Reckless driving charges can arise from seemingly harmless mistakes that people make at the wheel. Even situations where no one gets hurt and no property gets damaged can lead to reckless driving charges. Maybe you were in a rush and exceeded the speed limit by more than you thought, or perhaps you had a close call with a nearby vehicle on the highway, only to get pulled over by a state trooper.
Regardless of the reason behind the charges, people are often surprised to learn how serious their so-called minor infraction actually is. Unlike many traffic citations, reckless driving isn't just a ticket that you can pay and forget about.
It is a common misdemeanor offense that is a more serious version of the lesser traffic offense of careless driving. You shouldn't ignore the potential impact such a charge could have on your life, not the least of which could be a criminal record, even if it is only a traffic offense.
What constitutes reckless driving?
Reckless driving involves behavior that disregards the safety of others. If a driver does something that they know will cause risk to others or could very likely endanger people, they drive in a way that the law defines as reckless. Intent matters in these cases. People should be aware of the risk and choose to make a bad driving decision anyway.
Racing, getting behind the wheel while drunk, aggressive driving or driving the wrong way on a road could all be reasons for an officer to cite someone for reckless driving. The officer who witnesses or responds to a traffic incident has significant discretion in determining whether or not what happened constitutes reckless driving.
What are the penalties for reckless driving?
The exact penalty you may face will depend on your previous driving record, as well as the outcome of the incident. A first reckless driving offense will likely carry a fine of up to $200, as well as up to 60 days in jail. A second offense could result in a fine of as much as $500, while the potential jail time increases to as much as three months.
Additionally, reckless driving means five points against your license, which means you only need one more point to wind up paying the state surcharge for the next three years. Your motor vehicle insurance carrier will also likely increase your rates, as reckless driving is an indicator of increased risk.
It is possible to defend against allegations of reckless driving. Sometimes, drivers can acknowledge that they made a bad decision and potentially plead to a lesser traffic violation, such as careless driving. Other times, a misinterpretation of circumstances may have been what resulted in the citation to begin with. The exact situation that resulted in reckless driving allegations will inform the best strategy for a defense.