Chicago Reckless Driving Lawyers
If you are stopped by the police for a moving violation, you might not think that it’s a big deal — you’ll just pay the fine and move on with your life. However, if you are charged with reckless driving, it’s more serious than a simple traffic offense. It’s a charge that can carry jail time and steep fines.
In the state of Illinois, reckless driving may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on whether or not there were injuries. If you were weaving through traffic while speeding, for example, then you may be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if you caused an accident and hurt someone while driving recklessly, then the charge may be elevated to a felony.
Because reckless driving is a criminal offense, it is important to work with a Chicago traffic lawyer who has experience handling these types of cases. Your attorney can put together a strong defense to the charge against you, win at trial, or work with the State’s Attorneys to obtain the best possible outcome.
What Is Reckless Driving?
Unlike many traffic tickets, reckless driving in Illinois is a criminal offense. Under Illinois law, a person may be convicted of reckless driving if they:
- Drive any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or
- Knowingly drive a vehicle and use an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.
While purposefully making your car go airborne is a pretty clear example of reckless driving, the first part of the law is fairly broad. What exactly does it mean to drive with a willful disregard for the safety of people or property?
The Illinois Criminal Code states that a person acts recklessly when they consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or that a result will follow. In the context of reckless driving, this means that a person knows that there is a risk that the way that they are driving may harm people or property, and chooses to do it anyway.
Reckless driving may be charged when a driver in Illinois:
- Talks on the phone while driving
- Texts and drives
- Swerves between lanes
- Runs a red light or a stop sign
- Speeds through a construction zone
- Drives under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI)
- Fails to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks
- Fails to signal
- Travels at a high rate of speed
These examples demonstrate that reckless driving could be charged in a range of relatively common driving situations. Yet unlike other types of traffic tickets, reckless driving could land you in jail. That is why it is so important to consult with a Chicago reckless driving lawyer as soon as possible after being cited for this offense.
What Are the Consequences of a Reckless Driving Conviction?
If a police officer stops you for reckless driving, they may simply issue you a ticket, give you an earful, and let you be on your way. However, the officer does have the option to arrest you, impound the vehicle, and charge you with a criminal offense.
A law enforcement officer will make a judgment call about whether to charge you with a crime or just give you a traffic ticket based on the totality of the circumstances. Typically, when an officer issues a reckless driving citation in the Chicago area, they also issue additional citations. These can include speeding, improper lane change, failure to signal, failure to stop at a stop sign or stop light, failure to reduce speed, and more. Even if you do not cause an accident, you can still be cited for reckless driving.
When charged as a criminal offense, reckless driving is most often a Class A misdemeanor. However, in certain situations, reckless driving may be charged as either a Class 3 or Class 4 felony. This includes harming a child or school crossing guard (Class 3 or 4 felony depending on the level of injuries) or causing great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement (aggravated reckless driving, Class 4 felony).
In the state of Illinois, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year (364 days) in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A person charged with a Class 4 felony could be sentenced to between 1 and 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. For a Class 3 felony, the punishment is between 2 and 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
In addition to the potential criminal sentence that may be imposed if you are convicted of reckless driving, 55 points will be assigned to your driver’s license. When you accumulate points on your driving record, it can affect your insurance rate and may result in a suspension of your driving privileges.
In addition, if you accumulate three or more moving violations within a 12 month period, then your driver’s license will be suspended. The length of the suspension is based on the number of points accumulated from these traffic violations. For example, if you are cited for reckless driving (55 points) and also get a speeding ticket (20 points), and a failure to stop at a light ticket (15 points), you would have 90 points on your driving record — and your license will be suspended for 9 months.
Because the potential consequences of a reckless driving conviction are so severe — particularly for aggravated reckless driving — it is critical that you work with an Illinois criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights and your freedom. A Chicago reckless driving attorney will advocate for you to reduce or eliminate expensive fines, penalties, and the possibility of jail time.
What Happens After I Receive a Citation for Reckless Driving?
