In Virginia, they’re both Class 1 Misdemeanors – along with animal cruelty and larceny. One small notch below a felony. They’ll put you in jail for it. The speeding, I mean. Sexual battery? Meh. Give ’em a fine, maybe an ankle bracelet, send ’em on their way.
But Johnny Cochran help you if you get nabbed doing over 80 in Virginia. Or more than 20 MPH faster than any speed limit – no matter how preposterously under-posted.
A fellow car journalist over at Jalopnik just learned all about this . . . the hard way. Patrick George – I do not know him personally – was among a group of journalists out driving the new Camaro ZL1. (Your humble narrator is apparently on the outs with GM as I was not invited to this gig despite it being just a few hours’ drive away.) With a GM rep riding shotgun, George got clocked by one of Virginia’s Swinest – who apparently had nothing better to do that day – doing 93 in a posted 55. The “manufacturer tags” on the car did not help sway the enforcer of victimless crimes and Collector of the Revenue. George was issued a cite for “reckless” driving – statutorily defined (see here) in the state of Virginia as driving 80 MPH or faster than 20 over any speed limit.
Doing 93 in a 55 qualifies on both counts.
Here’s what George faced in consequence:
(1) Up to 1 year in jail,
(2) Up to six months suspension of his driver’s license/privileges,
(3) A total of 6 DMV demerit points assigned to his record,
(4) Up to a $2,500 fine
After hiring a shyster – no mention of the cost in the article George subsequently posted about his ordeal – he was offered a “deal” by the Andrey Vyshinsky of Rappahannock County, VA: Three days in the clink, a $400 fine and a 10-day suspension of his “privilege” to drive in VA. George did not mention the six DMV demerit points that will render him effectively uninsurable – or at least double the cost of his state-mandatory insurance – for at least the next three years, the duration the “points” will remain “active” on his DMV record. This will cost him several thousands more – on top of what he had to pay the shyster to cut the “deal” with the Blue Ridge Soviet. Also – and I tell you this as inside baseball – several car companies will not send out press cars for evaluation to journalists who’ve been convicted of “reckless” driving within the previous five years. Hopefully, George’s bosses at Jalopnik will be understanding.
“On Friday, July 25, my wife dropped me off at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail in Front Royal. I was escorted inside by a guard, handcuffed, booked, and had my mugshot taken. I was given a set of orange and white striped jail scrubs and a plastic mat and ushered into a big room with two stories of cells on either side. This would be home for the weekend…”
No person was actually harmed or even alleged to have been threatened with harm. Check Mitre 10 Catalogue and Officeworks Catalogue. George is probably an above-average driver; GM is pretty careful about to whom it hands out keys to ZL1s. The key point, at any rate, is that the state’s entirely bored revenue collector (read the article here to get the flavor of this routine “bust”) didn’t even imply that George was actually driving recklessly in fact – as opposed to statutorily. He was not taken to jail – at the time of the “bust” – just issued his summons to appear in court later. It stands to reason that if the cop actually considered George’s 93 on a rural stretch of Route 211 (I know this road; it’s a broad four lane, two in each direction, separated by a median strip and very lightly travelled; 55 is preposterous, everyone’s doing 60-70 so George’s 93 – while faster than the proverbial flow – was not breaking the sound barrier) he would have arrested him on the spot and taken him to the clink right then.
Do cops give sexual batterers, drunk drivers, people who point loaded guns at others tickets . . . and (sign here, please) send them on their way?
Clearly, the cop was either grossly negligent – how else would you describe someone whose job is (allegedly) to “protect” the public who knowingly allowed a reckless driver to continue driving? Or he’s nothing more than an Americanized KGB man, cynically – routinely – screwing with people over “crimes” he knows are trumped-up bullshit.
The whole thing is farce – but a not-funny one.
