on May 4th. He reconstructed the path of defendant’s vehicle from ‘impressions’ left by it on the highway and ‘marks’ on some trees off the east side of the roadway. His testimony shows that defendant’s automobile left impressions on the road for a distance of over 840 feet before it veered off the east side of the highway, struck and ‘debarked’ two trees which were 20 feet apart, and finally came to rest in a ditch on the west side of the highway. The motor was wrenched from the car, and it was found 36 feet from where the car had come to rest. The car traveled out of control a distance of over 900 feet.
The speed limit at the time and place of the accident was 55 miles per hour.
The highway at the scene of the accident was described as level, dry, black-top, with a slight curve, with no defects in the roadway and no traffic controls. The night was dark and clear.
When the sufficiency of evidence to support a conviction is challenged, it is our duty to view the evidence in the light most favorable*388 to the Commonwealth and to uphold the conviction unless it is plainly wrong or without evidence to support it. Cameron v. Commonwealth, 211 Va. 108, 110, 175 S.E.2d 275, 276 (1970).
It is elementary that the burden is on the Commonwealth to prove every essential element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence and be consistent only with the guilt of an accused. Cameron v. Commonwealth, Supra, 211 Va. at 110, 175 S.E.2d at 276.
Code s 46.1-189 provides:
‘Irrespective of the maximum speeds herein provided, any person who drives a vehicle upon a highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger life, limb or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving; provided that the driving of a motor vehicle in violation of any speed limit provision of s 46.1-193 shall not of itself constitute ground for prosecution for reckless driving under this section.’
The word ‘recklessly’ as used in the statute imparts a disregard by the driver of a motor vehicle for the consequences of his act and an indifference to the safety of life, limb or property. Speed alone is not a violation of this statute, but only becomes so when it endangers life, limb or property. See Lamb v. Parsons, 195 Va. 353, 358, 78 S.E.2d 707, 710 (1953).
The essence of the offense of reckless driving lies not in the act of operating a vehicle, but in the manner and circumstances of its operation. See Salyer v. Commonwealth, 165 Va. 744, 747, 181 S.E. 435, 436 (1935); 7 Am.Jur.2d, ‘Automobiles & Highway Traffic,’ s 264, at 816. The mere happening of an accident does not give rise to an inference of reckless driving. Annotation: 52 A.L.R.2d 1337, s 24, at 1367-68 (1957).
The Commonwealth argues that since defendant’s car traveled an erratic course for more than 900 feet and struck the trees with such force that the motor was wrenched from it and defendant was thrown clear of the car and injured, reckless driving may be inferred. We do not agree.
The evidence is silent as to the speed at which the defendant was operating his car when it went out of control. The speed limit at the place of the accident was 55 miles per hour, and when an automobile traveling at that speed, or even less, goes out of control it seemingly defies all laws of physics and may be completely demolished when it *389 strikes an immovable object. Richter v. Seawell, 183 Va. 379, 382, 32 S.E.2d 62, 63 (1944).
We have no way of determining from the evidence in this record how and why the accident happened. The momentum of the automobile and its erratic course may be attributed to the accelerator sticking or a defect in the car’s steering mechanism over which the defendant had no control. The defendant may have suffered a sudden illness, or he may have been confronted with a sudden emergency not caused by his own negligence. See Hicks v. Cassidy, 208 Va. 610, 614, 159 S.E.2d 827, 830 (1968); Grasty v. Tanner, 206 Va. 723, 728, 146 S.E.2d 252, 256 (1966).
The Commonwealth’s evidence leaves much to speculation and conjecture as to what caused defendant to lose control of the car. We cannot say that the evidence here excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence and is consistent only with the guilt of the defendant. Hence, we are of opinion that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction of reckless driving within the meaning of the statute.
The judgment is reversed and the case is dismissed.