Reckless driving may be classified as a traffic offense under New Jersey law, but it can carry serious fines and penalties. Not only can a reckless driving charge land you in jail, it can also lead to a license suspension. Especially if there are other charges involved in your reckless driving incident, you could end up facing extensive penalties.
If you or a loved one was charged with reckless driving, it is important to take your case to an attorney. The Gloucester City reckless driving defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those charged with reckless driving and other serious offenses in New Jersey. For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
What Constitutes Reckless Driving in Gloucester City?
Reckless driving is a vague offense, and it is not always clear what makes driving “reckless.” N.J.S.A. § 39-4-96 uses terms like “heedlessly” and “in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others” to describe reckless driving. This language is about as clear as the term “reckless,” and is still not particularly helpful in determining the specific conduct the statute criminalizes.
However, the statute also states that the driving must be “in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property.” This shows that the key problem this statue looks to punish is dangerous driving. More particularly, it covers the kind of driving that could cause property damage or injury. While speeding or any other traffic violation could cause an accident, the other parts of this definition show that there must be an extreme disregard for safety as well.
Lastly, the reckless driving statute carries a mental state requirement. Most crimes require both a guilty act and a guilty mental state. “Recklessly” is a common mental state level that crimes codes use to define the actor’s mental state at the time of the crime. This definition often includes the “willful or wanton disregard” language in this statute. Recklessness usually means that you recognized the risks, but continued with the actions anyway. It is a higher mental state than doing something accidentally, negligently, or carelessly, but lower than intentionally or purposefully.
This heightened mental state requirement makes it harder for the government to prove you were reckless, since they must have some idea of what was in your mind at the time of the offense. Since they cannot read your mind, they must rely on the surrounding circumstances to prove your mental state.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Gloucester City
Unlike most traffic offenses, reckless driving can send you to jail. Even for a first offense, reckless driving carries a potential sentence of up to 60 days in jail. For a second offense, the sentence can last as long as 3 months. This would be a term of imprisonment in jail, meaning a county or municipal jail, not a state prison. If you were to face this sentence, you would be locked up alongside those awaiting trial and those convicted of lower-level offenses – but the ideal outcome involves not seeing a single day behind bars.
Aside from this jail time, there are also fines. Like any traffic ticket, you could expect to spend some money on fines. The lowest possible fine for a first offense reckless driving is $50 ($100 for a second offense), but the highest possible fine is $200 ($500 for a second offense). This may not be a particularly high fine compared to some crimes, but there are other court costs and fees on top of this fine, meaning it could be quite expensive.
Lastly, a reckless driving offense if 5 points on your license. The MVC puts these points on your license as soon as you are convicted. If you accumulate 12 points at any time, the MVC will suspend your drivers’ license. Driving with a suspended license is an independent offense that carries additional fines, increased suspension length, and possible jail time. There are also fines and fees to have your license restored, and continued surcharges to maintain a license after some suspensions. Losing your license can be a significant obstacle in your life, and you may need an attorney to help prevent the charge from adding points to your license.
In some cases, judges and prosecutors may be willing to accept a plea to careless driving instead. This charge is lower, carries less points on your license, and does not involve jail time. Talk to an attorney about what options you may have to avoid a reckless driving conviction in NJ.
Gloucester City Reckless Driving Defense Lawyer
The Gloucester City reckless driving defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to help if you or a loved one was charged with reckless driving near Gloucester City. For a free consultation on your charges, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.