When drivers drive carelessly or without regard for the safety of other people, they can be charged with reckless driving in North Carolina. Reckless driving is a broad category that can include running red lights, speeding, and other types of traffic infractions. Unlike other infractions, reckless driving isn’t just a moving violation, it’s a crime.
Even if a driver who is usually safe and conscientious makes a mistake on the road, they could be charged with a reckless driving violation in North Carolina. In cases like these, it is your right to seek a vigorous defense to help you avoid criminal prosecution and possible suspension of your driver’s license. Contact the experienced traffic violation attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith to schedule your free initial consultation.
North Carolina’s Reckless Driving Law
Due to North Carolina’s broad driving laws, drivers found to be speeding or committing other seemingly minor offenses can be convicted of reckless driving. Those convicted can be subjected to criminal penalties, including costly fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges if they are convicted.
Under North Carolina law, a driver can be convicted when the prosecutor can prove that he or she:
- Drove “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others,” or
- Drove “without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property”
Reckless driving can include all of the following behaviors:
- Running a stop sign
- Tunning a red light
- Aggressive and careless lane changes
- Highway or street racing
- Illegal passing of another vehicle
- Tailgating (following another vehicle too closely)
- Failing to yield the right away when it is required
Do I Need to be Driving Erratically to Get a Ticket?
There is a common misconception that a person needs to be driving erratically to be charged with reckless driving. This isn’t the case in North Carolina. A driver doesn’t have to be swerving or using extremely excessive speeds to face this type of criminal charge. Anytime a driver has been caught driving at least 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit and the speed limit is under 55 miles an hour, a police officer can charge the driver with reckless driving.
As the speed limit increases, the threshold for facing charges decreases. For example, if the speed limit is under 70 mph and a driver is found to be driving over 70 mph, the driver could still face reckless driving charges, even though he or she is only driving 5 miles over the speed limit. Likewise, if a driver is driving 75 miles per hour and the speed limit is 65 mph, law enforcement can pull the driver over and charge the driver with reckless driving.
The Penalties for Reckless Driving
It is possible that a person convicted of reckless driving will face jail time, although it isn’t typically the case. In North Carolina, reckless driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail. In many cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney can successfully argue for the jail time to be dropped or for probation to replace jail time.
Jail time isn’t the only punishment a driver can face for driving recklessly. A conviction can result in 4 points on a driver’s license and a driver’s license suspension of up to 12 months. Defendants also face fines of up to $1,000. Additionally, insurance rates may increase drastically because the insurance company will view the driver as a significant risk. If you are a repeat offender or there are contributing factors, you could end up being sentenced to more than 60 days in jail and paying more money in fines. Courts will consider the following factors when deciding your sentence:
- If your driving caused an accident or forced others to take evasive action
- If there is evidence that you were using your phone at the time
- If there were weather conditions that made your driving even more hazardous
- If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- If you were driving at an excessive speed of 15 mph or more over the limit
Defenses For This Crime
After carefully reviewing the facts of your case, one of the criminal defense attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith will help you develop an effective legal strategy. We may be able to argue to get the criminal charge dropped completely or negotiate for a civil penalty instead of a criminal penalty, removing the problem of a criminal record. Many times, when law enforcement officers clock a driver’s speed with a radar gun, the accuracy of the radar gun also comes into question.
Out-of-State Drivers Charged with Reckless Driving
If you live in another state but are driving in North Carolina, you can be charged with reckless driving and face the same penalties as a North Carolina resident. In your home state, reckless driving may be a traffic infraction. North Carolina takes reckless driving charges more seriously than most other states. You could end up with a permanent criminal record if you are convicted of reckless driving.
You won’t be able to pay a fine before your court hearing date and then not be required to appear in court. You will have to personally attend the scheduled court hearing, even if you plan on pleading guilty. We recommend working with one of our experienced attorneys who may be able to attend your court hearing on your behalf, so you don’t have to come back to North Carolina for it.
Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve made a mistake that resulted in a reckless driving charge, or you have been charged even though you were innocent, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Making a mistake shouldn’t result in you being punished like a criminal. At Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, we have successfully handled many reckless driving cases in North Carolina. We are prepared to help you get the best results possible in your case. Please contact us to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case and learn more about your rights.