If you are charged with reckless driving, you will receive a court date. If you fail to attend court on this date, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. Alternatively, you could be placed under arrest, which will require you to post bond, and your vehicle will be towed and impounded. In the best-case scenario, the police officer will give you an I-bond, where you are not required to post bond, and your vehicle may not be towed and impounded.
Once you are in court, a judge will ask you if you have hired a criminal defense attorney, and if not, if you need time to hire one. If you need additional time, then the court will grant you a continuance to find a defense lawyer. If your attorney is with you in court, then they will enter their appearance and then discuss your case with the prosecution.
In many cases, an experienced Chicago reckless driving lawyer can negotiate a more favorable disposition. This may include court supervision rather than a conviction, or an agreement for you to plead to a lesser offense, such as one of the non-criminal moving violation tickets issued along with the reckless driving charge. These types of petty offenses are only punishable by fines and court costs, instead of jail time.
If you have been charged with multiple moving violations in addition to reckless driving, the State’s Attorney will be less likely to agree to dismiss the charge or allow you to plead to a lesser offense. In this situation, the alternative is to go to trial, which can be risky. If you have multiple citations, you will go to trial on every citation issued, where a judge or jury will decide your fate for each count. If you are found guilty, then the judge will sentence you using their discretion.
With a reckless driving charge, there is a very real possibility of serious jail time, along with a hefty fine. Working with a skilled traffic ticket lawyer in Chicago can increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome, which may include having the charge against you reduced or dismissed entirely.
What Happens If I Get a DUI After Being Convicted of Reckless Driving?
If you have a previous reckless driving conviction, it will impact your ability to participate in an alternative sentencing program known as court supervision. Court supervision is a way that you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction on your record. If you receive court supervision, then the conviction will not be entered on your record if you complete the terms of the supervision to the court’s satisfaction.
Court supervision is available for a range of cases, including non-felony criminal offenses. This includes misdemeanor DUI charges.
In Illinois, you can be sentenced to court supervision for driving under the influence. However, if you have a previous conviction for reckless driving, then you will not be able to take advantage of court supervision on a subsequent DUI charge. For this reason, it is important to work with an experienced Chicago reckless driving attorney if you have been charged with this offense.
I Have a CDL. How Will a Reckless Driving Charge Affect My License?
If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Illinois, being charged with reckless driving may lead to the loss of your license — and your livelihood.
There are two types of traffic offenses that can affect your CDL: serious moving violations and non-serious violations. The majority of traffic tickets fall into the category of being serious, including reckless driving.
Two serious violations in a commercial vehicle within a three year period will result in a disqualification of the CDL. This is true if they receive a conviction or court supervision.
This means that if you are convicted of reckless driving as a CDL holder in Illinois, then a second charge could lead to you losing your license. Because both federal and state law applies to CDL holders, it is vital to work with a Chicago reckless driving lawyer who understands the complexities of these types of cases.
Can My Reckless Driving Charge Be Reduced to Something Else?
Depending on the specific facts of your case, your Chicago reckless driving attorney may be able to have your reckless driving charge reduced to a lower-level offense.
In Chicago, one possible reduced charge is negligent driving, a petty offense with a lower fine, and no jail time. As compared to reckless driving, which requires that you acted with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, negligent driving may be charged when a person operates their vehicle without due caution. In other words, to the extent that your driving endangered others, it wasn’t on purpose. In other situations, it may be possible to have a reckless driving charge dismissed in exchange for a plea on a different, less-serious charge..
Charged with Reckless Driving in Chicago? We Are Here for You.
Reckless driving isn’t like other types of moving violations in Illinois. If you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor reckless driving, you could be looking at a year or longer in jail or prison. Our team of Chicago reckless driving lawyers is here to help.
At Driver Defense Team, we are dedicated to advocating for Illinois motorists who have been charged with a range of driving offenses, including reckless driving. Our law firm offers free consultations and handles all cases on a flat fee basis — which means that you don’t have to worry about an unexpected legal bill. We represent drivers throughout Cook County and in the surrounding areas, including Naperville and Schaumburg. To learn more or to schedule a free case evaluation, call or text us at 312-940-8330, or fill out our online contact form.