No, he didn’t steal the tester… he just drove like he stole it. Patrick George, a writer for car-enthusiast website Jalopnik.com, recently got charged with reckless driving for speeding during his test drive. No doubt, his speed was excessive, but so was the sentence: which entailed three days in jail on a first offense. His eye opening experience led him to write a great first-person account of his brief, yet eye-opening, time in jail: “Never Speed in Virginia: Lessons From My Three Days in Jail“. Go read it now.
The legal issue that stood out for me was that Virginia automatically considers high speed to be reckless driving, and therefore a criminal offense. In Florida, speed alone cannot constitute reckless driving. That’s why when baseball all-star Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers got pulled over flying across the Alligator Alley a few months back, the state ultimately dropped the charges. That didn’t keep an overzealous Trooper from throwing him in jail instead of issuing a citation in the first place, but that’s an argument for another post. But speed alone can be a crime in Virginia, subjecting drivers to up to a year in jail.
I suspect that not many first time reckless drivers actually end up in jail… frankly I hope not. Not only does it cost taxpayers money, it goes against well established principles of recognizance for first time offenders. Sheesh, make a guy pay a fine or do some community service if you have to: something to benefit the community instead of taxing it. I don’t practice in Virginia, but this reeks of small town justice. The national media writer from DC gets popped in a small town, and they hammer him to teach a lesson. This kind of abuse of power also carries the risk of discriminatory sentencing. Think of the cliche little town with an all-powerful judicial figure; Boss Hogg still lives. I keep thinking of “Nothing But Trouble“, an unfortunate Chevy Chase/Dan Akyroyd vehicle from 1991. And in that movie, Chevy Chase actually fled, in this case, Mr. George was immediately contrite. They say speed kills, but random jailings don’t really work as effective deterrents.