Traffic Violations

Reckless Driving: What Does It Mean and What Are the Consequences?

Reckless driving occurs when a driver operates their vehicle with willful disregard for the safety of others. This charge is frequently a companion charge to excessive speeding or driving under the influence. The state of New Jersey takes reckless driving charges very seriously, as this act puts other innocent drivers and pedestrians in harm’s way. Penalties include jail time, loss of license, fines, and license points. The best thing to do after receiving this charge is to contact a New Jersey attorney like Leon Matchin. When working with an attorney, the ultimate goal is always to have the charges completely dismissed. If that is not possible, the goal becomes having the charges downgraded to a lesser charge such as “careless driving” or “obstructing traffic.” This way, the driver does not face harsher consequences for their actions. An attorney will help you understand the New Jersey law regarding reckless driving and what consequences typically go along with this charge.

What Does a Reckless Driving Charge Mean?

New Jersey Statutes 39:4-96 defines reckless driving. The law states that “A person who drives a vehicle heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or likely to endanger a person or property, shall be guilty of reckless driving…”

Reckless driving is a moving violation, but it has much higher penalties than other moving violations. The key part of a reckless charge is the “willful disregard.” Someone who is charged with reckless driving is purposely and knowingly endangering themselves and others with their driving. Reckless driving could involve excessive speeding or driving while intoxicated. Both are purposeful endangerment and considered reckless.

Penalties/Consequences

A charge of reckless driving comes with jail time, a fine, and license points. License suspension is not technically a requirement. The judge will often decide that the driver should lose their license for 6 months. For a first offense, the driver will go to county or municipal jail for a maximum of 60 days. Otherwise, they will face fines from $50 to $200. In some cases, the driver will face both jail time and the fine. For subsequent offenses, the driver will be put in jail for a maximum of 3 months and/or be fined between $100 and $500.

Additionally, the driver will receive 5 points on their license. These license points come with added penalties. Drivers can be charged surcharges for having excessive points on their license. This happens if 6 or more points are incurred within 3 years. If the driver has 12 or more license points, the driver’s license will be suspended. Also, license points define drivers as “high-risk,” meaning their insurance rates will increase. The good news for drivers is that these points don’t last forever. For every year drivers have without receiving a ticket or license suspension, 3 points will be reduced from the total. There is also a course that drivers can take to get additional points taken off their total. Taking the course can speed up the process of having points removed from the license.

How a New Jersey Attorney Can Help

A New Jersey attorney like Leon Matchin has years of experience working with clients who have been charged with reckless driving. The ultimate goal is to have charges dismissed. For the charge to go through, the court must prove that the driver was operating a vehicle with willful disregard for the rights and safety of others and that they were consciously aware that their actions were a risk to others. An attorney can often use loopholes in these requirements to have charges completely dismissed. If that’s not possible, charges can often be downgraded so that the driver avoids some of the harsher penalties. 

Options for Reckless Driving Charges

One option is to have charges downgraded to a “careless driving” charge. The difference between careless and reckless driving is that reckless is purposeful and careless is negligent without bad intent. The consequences for careless driving are less extreme. Jail time is a possibility but the court usually doesn’t impose it. Usually the driver just receives a small fine for court fees and 2 points on their license. This small amount of points is less likely to cause insurance rates to go up like the 5 points from reckless driving would. Additionally, a lawyer can try to have charges reduced to “obstructing traffic” or “unsafe driving,” both of which come with lesser consequences than reckless driving.

The state of New Jersey specifies reckless driving as a “willful” act that puts other people and property in danger. This charge comes with more severe consequences than a charge of careless driving. Careless driving is negligent in nature without willful intent. Penalties include jail time, potential loss of license, fines, and points on the license. Each of these penalties can seem scary as they are very disruptive to the driver’s life. 

Fortunately, an attorney can often have charges dismissed or at least downgraded to avoid harsher penalties.  While this charge may initially seem overwhelming, you don’t have to deal with it alone. Your attorney will complete a detailed analysis of your case and determine the best possible defenses to use in court. During your initial consultation, be sure to provide your attorney with any details relevant to your case including the circumstances of the situation and past driving history/records.

Contact New Jersey Attorney Leon Matchin for Reckless Driving Charges

If you’re facing reckless driving charges, give Leon Matchin, a New Jersey attorney, a call at (833) 732-7320. You can also contact him via email at leon@matchin.intersectwp.com. He will set up an initial consultation to learn more about you and your case.

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