You can be charged with reckless driving if an officer believes that you were driving a vehicle “carelessly and heedlessly or without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property, or who passes when there is a line in his lane indicating a sight distance restriction.” I.C. § 49-1401(1). Essentially, if you are driving too fast and the officer thinks you are doing something dangerous, you can be charged with reckless driving.
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A second conviction within five years carries a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Also, a first conviction carries a mandatory driver's license suspension of 30 days; a second conviction within two years carries a mandatory license suspension of 90 days; and a third conviction within three years carries a mandatory license suspension of one year.
Here are the answers to common questions about Reckless driving, answered by our Idaho criminal defense attorneys:
How can a lawyer fight reckless driving charges?
The criminal court process is an adversarial process. This is a fancy way of saying it is you versus the State of Idaho. The prosecutor's office of each county or city, depending on the jurisdiction, is tasked with representing the State of Idaho. It is the role of the prosecutor assigned to your case to try and make sure you get the harshest possible punishment. It is your responsibility, or if you are smart, your attorney's, to advocate for the least possible penalty. The better arguments your attorney can make, the less you will be penalized. It is that simple.
When fighting in this adversarial process, there are two main categories of arguments one can make. The first are legal arguments: arguments that you did not violate the law or that the police officers involved in your case did not follow proper protocol. The second are arguments for leniency: arguments that even though the prosecution may be able to prove you are guilty, that your case or situation or background is such that you should be shown leniency.
Common legal defenses to reckless driving:
Speeding alone is not reckless: A 1968 Idaho Supreme Court case State v. Hanson, held that a charge of reckless driving will not stand on proof of speed alone. Additional factors that make the driving pattern dangerous are necessary to prove reckless driving: i.e. poor visibility, narrow road, or people present who might be endangered by conduct in question.
You were not the driver: The officer or witness must identify you as the driver of the vehicle. Even if it is a car owned and registered in your name, the prosecutor must present evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the one driving.
Common arguments for leniency:
Clean driving record: the first thing any prosecutor or Judge will look at in deciding whether you deserve to be shown leniency is your driving record. Demerit points only stay on your driving record for 3 years. However, the court will look back at your entire history to see if you have had any previous traffic related crimes or infractions.
No accident: the court will be looking for substantially less penalties if no harm was done.
Respectful behavior: The role of human judgement cannot be overstated. After all, the judge deciding your sentencing is human. Being respectful to the arresting officer and all members of the court can often go a long way to helping your case.
Behavior between arrest and court date: If you have proven that you can be a law-abiding citizen between the time of your arrest and when you're are tried, the court is more likely to be lenient.
Traffic safety courses: if you believe the court is going to order you to complete traffic safety courses anyway, you might as well complete these even before the court tells you to. Showing initiative to better yourself on your own can make a great impression on the prosecutor and/or judge. Just ask your attorney which classes would be appropriate.
What are the penalties for reckless driving in Boise?
The court can and may punish you in many ways: jail time, Sheriff's labor detail, community service, driver safety courses, fines, court costs, driver's license suspension, and probation. How much of each of these depends on how good of a defense you can present.
- Jail: Generally, for a first time reckless driving the court will sentence you to between 90-180 days of jail, but then suspend all but 2-5 days, placing you on probation. So, in reality you will only have to do between 2-5 total days of jail, and the rest is suspended and held over your head for the duration of your probation to make sure that you stay out of trouble. Ordinarily, the judge will allow Alternative Sentencing Options to substitute for actual jail: i.e. Sherriff's labor detail or community service (8-hours of labor or community service counts as a day in jail).
- Probation: probation usually ranges between 1-2 years and unless there are aggravating circumstances, the probation will be unsupervised. This means you will not have a probation officer. You are simply ordered by the court to stay out of trouble during the probationary period, otherwise you could face the suspended penalties.
- Fine: Ordinarily it is between $300-$500 plus court costs.
- Traffic Safety School: it is common for the court to order you to complete a driver's safety course. Online courses provided by the National Traffic Safety Institute are the most common. Defendant's under the age of 25 are routinely ordered to complete an in person day long course called Alive at 25.
- Driver's license suspension: If convicted of reckless driving, a 30-day license suspension is mandatory.
Can an Attorney help me keep my license from being suspended due to reckless driving?
If convicted of reckless driving, the 30-day license suspension is mandatory. Therefore, it is imperative that your attorney attempt to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea to a lesser charge or take your case to trial. Depending on the circumstances, it is very common to negotiate a reckless driving charge down to a plea of inattentive or careless driving, or excessive speed 15+ over the limit.