When police officers suspect people of committing traffic violations, they usually start by pulling them person over to talk with them. Conducting a traffic stop might lead to an officer deciding to issue someone a ticket. Anyone who sees the lights of a police cruiser in their rearview mirror likely anticipates a citation.
However, sometimes police officers employ more serious accusations against someone than they might in other scenarios. For example, instead of just writing a ticket for speeding, a Washington police officer might accuse someone of reckless driving. What happens in a case involving reckless conduct at the wheel?
An officer might arrest someone
Unlike most traffic violations, which are only civil infractions, reckless driving is actually a crime. Police officers can sometimes decide to take someone into state custody because of a reckless driving incident. Even if someone avoids immediate arrest, reckless driving charges could lead to proceedings in criminal court.
The driver may face significant penalties
Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor under current Washington state laws. A judge could sentence someone to up to 364 days in state custody and could impose a fine of up to $5,000. The judge can also suspend someone’s license for 30 days or more.
A reckless driving infraction on someone’s record could have an impact on their eligibility for certain types of car insurance, especially if they have had other major citations in recent years. The record of a criminal offense could show up every time they apply for a job or an apartment. If someone’s job involves driving, they could be at risk of losing their position or becoming ineligible for a commercial driver’s license after a reckless driving conviction.
The driver has the option of fighting back
Someone accused of reckless driving does have the option of defending against those charges. There are many ways to raise questions about a reckless driving charge. Someone might have an explanation for their conduct at the wheel. They could raise questions about how the police officer characterized the situation. The state has to prove that someone engaged in conduct reflecting a wanton disregard for safety.
Someone with a defense lawyer representing them may have a decent chance of avoiding a conviction. Knowing what happens after a reckless driving allegation may help someone choose a truly informed response.