What is Reckless Driving in Utah:
Reckless Driving is a pretty serious charge. Here in Utah, it is a Misdemeanor B, which is the same level of offense as a DUI. There are two ways to commit reckless driving: you can either
- “operate a vehicle in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” (see Utah Code 41-6a-528(1)(a)), or you can
- commit “three or more moving traffic violations . . . in a series of acts occurring within a single continuous period of driving covering three miles or less in total distance.” (see Utah Code 41-6a-528(1)(b)).
The second way is pretty obvious: you count the number of traffic offenses made during three miles of driving. The first way is much more subjective (see below).
What exactly is “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”?
It’s a good question. Arguably, a driver operates a vehicle in willful disregard for the safety of others every time they drive over the speed limit when other cars are nearby, but obviously not everyone charged with speeding is also charged with reckless driving. It probably has to be something more clearly dangerous. Speeding through a group of school children crossing at a crosswalk probably fits the bill. For cases somewhere in between, it will just depend on the judge or jury hearing the case at trial. For that reason, if you’re charged for Reckless Driving it can be important to have a skilled advocate to argue your case for you.
What are the penalties for Reckless Driving:
The maximum possible penalties for a Misdemeanor B offense such as Reckless Driving are six months in jail and a $1000 fine. As with most maximum penalties, it is unlikely that a given judge would send a first offender away for the maximum stay in jail, but it is technically a possibility. In addition to the maximum criminal penalties, there are possible collateral consequences to consider:
- raised insurance rates
- effect on your driver’s license (see below)
- a criminal record
Reckless Driving and Your Utah Driver’s License:
A Reckless Driving conviction, by itself, should not suspend your Utah driver’s license (unlike a DUI, which does suspend it automatically). However, the Driver’s License Division can suspend your license when you accumulate 200 “points” on your record, and Reckless Driving will put 80 points on your record. So, depending on your current driving record and points level, a Reckless conviction could put you over the maximum.
What To Do If You’ve Been Charged With Reckless Driving:
Reckless Driving is a serious charge, but it is possible to fight it. As I explained above, there are two ways to commit it: by committing three other traffic offenses in a row, or by driving in “willful or wanton disregard” for public safety. So, to fight the case, you would have to argue either that three traffic offenses didn’t happen or that the driving was not in willful and wanton disregard for public safety. Often, this will be a technical argument for which it helps to have a criminal defense attorney on your side. Feel free to contact me about it. I will discuss your case with you without any pressure or obligation, and then you can decide how you want to proceed. Good luck.