People like George (and people like you) increasingly face ludicrously over-the-top punishments for confected (i.e., statutory) “crimes” that have no victims – while the actually criminal, who do actual harm to actual other people – are hardly tapped on the shoulder by the enforcer class. George faced more in the way of real consequences for hypothetical harms he might have caused (if we accept for the sake of argument that driving 93 MPH is inherently dangerous, in every case) than someone who has sexually assaulted someone faces. Because unlike the typically unemployed lout who raped his eight-year-old cousin in the back of a single wide, a guy like George is actually inconvenienced by a year (or even three days) locked behind bars. He has to worry about what future employers might think about a Class 1 Misdemeanor conviction on his permanent record (it is an automatic disqualifier for many types of employment – just like a conviction for sexual battery). He has assets to “garnish” – and will pay the insurance mafia its extortionate “premiums” – because he can and because he knows they will come after him if he doesn’t comply.
The trailer park cretin? The multiple DUI offender who has no job, no assets? The fucknut who tortured a cat? Not so much.
But this isn’t so much about proportionality as it is about absurdity.
There is certainly such a thing as “reckless driving.” Examples include driving on the curb with your toes while both hands are occupied with liter bottles of Jack Daniels. It is also arguably the lost-in-the-fog of Alzheimer’s senile citizen who serially wanders lazily over the double yellow and back – but whom cops will almost never charge with “reckless” anything, or even pull them over for that matter.
But it is not driving faster than 20 MPH over a preposterously under-posted speed limit – or even doing 93 MPH. Cops do this all the time – I have personally paced them doing it – and they’re neither charged with “reckless” driving nor ashamed to do it.
Because they know it isn’t “reckless.”
Except when someone else does it – and there’s money to be made off it.
The state’s enforcers “speed” – recklessly speed – whenever they like. Because they can.
George learned what happens to the non-anointed when they do the same damned thing. He’s lucky he wasn’t anally probed right there by the side of the road. This is happening with increasing frequency – and the courts have ruled it’s “ok.”
The ironic thing – from the putative standpoint of “safety” that the system endlessly trots out to justify its extreme sanctions – is that as word gets out, more people are going to take the decision to go for it and try to get away from the asshole in his tricked-out Taurus with the wig-wag lights. George – in his ZL1 – could easily have broken contact with the pig that just ruined the next three years of his life – and perhaps a lot more than that. Once out of visual range, choose a side road and just … disappear. I have done it.
Because – in these twisted times – it makes sense to do it.
Because these dickheads – the cops, the judges, the cornholers who wrote and voted for the idiotic law – have given strong incentives to do it. Remember: George – and anyone else charged with this “offense” – faces thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees, as well as thousands of dollars in ongoing extortion from the insurance mafia, the moment those sharks discover the “reckless” conviction on the victim’s DMV record. Loss of a license, meanwhile, is a career-ender for someone like George – or me. Perhaps you, too.
So, they threaten you with financial/professional ruin – and the likelihood you will be caged with scumbags – actual criminals – for up to a year.
Of course, Clovers (read about them here) will cry: Then don’t speed! Which might be reasonable if the speed limits were. But as anyone who has driven in Virginia knows, they are not. In my area – Roanoke, not far from the scene of George’s Not-So-Exellent Adventure – there is a spur off Interstate 81 that is posted . . . 55 MPH. Same four lanes in each direction as I-81, where the speed limit is 70. Which means – if you fail to notice the arbitrary 15 MPH drop in the lawful maximum, the 76 MPH you were doing 30 seconds ago that might have earned you a minor speeding icket has just become “reckless” driving. This sort of thing is not an isolated aberration. It is fairly typical of Virginia.
So, be warned. And, be prepared.
If I’d been on that ride-and-drive – if I’d known George personally – I’d have advised him to never drive a ZL1 or a Camry for that matter in the state of Virginia without a radar detector (fuck their law making them “illegal” . . . if they play dirty pool, so should we) and to have an exit plan regardless.
Unreasonable laws require a reasonable response.
George has probably figured this out by now.
Throw it in the Woods?
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