Thousands of drivers in Ohio are charged with reckless driving each year. Many don’t realize it, but often, these charges result from over-aggressive law enforcement tactics. Charging someone with reckless driving is an easy way to turn a minor traffic violation into a much more serious charge. A conviction for reckless driving can result in points on your license, expensive fines, and even jail time, not to mention what it will do to your insurance premiums.
If you’re facing reckless driving charges in Central Ohio, the Columbus traffic attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates can assess your situation and will strive to obtain the best possible result. Call LHA at 614-500-3836 or complete our online form if you would like to schedule a free consultation with our experienced reckless driving defense lawyers.
Reckless Driving in Ohio Defined
Under Ohio traffic law, reckless driving or reckless operation is formally referred to as “Operation in Willful or Wanton Disregard of the Safety of Persons or Property.” You can be charged with reckless driving whenever law enforcement believes that you have operated your vehicle so dangerously that you blatantly ignored the safety of other people or property.
Because this is a subjective determination, many reckless driving charges should probably be charged as speeding or other traffic citations. However, law enforcement has broad discretion in deciding whether or not reckless driving charges are appropriate.
Here are some of the factors that may be considered by officers when charging someone with reckless driving:
- Running a red light
- Exceeding the speed limit by 25 miles per hour or more
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Passing illegally
- Jumping the curb
- Going the wrong way down a one-way street
As you are likely well aware, these factors don’t always tell the whole story. An experienced attorney can help you challenge the prosecution’s assertion that you were driving with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others.
Potential Penalties for Reckless Driving
A conviction for reckless driving could result in points on your license, fines, and even jail time in certain situations. The first offense is considered a minor misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of $150. If you’ve been convicted of another traffic offense within the last year, the reckless driving charge is elevated to a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Reckless driving as a fourth-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to $250 in fines and possibly 30 days in jail.
Reckless driving is elevated to a third-degree misdemeanor if you’ve been convicted of two or more traffic offenses within the last year. In this situation, you could be facing up to 60 days in jail and $500 in fines.
A reckless driving conviction could also result in four points on your license. If you get 12 or more points within two years, your license is automatically suspended. However, state law also gives the courts discretion to suspend your license for anywhere from six months to three years for a single conviction for reckless operation.
Keep in mind that a reckless driving conviction could result in substantial increases to your insurance premiums. If you drive for a living, a conviction could also cost you your job or severely limit your ability to make a living.
Defenses to Reckless Driving Charges
Since determining reckless operation is so open to interpretation, how do you establish whether or not someone has operated their vehicle with “willful and wanton” disregard of the safety of others? The prosecution can point to certain factors as evidence of your intent, but an experienced defense attorney can identify the weaknesses in their case and challenge the underlying assumptions.
Here are some ways that an experienced reckless driving lawyer may challenge a reckless driving charge and fight you ticket:
- The officer’s radar equipment was not properly calibrated or functioning properly
- Available video footage does not support the officer’s version of the incident
- There were mechanical issues with your vehicle that caused the incident
- You were suffering from an illness or other health issues that caused the incident
- There were traffic issues that caused you to take the actions that you did, such as avoiding another vehicle or other hazards
- Weather conditions led to reduced visibility or loss of control of your vehicle
- Poor signage or visibility created an unsafe road condition
Just because you’ve been charged with reckless driving doesn’t mean you’re guilty. A lesser charge may be appropriate, or you may not be guilty of any crime at all.
DUI/DWI/OVI and Reckless Driving
Many first-time OVI offenses for driving while under the influence (commonly referred to as OVI in Ohio) are prosecuted as reckless driving offenses. This may be because the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to support an OVI charge. As a result, the prosecution may offer to reduce your OVI charge to reckless driving charge if you accept a plea agreement. While reckless driving is a less serious charge than OVI, you should be aware that the penalties can be very similar. An experienced OVI defense attorney can help you decide whether or not either OVI or reckless driving charges are appropriate in your case.
Contact a Columbus Ohio Reckless Driving Defense Attorney
Reckless driving charges can carry serious consequences – fines, suspension of your license, and even jail time. Many people think that they should just plead guilty because fighting the charge would be a waste of time, or that the court will be lenient if they cooperate. Unfortunately, people learn that this is not the case only after the plea has been entered and the penalties have been imposed.
If you’ve been charged with reckless driving, we encourage you to at least talk to a traffic attorney. The Columbus, Ohio criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates have extensive experience dealing with reckless driving charges in Ohio. We can evaluate the prosecution’s case and tell you whether or not you should fight the charges. With decades of experience, we know what it takes to successfully deal with any traffic case.