When someone is facing a charge for driving recklessly, also known as reckless driving, it means that the driver was driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, and with a willful disregard of the relevant consequences. 

Reckless driving is considered a traffic offense that either may or may not have caused damage to property or an accident. It is frequently associated with similarly related driving offenses, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, street racing, and driving with serious disregard as to other traffic laws. 

A driver is said to be driving recklessly when the driver is negligent in maintaining reasonable control of their vehicle. However, a driver’s actions that amount to mere negligence and are not found to reach the level of willful or wanton disregard of the safety or consequences associated with the operation of their vehicle, is not sufficient to establish reckless driving.

What are Some Examples that Qualify as Reckless Driving?

A charge of reckless driving is a much more serious offense than a charge for careless driving, or alternatively, distracted driving. The difference lies in the fact that reckless driving involves a certain level of intent in the disregard of the law. In contrast, careless or distracted driving may not necessarily amount to an intentional act. 

Drivers who exhibit any of the following conduct may be considered to be driving recklessly: 

  • Drag racing or street racing (demonstrates excess speed);
  • Ghost-riding, which is when a driver allows a car to roll away without the driver;
  • Performing tricks or stunts with a motorcycle or a car. For example, tricks involving drifting, handstands, wheelies, or car surfing, would all qualify; 
  • Driving a vehicle that is dangerously impaired;
  • Stopping short and without warning in moving traffic;
  • Attempting to evade a police officer; 
  • Illegal passing or passing a vehicle when visibility is limited on a two-lane highway; 
  • Attempting to evade a police officer; and
  • Various other acts, such as running red lights, tailgating, joyriding, driving at night without headlights, or driving 25mph over the required speed limit.

If a driver is using their vehicle in a threatening manner (e.g., as if it were a weapon), the court will usually treat this type of behavior more seriously. They will usually do this by classifying it as either a crime of assault or felony assault.

What are Some of the Consequences of Driving Recklessly?

Driving recklessly can result in some serious traffic and criminal charges for the driver. Depending on the laws of the state, the penalties can range from anywhere between fines to prison. 

Some common punishments for driving recklessly include the following:

  • Traffic violation fines or fees;
  • Charges for criminal misdemeanor;
  • Charges that result in a felony criminal record;
  • Probation; and
  • Imprisonment. 

It is also possible to receive several of the above punishments for one charge, or be charged with multiple violations. For example, in situations where serious bodily injury occurs as the result of a driver’s reckless driving, it can carry a heightened charge of aggravated reckless driving and may lead to a charge for a Class 4 felony

For reference, someone who is found to commit a Class 4 felony can face a prison sentence, ranging from a minimum of 2 years up to 10 years of imprisonment. They may also have to pay fines that have the potential to reach a maximum of $10,000. 

Additionally, victims of reckless driving accidents are entitled to file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the harm or property damages. Civil lawsuits are often quite expensive and may affect an individual for years to come. 

Lastly, there are some defenses to driving recklessly. These may include: the driver tried to avoid harm or damage to others, an emergency situation occurred, or the driver was involuntarily intoxicated. 

Since states traffic laws and their resulting penalties vary widely by state, a consultation with a local attorney can be very beneficial for resolving a claim. 

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Charges Involving Driving Recklessly?

Driving recklessly is a serious matter and can lead to receiving a criminal record when it is not handled properly. Therefore, if you are facing a charge for driving recklessly, you should consider contacting a local criminal defense attorney immediately.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you of your rights and the best legal approaches that you can take in the matter. A skilled lawyer can also determine what defenses, if any, are available to use in your case. 

Additionally, an attorney can also help to prepare your case, discuss the possible consequences that you could face, and most importantly, represent you in court to the best of their ability.

Thus, when facing a charge for driving recklessly, having an attorney on your side can be extremely useful.