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Reckless Driving

What Is Reckless Driving?

Different states define reckless driving, or dangerous driving, differently according to their laws. However, in general, it refers to driving with willful or wanton disregard, or blatant indifference to other people or property.

Have you or someone you know received a traffic ticket for reckless driving? If so, seek help from an attorney knowledgeable of your state’s reckless driving laws.

Although it is a moving traffic violation, the legal system also classifies reckless driving as a criminal charge. This is because reckless driving is more than just speeding. So, how does it differ?

Reckless Driving vs. Speeding

Someone exceeding a street or highway’s speed limit usually receives a speeding ticket if caught by the police. This does not necessarily indicate the driver puts others in danger.

On the other hand, most states classify reckless driving as a misdemeanor. It implies a more conscious and willful desire to drive dangerously. Here, a driver has full awareness of driving dangerously and continues to do so despite the realization.

In some states, it also depends on how much you exceed the speed limit. For example, law enforcement may consider fewer than 25 mph as speeding. Anything faster than that becomes dangerous driving.

There is a fine line between the two. It is in these gray areas that an attorney helps demonstrate that your driving amounts to speeding more than sheer recklessness.

How Do Courts Determine Whether Your Driving Is Reckless?

While the circumstances of each case may differ, courts look for some general factors:

  • What time did the incident occur?
  • Was the driver under the influence of drugs or otherwise intoxicated?
  • Was there fog, rain, snow or other extreme weather affecting driving ability?
  • Were other people around?
  • Did the driver act negligently?
  • Did the motorist have reason to believe her or his actions were unsafe and harmful to those around them?

Whether recorded evidence of the incident exists affects the verdict. However, even in extreme cases, a dedicated attorney can help lower your sentence.

Examples of Dangerous Driving

Still not sure if yours was a case of reckless driving? Here are a few examples of dangerous driving that can help illustrate what it is:

  • Driving over 30 mph over the highway speed limit
  • If you are driving without the use of your headlights
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Driving with no regard for traffic signals or stop signs
  • Attempting to race all vehicles on the road

Do you find yourself involved in situations like these or ones similar to them? A strong defense can help you in court.

Defenses Against Reckless Driving

The right attorney can help you create a defense strategy tailored to your situation. Depending on your circumstances, it could center on one or several of the following defenses:

  • Not the Driver: Here, you must prove it was not you driving the car. Without proper evidence that incriminates you as the driver of the vehicle, a court cannot convict you.
  • Acting Out of Necessity: A good attorney can prove your actions resulted from necessity, rather than willful negligence. Your mindset is of primary importance while determining reckless driving. If you acted on an emergency or threat that provoked you to drive a certain way, the court may see your case differently.
  • An Act of Negligence: Negligence is not intentional. Oversight or failing to meet your duty of care do not, by themselves, amount to recklessness. An experienced lawyer can help prove you were only acting negligently and not being purposefully reckless.
  • Speeding: As discussed above, speeding is not the same as reckless driving. In most cases, speeding only warrants a speeding ticket. The prosecution must show how they assess your speed, and what equipment they used to do so.

These are just a few applicable defenses for your situation. For a more personalized defense, consult an experienced lawyer familiar with driving laws in your geographic location.

What Happens If You Have Reckless Driving Charges Against You?

A charge for reckless driving could go on your driving and criminal record. Penalties vary from state to state, but could include:

  • Imprisonment
  • Fines
  • Probation
  • Community Service
  • Revocation or suspension of the driver’s license

Is Reckless Driving a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

Courts generally classify reckless driving as a misdemeanor. This means you can receive a prison sentence for up to a year.

However, if your reckless driving directly caused harm to property or another person, you could face a felony charge. In this case, you could receive a prison sentence that exceeds one year.

When to Hire a Lawyer

Have you or a loved one received a reckless driving charge? Are you struggling to come up with a good defense? Does your state classify reckless driving as a criminal offense?

If you are in any of these situations, hire a lawyer.

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