What is the Difference Between Reckless Driving and Careless Driving in NJ?

Most people will be issued a traffic ticket at some point in their lives. We often spend a portion of every day on the road, so mistakes or accidents are bound to happen at some point. Sometimes, these tickets are for minor offenses, like failing to use a turn signal. However, driving that becomes too dangerous for ordinary citations may be met with a careless driving or reckless driving ticket. These citations sound very similar, but they are each a different form of dangerous driving and may be met with harsh consequences.

Reckless driving and careless driving are like two versions of the same offense. Both involve driving that is dangerous and likely to result in harm or property damage. However, careless driving occurs when a driver does not use proper due caution while driving, and the driver does not necessarily realize their behavior is a hazard. On the other hand, reckless driving is like careless driving, except the driver intentionally drives dangerously. Reckless driving tends to be somewhat more serious because a reckless driver knows their driving is dangerous and chooses to

Both reckless and careless driving are serious traffic citations, perhaps some of the most serious citations a driver can be issued. The penalties are quite costly and may place your driver’s license in jeopardy. If you have been cited for reckless or careless driving, call our Gloucester traffic violation defense lawyers for help. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a free, private legal consultation.

How Reckless Driving is Different from Careless Driving in NJ

There are several differences between careless and reckless driving. Each offense involves driving dangerously. However, the level of intent behind each offense is very different. Not only that, but the dangerousness of each offense is a bit different, with reckless driving often being more dangerous than careless driving.

Careless driving is dangerous driving, but the driver is not intentionally driving dangerously. Careless driving occurs when a driver fails to use the due care or caution necessary to stay safe on the road. Careless driving is a very broad offense, and the police have great discretion when determining if your driving is careless.

Reckless driving is also dangerous driving, but it is done with the driver’s knowledge that their actions are dangerous and the intent to drive dangerously. When a person drives recklessly, they choose to do so, knowing that their actions could cause harm or damage to others. This element of intent is a big part of why reckless driving is a more serious charge than careless driving and carries heavier penalties.

Careless driving and reckless driving do not entail specific acts or a certain type of behavior behind the wheel. Instead, these are broad offenses that could encompass anything the police deem reckless or careless. The authorities have a lot of discretion when charging drivers with careless or reckless driving, and they do not always get it right. If you were charged, call our New Jersey traffic violation attorneys for help.

Reckless Driving Tickets in NJ

According to N.J.S.A. § 39:4-96. Reckless driving occurs when a person drives a vehicle in a dangerous manner without any regard for the safety of others on the road. Reckless driving is a serious traffic violation and because it is considered so serious, the punishments for being convicted of reckless driving are similar to many criminal offenses. If a driver is convicted of reckless driving, they may face several consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and increased insurance rates. If you or a loved one has been charged with reckless driving, it is highly encouraged to contact an experienced New Jersey reckless driving defense attorney immediately.

For a first offense, a reckless driving ticket can cost a New Jersey driver anywhere from fifty dollars up to two hundred dollars. This is just the cost for a single ticket and may not include any court costs and separate fines and penalties. A person who receives a second reckless driving ticket can expect to pay a larger fine for their ticket ranging from fifty dollars up to five hundred dollars. Again, this amount does not reflect the costs imposed by the court.

In addition to these hefty fines, a reckless driving conviction can mean more than just opening your wallet. A driver who is convicted of reckless driving may be sentenced to jail time. For a first-time reckless driving offense, the judge has the discretion to place a driver in jail for up to 60 days. If this is the second time a driver is in court for a reckless driving ticket, they may be subject to 90 days in the county jail. While this is a rare consequence, it is not unheard of, particularly when an accident is involved and a person is injured. In addition, a judge can suspend a driver’s license if they determine that the person is a hazard to the community and other drivers on the road.

If you were issued a ticket for reckless driving, call our New Jersey traffic violation defense lawyers for assistance and guidance.

Careless Driving Tickets in NJ

A driver who operates their motor vehicle in a way that unsafe and may cause harm to other people or property may be cited for careless driving, per N.J.S.A § 39:4-97. Careless driving is a less serious offense compared to reckless driving. In New Jersey, a careless driving ticket is considered a traffic violation, while reckless driving can be considered a criminal offense. Careless driving can also lead to several consequences, which are not as severe as reckless driving but can still impact a driver. If you are convicted of careless driving, you will have 2 points added to your New Jersey driver’s license, where reckless driving will add 5 points to your driver’s license. The first time a driver is convicted of careless driving can include a fine from $85 to $140.

The reckless driving statute is similar to the careless driving statute. However, the penalties are more severe for reckless driving. The key distinction between the two offenses revolves around the idea of intent. In a situation where a driver is charged with careless driving, it will be assumed that the driver was acting with no intention to break the law. However, while you may think this would absolve a driver of responsibility, it is important to remember that drivers have a duty to drive carefully. When they do not, they can be charged with careless driving.

As the intention is the key difference between a careless driving ticket and a reckless driving ticket, to convict a driver of reckless driving, the state will have to prove that the driver was acting on purpose when driving. The statute for reckless driving uses the language “wanton disregard,” which is a much higher standard than mere carelessness. This is a very important distinction and can make all the difference in a case.

If you are facing charges or citations related to careless driving, call our New Jersey traffic violation defense attorneys for help.

How the New Jersey Police Decide Your Driving is Reckless or Careless

Reckless and careless driving citations are somewhat vague. These traffic violations do not involve a specific behavior like running a red light or a stop sign. Instead, any actions or behaviors exhibited by a driver can result in a citation for careless or reckless driving if the driving is dangerous. The police must use their own judgment to decide if a driver fits the criteria for either citation.

In many cases, the police will pull someone over for dangerous driving, but they may not yet have decided how to charge them. After talking to the driver for a few minutes, a police officer might decide if the driver should be cited for careless or reckless driving. If the officer determines the driver truly did not realize how dangerous their actions were, they may show leniency and issue a citation for reckless driving. However, if the driver demonstrates to the officer that they knew what they were doing, a reckless driving ticket may be in order.

Examples of Careless and Reckless Driving in NJ

Any kind of dangerous driving can be charged as reckless or careless driving. In most cases, your charges will depend heavily on the unique details of your circumstances and the discretion of the police officer who stopped you. However, certain actions are more likely to be charged as one offense or the other.

Careless driving involves driving dangerously but in such a way that the driver does not really realize how dangerous their actions are. Careless driving is like an act of negligence than one of intention or purpose. Careless driving could include any number of traffic violations, including speeding, running lights, failing to yield, or changing lanes without signaling. When these traffic violations occur due to carelessness, the driver could be cited for careless driving. However, you are more likely to be cited when more than one violation has occurred. If you only ran a red light, you will likely receive a ticket specifically for the red light violation rather than careless driving, even if you ran the red light out of carelessness.

Reckless driving can occur in a similar way to careless driving, except there is an element of intent. For example, if you are speeding when you blow through a red light, a police officer may cite you for reckless driving if they believe you ran through the light intentionally because you were late for work. The nature of reckless driving is not always readily apparent when a driver is stopped, and the police officer might have to question you before deciding how to issue your ticket.

If you were charged with either reckless or careless driving, our New Jersey traffic violation attorneys can help you fight your charges.

Call Our Atlantic City Traffic Violations Defense Attorneys

If you are facing reckless driving charges after spending time in the Atlantic City area, the strategic and experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych can fight for you. To schedule a free, confidential legal consultation for your ticket or citation, call our offices at (609) 616-4956.

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