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What is the Penalty for Dangerous Driving?

A person who is driving erratically, traveling at unsafe speeds or generally driving in a manner that may threaten the wellbeing of others, may be pulled over for reckless driving. Unlike so many other kinds of traffic violations, the outcome of the driver’s actions dictates how a driver is penalized for reckless driving, in that they will get a harsher sentence if there is an accident. Although it is technically a misdemeanor, reckless driving can have severe consequences in terms of fees, jail time and the safety of the driver and anyone near them. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor for which you can spend five to 90 days in jail, You may pay a fine of $145 to $1,000, or both.

How is Reckless Driving Determined?

To charge a person with reckless driving, an arresting officer must prove that the person they are arresting was indeed the driver and that they exhibited a wanton disregard for safety. In cases where there has been an accident, it must be proven that the reckless driver proximately caused the accident. Police cameras and eyewitness testimony are very important to proving reckless driving in court. Just speeding alone is not considered reckless.

What is Wanton Disregard?

Proving that a person was driving recklessly can be problematic because the definition of reckless driving has to do with what the driver’s motivation was at the time. The expression “wanton disregard” means that a driver would have deliberately ignored the law and done so without provocation. The law states that a driver must be aware that his or her actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm. The word unjustifiable can be ambiguous in certain situations.

If a person is speeding because they are rushing to the hospital or because they have to keep up with the traffic around them, their actions may be considered justifiable and, they are likely not to be charged with reckless driving. However, if a person drives erratically or speeds because they are running from the law, they would be considered to have caused the emergency and their action would not be considered justifiable. If a person is speeding or driving erratically because they think it’s fun, or because they are under the influence of drugs, they are likely to be charged with reckless driving.

Plea Bargaining on Reckless Driving Charge

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and defense in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for certain stipulations. There are several different ways that an attorney can plea bargain on a reckless driving offense.

If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she can use a plea bargain called a “wet reckless.” If you use this plea, you can get a reduced sentence and there will be a note on your paperwork saying you were drunk or under the influence of drugs at the time. A wet reckless is a prior-able offense, meaning that if a driver is arrested on DUI charges within ten years, he or she will be considered a repeat offender.

A dry reckless plea is not considered prior-able and it is typically used when the driver’s breath alcohol content is lower than 0.8. It is sometimes offered as a compromise when an arresting officer has made a procedural error.

Possible Defense Arguments

A good defense attorney that specializes in reckless driving charges like Timothy J. Ryan & Associates, will know enough about the law to get you a reduced sentence or no sentence at all. If you were driving recklessly due to an emergency, speeding without driving recklessly or not actually the one who was driving, a qualified defense attorney will know how to use the law to get you back on the road.