Excess Speed Prince William Virginia Lawyer Reckless Driving
Philips v. Commonwealth
Defendant was driving on a highway in the Commonwealth in excess of eighty miles per hour. As a result, he was issued a summons for reckless driving by speed. The trial court conducted a trial on the charge. At the close of the evidence, the Commonwealth proffered a jury instruction instructing the jury that in order to find him guilty of reckless driving by speed, the jury had to find beyond a reasonable doubt that James was traveling on a public highway and that he was traveling in excess of eighty miles per hour. Jury in the Circuit Court of Prince William County convicted defendant of reckless driving by speed, in violation of Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-862. Defendant appealed.
- Whether the trial court erred in denying his proposed jury instruction that improper driving, an offense set forth in Code § 46.2-869, is a lesser-included offense of reckless driving by speed?
The Court held that the improper driving was not a lesser-included offense of reckless driving by speed. Every commission of reckless driving by speed did not also constitute improper driving. In addition, improper driving was not composed entirely of the elements of reckless driving by speed. Improper driving required an additional finding of slight culpability, an element excluded from § 46.2-862. The plain and unambiguous reading of § 46.2-869 made clear that authority rested with the trial judge and not the jury to make the lesser degree of culpability determination. In the alternative, an attorney for the Commonwealth may have reduced a reckless driving charge to improper driving at any time before the court’s decision. Thus, only the trial judge, or the prosecutor before the verdict was rendered, had the prerogative to reduce a reckless driving charge to improper driving under § 46.2-869. For these reasons, this court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
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Article written by A Sris
These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.