If you have been charged with Reckless Driving please call or email me as soon as possible. Like nearly every other type of criminal charge, it is critical to be proactive and take some action to defend yourself before your next court date. This is especially true since a conviction or adverse finding of Reckless Driving results in a mandatory driver’s license suspension.
Reckless Driving is a misdemeanor under Rhode Island law and is not easily defined. However, if you want to avoid having your driver’s license suspended, the first thing you need to do is to contact an attorney who has experience representing people charged with Reckless Driving. At the very least, an experienced and good criminal defense attorney can help you avoid the driver’s license suspension.
The Reckless Driving statute punishes three types of reckless operation.
The first type of conduct that is prohibited is recklessness. The Reckless Driving statute punishes a driver who operates his motor vehicle so recklessly that the driver might endanger the life and safety of the general public. Clearly, this statute is not very specific. The statute defines reckless as driving recklessly. That is not helpful. Moreover, the driver does not have to actually endanger the general public. A plain reading of the statute requires only the potential of harm to the general public.
The constitutionality of this overly vague statute has been challenged as being so ambiguous that it is not possible to actually know what type of conduct is criminal. Unfortunately, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has continuously upheld its constitutionality.
In order to be found guilty of this charge, the prosecution has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver as a reasonable person either knows or should know that his driving creates a risk to the safety of others. Based on that, whether a person is guilty of recklessness is determined by the facts of each case as those facts relate to the time, place and circumstances of the event.
What is really interesting about this particular aspect of the statute is that speed, while a factor to be considered, does not exclusively establish recklessness. Therefore, in theory, a driver could be traveling way, way above the posted speed limit, yet still be found not guilty of recklessness. In fact, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that violation of some rule of the road, such as speeding, does not by itself justify a charge of Reckless Driving.
The second type of conduct that is prohibited is drag racing, which is defined as two or more drivers engaged in a race against time or in a situation where each driver attempts to prevent being overtaken or passed by the other driver.
Like the reckless prong of this statute, speed is a factor to be considered, however speed alone is not conclusive of the issue of drag racing. Instead, the essence of drag racing is competition, not speed.
The third and final type of prohibited conduct is operating a motor vehicle in an attempt to elude or flee from a police officer. If the driver exceeds the speed limit by greater than 15 mph the penalties for this offense increase dramatically.
The penalties for a Reckless Driving conviction are left to the sound discretion of the sentencing judge. Often the penalties include a driver’s license suspension, a fine, community service and or attendance at a driver retraining school. Moreover, a second Reckless Driving conviction results in a felony. Lastly, high speed eluding of a police officer can involve forfeiture of the driver’s motor vehicle.