Motion blur of a car speeding towards the junction with Stop sign

How Could a Reckless Driving Charge Be Elevated to a DUI?

What is a Reckless Driving Charge?

Reckless driving is a serious traffic violation. Essentially, it assumes that your driving was irresponsible, showing a complete lack of regard for others on the road. It could include erratic, quick lane changes, cutting people off, or quickly darting between cars that are close together. You could be charged for sudden, repeated stops or riding too close to the car before you. Even speeding charges can be elevated to reckless driving. Regardless of your control over the vehicle, if you allegedly drove over 20 miles over the speed limit, or drove 85 miles or more regardless of the speed limit, you could be charged with reckless driving.

As easy as it can be to be accused of reckless driving, you may be surprised to learn that allegations can become more severe. Depending on an officer’s assessment of your behavior, a reckless driving charge could be elevated to a DUI or a DUID. When officers detect things like the odor of alcohol on your breath or person, slurred speech, unsteady when walking, inability to explain where you are or where you are coming, etc, it could change the whole scenario.

From there, it is a matter of testing your sobriety. Police will use methods such as a field sobriety test, or a preliminary breath test “PBT”, to determine your level of intoxication. If the police find that your blood alcohol level (BAC) is at 0.08% or higher, that is the last thing they consider in determining if you are impaired and most will lead to your arrest. Once you are arrested you will be taken to the jail or police station to blow into the ECIRII machine so the officer can determine what your legal limit is.

DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) standards are a bit different. It’s easy to determine if there is alcohol in the system. Whether someone is high on narcotics is harder to determine because if they blow .00 in the PBT, there is no sign of alcohol impairment. Many different drugs could impair someone’s driving both legal prescriptions, misused prescriptions, or illegal substances. Even if there are drugs in your system, it will not be determined that night. You will be taken for a blood draw or if you refuse police can go obtain a search warrant to have your blood drawn and it will be sent off to the lab to be analyzed for alcohol and drugs.

Ultimately, police can use your behavior to make an arrest. You may have taken a completely legal drug, from your prescriptions to caffeine, and if the police believe it is causing you to show signs of impairment in your driving or interactions with them, they can charge you. Even if your BAC is lower than the .08 legal limit, police can assess your driving and charge you with a DUI. It is important to remember not to perform any tests in Virginia unless you are arrested. If arrested then you will receive new charges if you fail to provide an alcohol or blood sample as requested.

When You Are Pulled Over for Reckless Driving

Always remember your right to remain silent. There are standard questions, such as your name and whether you have ID, that you should answer to avoid any issues with the police thinking you are not being cooperative or complying with their requests. Beyond that, you don’t have to say another word. This right extends to whether you are under the influence.

Police are trained to coerce a confession out of you. They will ask leading questions like, “What are you on?” or “How much have you had to drink?” They may point to your cupholder and ask, “What’s in the cup?” Do not answer any of these questions.

As outlined above, police can use virtually any substance to justify a DUI or DUID arrest. If you were driving erratically, and you told the police you had a single serving of kava tea, they may decide that your driving was impaired.

Driving Under the Influence Has More Severe Consequences

Both DUI/DUID and reckless driving charges are serious. They are both misdemeanors and could include jail time or heavy fines. They also both add points to a license. Driving under the influence, however, carries even more penalties.

DUI and DUID charges get worse each time you are convicted of this offense. If you are accused more than once over a certain period, penalties become more severe. The charges themselves can go from misdemeanors to felonies. Time in jail gets longer for each offense, even resulting in prison time with enough accusations. Fines start around $200, but they can max out at $2,500 for more offenses. Penalties extend to your very ability to drive. Your car could be impounded, and you could have an IDD (ignition interlock device) installed on your car, even if you were charged with a DUID.

There is also a grave social stigma surrounding a DUI/DUID charge. A potential employer simply sees that you were arrested for driving under the influence and they judge your character or determine that you may not be trusted to fulfill your daughters or make it to work timely, or in a sober manner. You may not have the opportunity to explain the situation or help them understand that the police mishandled your case.


To summarize, if you are pulled over for reckless driving, stay silent and cooperate. If you are already being accused of driving erratically, you don’t want to give the police more ammunition against you. Reckless driving allegations can be severe, and you will want legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. What you do not want, however, is the added hassle of defending yourself against a much more egregious DUI or DUID charge.

If are facing a reckless driving charge, a DUI/DUID, or both, contact The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC
today. You need an attorney who can stand by your side and fight for your innocence. You can reach our office by calling (703) 940-0001">(703) 940-0001 or filling out an online contact form.