Q: I made an illegal right turn at a red light and was caught by a police officer. Why did he cite me for reckless driving?

A: In the state of Virginia—as elsewhere in the country—police officers have a wide degree of latitude when ticketing drivers for traffic infractions. If you're a high-school or college student, and it's only been a couple of years (or months) since you've received your license, a police officer may treat your traffic violation more seriously, on the premise that you aren't responsible enough to drive. One way to do this is to escalate a simple traffic offense into a charge of reckless driving, which carries serious penalties in the state of Virginia—including stiff fines, potential jail time, points added to your driving record, and even the suspension or revocation of your license.

Of course, the arresting officer may well be aware that a reckless driving charge is “over the top.” He may simply be trying to scare you, and trusts that the district attorney (after conferring with your lawyer) will agree to have the charge reduced to a less serious traffic violation. On the other hand, the officer may simply dislike teenaged drivers and want them off the road as soon as possible! Either way, if you have been charged with reckless driving as a consequence of running a red light, you'll need expert representation; call the law firm of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC for a free consultation.