In the state of New Jersey, drivers can face a careless driving or a reckless driving charge. Careless driving charges come with less severe penalties. Careless driving is when a driver operates their vehicle without due caution in a way that could endanger others. Reckless driving, on the other hand, is when someone drives a vehicle with “willful or wanton” disregard for the safety of others. A careless driving charge comes with fines and driving record points.

It is possible to fight your careless driving charges with the help of an experienced attorney. Often, an attorney can help get charges dropped or downgraded so that the driver can avoid the fines and license points. Leon Matchin is a New Jersey attorney who has helped many drivers get out of careless driving charges. If you or a loved one has received a careless driving charge and need help, contact him today. But first, what exactly does careless driving entail?

What Does Careless Driving Mean?

New Jersey Law Section 39:4-97 describes careless driving as “a person who drives a vehicle carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of careless driving.” An officer can give a careless driving charge in a variety of situations. This could include aggressive driving, dangerously weaving in and out of traffic, excessive honking, using a handheld cellphone while driving, etc. Careless driving can be thought of as negligent driving. Distracted driving, aggressive driving, and driving with an overall lack of care for the safety of others are all considered careless acts.  

Careless Driving Consequences 

Careless driving comes with a few consequences. First, drivers will owe a fine between $50-$200 depending on the circumstances of the situation. Second, the driver will receive two points on their driving record. Third, there is the potential that the driver may face a maximum of 15 days in jail. Not all careless driving cases require jail time; it depends on the situation. 

While the fine isn’t too hefty compared to some other New Jersey traffic violations, getting points on your license is never a good thing. Points can increase your insurance rate. If you have received points on your record, it’s always a good idea to contact your insurance company to determine if your monthly rates will be increasing. Also, drivers who get six or more points within three years will be given a surcharge. If you get twelve or more points on your license, it will be suspended.

If you do end up receiving points on your license, there are ways to get them reduced. For example, by going a year without violations and suspensions, you can get three points taken off your record. You can have additional points removed by taking qualified driving courses. Through working with an attorney, you may be able to get your careless driving charge dropped or downgraded to avoid having any points attached to your record.

Careless Driving vs. Reckless Driving

As mentioned above, careless driving involves negligence on the part of the driver so that they are endangering other people. Reckless driving is a step beyond careless driving. A reckless driving charge could be given for excessive speeding, running traffic lights, improper passing, etc. Reckless driving comes with more severe consequences. A first offense leads to fines of $50-$200 and jail time of up to 60 days.

If the reckless driving charge is a second offense, the driver will owe fines of $100-$500 and face up to three months in jail. Sometimes drivers use these terms interchangeably, but it’s important to know that they are different under New Jersey law. Whichever charge you are facing, be sure to work with a New Jersey attorney like Leon Matchin. He can analyze the details of your case to create a defense to hopefully have charges dropped or at least downgraded.

Potential Defenses in Court 

There are many ways that a driver can get their careless driving charge cleared or reduced through working with an attorney. It’s essential to have an attorney review the details of your case because often, factors will stand out to them that you may not have even noticed yourself. For example, talking on a handheld cell phone while driving is illegal in the state of New Jersey and could lead to a careless driving charge. Twenty-five other states share this same law in regards to handheld phones while driving. What if you just moved from a state that allowed handheld phones while driving? You might not have even known you were breaking the law! This could be used as a defense in court. The goal is for your attorney to convince the court that you were not negligent in your driving. 

How An Attorney Can Help With Careless Driving Charges

We’ve all seen careless drivers on the road. They may be quickly weaving in and out of traffic or distracted while talking on their cell phone. These negligent acts are against the law and are cause for a police officer to provide a careless driving charge. This charge penalizes drivers with fines, license points, and even possible jail time. Keep in mind this is different from a reckless driving charge. Reckless driving is more severe; it’s “wilful and wanton disregard” for others, while careless driving is more based on negligence. Reckless driving comes with harsher penalties, including higher fines and longer jail time.

If you have received a careless driving charge and plan to fight your charges, contact a New Jersey attorney like Leon Matchin. During the initial consultation, he will learn about your case and share with you ideas and strategies about how he thinks charges can be dropped or downgraded. Leon Matchin is very experienced when it comes to fighting traffic violations. He has been a working attorney for almost two decades! For more information about how he can help, contact Leon Matchin right away by phone at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected]