A person can be charged with reckless driving if they operate a vehicle in a way that creates a risk for others. If a person is charged with reckless driving, it is not a traffic violation, but is actually considered a criminal offense, classified as a misdemeanor. The assistance of the top criminal defense attorneys Fairfax, Virginia residents rely on may be beneficial.
How is reckless driving different than other types of violations?
When a person is charged with a traffic violation, there are no circumstances that are considered when determining whether that driver is guilty or not. For example, a driver is speeding if they are traveling over the posted speed limit. They are guilty of running a red light if they do not stop their vehicle when the light turns red.
Reckless driving charges are different and a conviction is dependent on the circumstances of the case. This is because when a person is charged with reckless driving, they go through the same criminal process as other types of crimes. They are arrested, read their rights, and are required to show up in court.
How is reckless driving proven in court?
There are several issues the court will examine when determining whether or not a driver was guilty of reckless driving. These include:
- State of mind: Reckless driving goes beyond just being a negligent driver or making a mistake. There must have been a willful or wanton disregard for safety on the part of the driver. A prosecutor must prove that the driver knew or should have known that their behavior or action created a danger to those around them.
- Situational factors: There are many factors the court can consider when determining guilt or innocence of the driver, including whether the driver was familiar with the area they were traveling in, whether were other people or animals in the area, what were the weather conditions, what time of day this occurred, and more.
- Risks: All a prosecutor has to prove is that the driver’s behavior caused a potential safety risk, not that there was anyone actually in danger at the time. The fact that the driver created the risk is enough to qualify as reckless driving.
- There are some states that have passed laws which name certain driving behavior as automatic qualifying as reckless driving. These are referred to as “pro se” behaviors. These may include violations such as:
- Passing a school bus
- Racing with another vehicle
- Traveling a certain speed over the posted speed limit.
What are the penalties if a driver is convicted of reckless driving?
The penalties for a reckless driving conviction depends on the individual’s driving and criminal record. Each state sets its own penalties, but these generally include:
- Fines: This is the minimum penalty you can receive, however, fines for reckless driving are usually hefty and can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances of your case.
- License suspension: Many states have a mandatory license suspension, even for first time reckless driving offenders. Multiple traffic violations can result in a much longer suspension term.
- Probation or jail: Misdemeanor convictions can result in a jail sentence of up to 12 months. The court has the discretion to hand down a jail sentence if the offender has an extensive poor driving or criminal record. In some cases, the judge could sentence the offender to probation instead of jail.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Dave Albo – Attorney for their knowledge about reckless driving charges and criminal defense.