Dealing With DWI and Reckless Driving Charges

Dealing With DWI And Reckless Driving Charges

The charge of reckless driving is almost always written along with a drunk driving charge. A reckless driving ticket stems from willful or wanton disregard for safety... (see full language below). Reckless driving happens when a driver acts heedlessly and without regard to the potential consequences.

Examples of Reckless Driving

An example of reckless driving could be driving at an extraordinarily high rate of speed for example, driving at 50 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour residential zone. If the driver at the time is under the influence it is expected that the driver would be charged with Drunk Driving, reckless driving, speeding, and careless driving. However, the officers will not require this type of fact pattern to write a reckless driving ticket concerning a DWI.

Law Enforcement's Strategy

Police officers generally write a reckless driving ticket as a fallback charge if they cannot sustain a DWI conviction. Reckless driving is often merged and dismissed by a Municipal Court Judge in connection with a drunk driving plea. In the event of a trial, a person could be convicted of any charges written along with the DWI charge if the facts support such a conviction.

Drunk Driving as Reckless Behavior

The act of driving drunk could be considered reckless for example in the situation of a person charged with refusal where there may not be a blood alcohol reading for the state to use at trial. Without an alcohol reading a prosecutor may argue that the conduct of driving after having consumed alcohol was reckless. Arguably the act of drinking and driving in New Jersey could be showing willful or wanton disregard for the safety of their passengers or other drivers on the road.

Reckless Driving in the Context of Serious Offenses

Many of the more serious New Jersey criminal offenses such as vehicular homicide and reckless operation resulting in serious bodily injury require many of the same elements as reckless driving. New Jersey has a high population and busy roads, and the New Jersey courts may recognize this fact in considering the conduct of a driver after drinking alcohol or using drugs and the possibility that the reckless conduct can result in potential accidents and potential personal injury to passengers and other drivers leading to a finding that the driver acted in willful or reckless disregard for the potential consequences.

In New Jersey, Reckless Driving N.J.S.A. 39:4-96 Carries 5 motor Vehicle Points

 The conduct that defines a Reckless driving charge:

A person who drives a vehicle heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of reckless driving...

Another, less precise way of saying it is that the driver, has every reason to know, that their driving is likely to harm people or property, yet they do it anyway.

Penalties For First Offense Reckless Driving In New Jersey

The penalties for a reckless driving N.J.S. 39:4-96 are quite serious but there is some discretion by the sentencing judge in sentencing. A person convicted of reckless driving in New Jersey in addition to receiving 5 motor vehicle points on their driver's license, can be sentenced to serve up to 60 days in county jail, and/or receive fines between $50 and $200 as well as court costs, in addition, and finally suspension of driver's license in the discretion of the Judge. This penalty applies to a first reckless driving conviction. One additional collateral consequence of a reckless driving conviction is a 10-year ban on vanity plates after a conviction see N.J.S. 39:33-5. Another collateral consequence is the potential for 5 insurance points which results in increased insurance premiums in addition to the motor vehicle points if an accident occurs resulting in a significant payout for the damage caused.

Penalties For Second or Subsequent Offense Reckless Driving in New Jersey

The penalties for a second offense reckless driving conviction in New Jersey are even more severe than for a first offense. The penalties for reckless driving on a second conviction, for a reckless driving carries the same point penalty of 5 points but potential county jail time increases to a maximum of three months and the fines increase to between $100 and $500, the fines can be doubled in a "safe corridor" such as a construction zone or a 65 mile per hour zone, and possible license suspension in the discretion of the court.


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Differentiating Careless and Reckless Driving

Careless Driving vs. Reckless Driving in New Jersey

Individuals often mix up careless driving and reckless driving. A Reckless Driving charge is more serious and requires a different level of fault than careless driving. Careless driving N.J.S. 39:4-97 carries 2 motor vehicle points whereas reckless driving carries 5 motor vehicle points. Careless driving is a much different offense and is more akin to not paying attention and not using proper care. Careless driving is often written in rear-end accidents as a driver is required to pay attention to the road and be ready to stop if the vehicle or anything else ends up in from of them while driving. A driver should keep proper distances and leave adequate room to respond and stop or they may be considered negligent for example. Reckless driving, on the other hand, is not a mistake or an accident it is "knowing" conduct.

Careless Driving N.J.S. 39:4-97 in New Jersey

Careless driving is an oft-written motor vehicle ticket in New Jersey. The specific language of the statute states:

A person who drives a vehicle carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of careless driving.

Key Differences and Legal Consequences

The key difference between reckless and careless driving is the driver's intent/knowledge. Careless driving is less serious and, while a reckless driver knows their erratic driving could likely cause harm but ignores that fact, a careless driver is simply negligent; in other words, they may not know their driving is likely to cause harm, even if they should.

The penalties for careless driving start with a fine and two points on your New Jersey State Driving Record. If there are aggravating circumstances, such as a previous license suspension, a judge may add the license suspension. A skilled attorney may be able to negotiate a no-point violation.

Reckless driving and careless driving charges are expensive and can lead to future problems with increased insurance and potential loss of license based upon the accumulation of motor vehicle points on a driver's license. In the context of a drunk driving charge, they are often written alongside the DWI charges. Alcohol can enhance and create further challenges to defending the charge but, in many instances, they are plea bargained away and dismissed and merged with a Dwi plea. It is important, however, to understand the differences between careless driving and reckless driving to understand what the state is required to prove to sustain a conviction and the consequences of a plea of guilt of finding guilt after trial to make an educated decision on how to proceed.

Why it Makes Sense to Retain an Experienced Attorney to Represent You When Facing Motor Vehicle Charges

As one can see the nuances of law and the potential direct and collateral consequences of a conviction of motor vehicle charges can have a lasting effect. Paying a ticket and pleading guilty without the advice of counsel could result in issues in the future which make it more difficult if not impossible to unwind after the fact.

If you have been arrested on suspicion of DWI and reckless driving, it is important to contact a qualified attorney that can help resolve the case in your favor. Call the lawyers of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. at 732-372-0820. so they can begin building your defense today. They offer FREE initial consultations, so call today!