When you drive recklessly, you put yourself and others at risk of harm or injury. Reckless driving is among the top three charges New Jerseyans face and is the cause of several accidents every year. Reckless driving is most commonly associated with driving under the influence, but one can also be charged for reckless driving under other conditions. When you face charges for driving recklessly, you’ll need a knowledgeable defense attorney on your side to help reduce the charges or get the ticket dismissed altogether.
What is Reckless Driving?
According to New Jersey law, reckless driving is defined as driving “heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property.” Essentially, you are driving recklessly when you get behind the wheel knowing that you are impaired or taking driving actions you know could cause an accident.
Along with driving while intoxicated, the following also create conditions for a reckless driving ticket:
- Driving at speeds over 80 MPH or 20 MPH over the posted speed limit
- Weaving in and out of traffic lanes
- Texting or using a hand-held cell phone
- Failure to use indicators when turning or switching lanes
If you are charged with driving recklessly, you’ll need a strong defense to help your case in court.
Penalties for Reckless Driving
New Jersey treats reckless driving situations seriously, with harsh punishments for offenders. The severity and length of each penalty differ depending on a few factors. Reckless driving charges that don’t result in property damage or bodily injury carry lesser punishments than those that did. Multiple offenses carry harsher penalties as well. Overall, the following penalties can apply to drivers charged with reckless driving.
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According to NJ Code 39:4-96, first offenders found guilty of reckless driving can face a sentence of up to 60 days in either county or municipal jail. Jail sentences continue to rise with each offense, with second offenses resulting in up to three months in jail.
License Points and Surcharges
When your driver’s license hits six points, you’re hit with a state surcharge. The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission will add five points to a driver’s license if found guilty of reckless driving. Once you hit six points, you’ll be charged $150, plus an additional $25 per point over the six-point threshold. This means that two reckless driving charges would result in a surcharge of $250.
Along with surcharges for license points, reckless drivers are also charged with a fine. First offenders can expect to pay an additional fine somewhere between $50 and $200, depending on the severity of the case. Multiple offenders can expect fines upwards of $500.
The courts themselves can issue a fee for reckless driving charges. Drivers may have an additional $33 in court costs when facing a reckless driving ticket.
Insurance Rate Increase
Auto insurance companies are highly reactive to any drivers charged with reckless driving. Even without a conviction, your insurance rate and premiums can rise, sometimes as much as 50%. Some insurance companies may even drop your insurance altogether or put you into a high-risk plan with additional monthly fees.
Being charged with reckless driving is a serious event, even if you aren’t convicted. By working with an experienced defense attorney, you can reduce penalties and lower the chance of conviction.
Building a Defense for Reckless Driving
Not all charges for reckless driving stick. With a good defense attorney on your side, you can find ways to reduce the charges of your case and eliminate the heavy penalties reckless driving carries. A ticket can be dismissed when the key elements of the charge are disproved. For a charge to stick as reckless driving, the following must be true:
- The driver’s actions put others at risk.
- The driver willfully disregarded the safety of others.
Consider, for example, running a stop sign. Some courts may consider this an act of reckless driving. However, according to driving laws, running a stop sign is not by itself considered an act of willful disregard for safety. (If the driver was also intoxicated during this time, that would be a different story.) There are rules and regulations in place for stop sign violations, but they are not nearly as harsh as reckless driving charges. Downgrading charges to other road regulations is a common tactic to help dismiss a ticket.
Even in cases where there is property damage or bodily injury, one can have a reckless driving ticket dismissed by proving that the act was not willful in any way. After all, there are such things as pure accidents, which fall under the less-severe impact of a careless driving charge. If a driver does accidentally damage property or cause harm, then full and immediate cooperation with the authorities can help reduce the charge to a careless driving charge, especially if they were not breaking any other laws on the road.
Get Help with Your Reckless Driving Ticket
If you face a reckless driving charge, contact Attorney Leon Matchin today. His work in the New Jersey court system has given him all the knowledge and experience needed to help reduce the charges. He’ll work hard for you and your case, getting you back to good standing once again. For help with your ticket, call Attorney Matchin at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.