When you break traffic laws, usually the consequences are primarily civil. In other words, you don’t have to worry about having a criminal record or going to jail just because you got caught exceeding the speed limit or merging without a blinker.
Officers will issue a citation for the offense, which you can then pay and effectively forget about. While it may affect your driving record and how much you pay for insurance, overall the penalties you face will be reasonable and manageable.
However, if an officer alleges reckless driving during a traffic stop, you could face substantially different consequences than you might with a typical ticket. Reckless driving allegations drastically increase the likelihood that an officer will arrest you during the traffic stop. That is because reckless driving isn’t just a civil infraction. It’s a criminal act.
Reckless driving allegations lead to misdemeanor criminal charges
The state of Georgia defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle in a way that disregards the safety of others or potentially causes danger to the people on the road with you. Given the danger involved in reckless driving, Georgia does not handle allegations of reckless driving with only a civil infraction or ticket.
Instead, the state will expect you to either defend yourself or plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense. That means you will have a criminal record, as well as the consequences that come with a conviction. You can wind up paying $1,000 in fines or a year in jail. Those fines are in addition to any court costs you have and the increased cost of insurance you will have after a reckless driving conviction.
Beyond the potential criminal penalties, there is the addition of four points to your license. Those points can make insurance more expensive to obtain. If you accrue more points in a two-year period, you could also lose your license for having 15 or more points against your license.
What potentially constitutes reckless driving?
The definition of reckless driving is so broad that police officers have a lot of discretion in determining whether someone is reckless or just a bad driver. Often, reckless driving charges can stem from someone significantly exceeding the speed limit. Going 15 or 20 miles higher than the posted speed limit may be sufficient grounds for an officer to allege a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Anyone who gets caught attempting to race on public streets will likely also face charges of reckless driving. Driving the wrong way down a one-way street, performing dangerous maneuvers and many other questionable driving decisions can fall under the umbrella of reckless driving.
Given that reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense, you have the right to defend yourself against the charges. Fighting reckless driving allegations may not always be the fastest solution, but it can protect you from a criminal record.