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Reckless Driving Charges Dismissed on Virginia Law Typo

Posted on Dec 24, 2010
A man was ticketed one morning as he passed a school bus that was stopped with its lights flashing to pick up children. The driver received a reckless driving citation for zipping past a stopped school bus in Northern Virginia. He was already having a bad morning, as he was laid off of his job and found his tools were stolen. Then, he broke a traffic law and learned that reckless driving in Virginia is not just a traffic violation, but a criminal misdemeanor.

Mendez hired an attorney because reckless driving carries stiff fines and can be punishable by jail time. Mendez’s attorney studied the Virginia bus safety statute and found the word “at” to be missing in the state law. The law reads, “A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.” Mendez’s attorney argued that the way the law reads is that it is making it illegal to fail to stop a school bus, instead of “fail to stop at a school bus.” This very little but important word changed the entire case for this Northern Virginia man.

The attorney’s argument led to the acquittal of Mendez’s reckless driving charge in Virginia. A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge found Mendez not guilty because there was no evidence that the man failed to stop a school bus. Joe Morrissey, State Delegate, also found the man not guilty of reckless driving after he reviewed the Virginia law and found the typo in the law.

Another version of this school bus safety law has been submitted and will be corrected in the 2011 General Assembly session.

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