Americans are spending more time behind the wheel than at any point in our history. According to a study from 2017, American drivers spent 70 billion hours driving annually, averaging approximately 11,500 miles per year on the road. With millions of drivers nationwide, it is no surprise that inattention or other distractions can lead to a careless or reckless driving charge. If you are one of the thousands of drivers ticketed for a driving violation, you should schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney to speak about your case.
What is Careless & Reckless Driving?
Careless and Reckless driving offenses in Colorado are somewhat similar, but the conduct required for a reckless driving charge is more aggravated than that for a careless driving charge. Accordingly, the possible penalties for reckless driving can be very severe.
In Colorado, a driver commits the offense of careless driving when they operate a vehicle in a “careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances.” Put simply, careless driving is failing to take precautions to drive safely under the conditions, such as whether traffic is heavy or road conditions have deteriorated. Careless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense; however, according to the statute, if the driver’s actions are the proximate cause of bodily injury or death to another person, the charge becomes a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense. C.R.S. 42-4-1402. Careless driving also carries 4 points against your driver’s license.
Reckless driving, by contrast, is defined as operating a vehicle “in such a manner as to indicate either a wanton or a willful disregard for the safety” of other people or property. C.R.S. 42-4-1401. Reckless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. Convictions for second offenses of reckless driving lead to mandatory fines and/or mandatory jail. It is also important to note that reckless driving is considered a Habitual Traffic Offender strike. Three such strikes in a 7 year period can lead to someone being deemed a habitual traffic offender, resulting in extreme consequences for driving privileges in the form of long license suspensions, among other consequences. Reckless driving also carries 8 points against your driver’s license.
Examples of reckless driving can include, but are not limited to: driving at extremely excessive speeds well over posted speed limits, weaving through traffic in a dangerous manner, or racing another vehicle on a public road or highway (although this can have its own charge). Reckless driving is perhaps most often charged alongside tickets for speeding 40 or more over the speed limit.
The two traffic violations, careless and reckless, differ only in that the conduct required is far more aggravated in reckless driving than careless driving, although both fall short of intentional wrongdoing. One may be said to be guilty of wanton behavior when, though short of deliberately intending to injury someone, there is a conscious choice to engage in dangerous behavior where there is a strong possibility that injury to others will result.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer?
Careless and reckless driving tickets may seem like standard traffic tickets, but they are much more serious. These charges can be given by a police officer after a traffic accident, or simply based on observed driving. Depending on their driving record and the circumstances involved, a person cited with careless or reckless driving can face a loss of their driving privileges in addition to substantial fines and jail time. Aside from these criminal consequences, a conviction can have continued consequences even after resolution of the criminal case. Because Careless Driving carries a DMV point penalty of 4 points, and Reckless Driving 8 points, these charges can often lead to a driver’s license suspension if there are already some points on the license, preventing you from driving to work, the grocery store, and all the other places we take for granted in our daily lives. Additionally, even if it doesn’t lead to a license suspension, a conviction of Careless & Reckless driving can lead to long term increase of auto insurance rates, and commercial drivers (CDL) open themselves up to potentially losing their job. Even more serious is the fact that a Reckless Driving conviction can be a strike towards being labeled as a Habitual Traffic Offender.
These offenses are not mere traffic tickets, but can have serious repercussions. If you have been charged with reckless driving, you should contact a reckless driving lawyer today. The reckless driving attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC have successfully handled many cases exactly like yours and can help you build a strong defense. Our traffic attorneys would love to help you in your matter.
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