Reckless driving can be generally described as operating a vehicle in “willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others." New Jersey’s statutes specifically define it as driving in a manner “so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger a person or property.” Essentially, if the motorist’s driving places property or other people at risk, he or she may be charged with reckless driving.
Reckless driving in New Jersey may result in being jailed for up to 60 days and receiving a fine of up to $200. Subsequent offenses can increase jail time to 90 days and a fine as much as $500. In New Jersey, reckless driving will result in the imposition of 5 motor vehicle points and insurance eligibility points.
Proving Reckless Driving
Although intent need not be proved, the state does have to show that the driver was aware of the risk his driving conduct entailed, and that they consciously disregarded it. For instance, the court considers the degree of risk. Someone driving 100 miles per hour on an empty desert highway may not be guilty of reckless conduct as defined by statute, but doing so in the midst of traffic or pedestrians would likely qualify. Simple or even gross negligence is often not sufficient to constitute reckless driving.
Other examples of reckless driving include driving with a blood alcohol content below the legal limit of 0.08 percent combined with driving past a stopped school bus, through a red light or stop sign, or weaving through congested traffic.
Reckless driving cases involve complex legal issues and defense strategies that require the expertise of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to ensure that your rights are preserved and you are not unjustly tried or sentenced.
Careless driving can be defined as driving a vehicle without due caution and circumspection so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, property or another person. Other examples include: running a red light, excessive speed, or losing control of a vehicle, or making an unsafe turn. Although these items are not usually treated as a criminal offense, these violations can still add 2 points to a New Jersey driver’s record and the imposition of insurance eligibility points.
Some common defenses to reckless and careless driving charges include:
- No person or property was at risk by your driving conduct.
- A Miranda violation - Police failed to advise you of your rights or violated your rights.
- Flawed blood or breath testing procedures - Reckless driving can accompany charges of driving while impaired. Successfully challenging breath or blood alcohol results may reduce the charge or get it dismissed.
- Sloppy police investigation - This can include misidentifying witnesses, noting incorrectly the accident or violation scene, or failing to document evidence in your favor.
If arrested or charged with reckless driving, you do not have to talk to a police officer or give them any information other than your driver's license, insurance and registration information. Reckless driving is a criminal offense and you are entitled to all the protections afforded any other criminal defendant.
If there are witnesses that observed your driving conduct and can testify that your driving endangered no one or any property, they can be invaluable to your defense.
Reckless driving can result in incarceration, substantial fines, increased insurance rates, driver's license suspension, and consequences to your employment.
Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer can provide you with the resources and knowledge necessary to mount a viable defense leading to reduced sentencing or a dismissal of the charges.