Reckless driving isn’t a simple driving infraction. In Illinois, reckless driving is a crime. If you are charged with reckless driving in this state, or if you are charged with another serious traffic violation, you should contact a Chicago reckless driving attorney as quickly as possible.

How long will a reckless driving conviction stay on your record? If you’re charged with reckless driving – or if you are charged with any other serious traffic violation – what are your rights? What steps should you take? When should you contact a Chicago reckless driving lawyer?

If you’ll continue reading this short discussion of your rights, reckless driving, and Illinois law, you will find the answers you may need, but if you have been accused of reckless driving, you need the personalized advice and legal services that a reckless driving defense lawyer provides.

In Illinois, What’s the Definition of Reckless Driving?

The law in Illinois requires every driver to operate his or her vehicle carefully, prudently, and without putting others in harm’s way. Reckless driving isn’t a distraction or a mere mistake. It’s intentional, willful behavior. A reckless driving charge can be brought against a driver who:

  1. drives with a “willful” or “wanton” disregard for other persons and property
  2. knowingly and intentionally uses an incline in the pavement to make a vehicle airborne

The law in Illinois gives law enforcement officers and the courts a great deal of discretion to determine what is and what is not reckless driving, but listed here are the driving actions that are most likely to cause a law enforcement officer to stop you for reckless driving:

  1. running off the road or swerving between lanes
  2. running traffic signals and stop signs
  3. street racing or excessive speeding
  4. tailgating or cutting off others
  5. grooming, eating, or reading while driving

How Are Reckless Driving Charges Handled in Illinois?

In Illinois, when no one has been injured, a reckless driving charge is typically filed as a Class A misdemeanor. Most reckless driving convictions are punishable with a fine, and in some cases, time in jail. However, if anyone is injured, reckless driving may be charged as a felony.

For instance, if you drive recklessly and cause another person to be permanently disabled, disfigured, or to suffer “great bodily harm,” or should you injure an on-duty school crossing guard or a minor, you will be charged with a Class 4 felony, aggravated reckless driving.

And if you are responsible for a crossing guard’s or child’s permanent disability or disfigurement, you will be charged with aggravated reckless driving as a Class 3 felony. Aggravated reckless driving convictions may be penalized in Illinois with a lengthy prison term and a fine that can be as high as $25,000.

How Long Does Reckless Driving Stay on Your Record?

Adults in Illinois who are convicted of reckless driving have two “records” – a criminal record for the misdemeanor or felony conviction, and a driving record with the Illinois Secretary of State. Reckless driving can stay on your Secretary of State driving abstract for up to eleven years.

But a conviction for reckless driving stays on your criminal record forever, unless you are eligible to have the conviction expunged or sealed, and unless you take the steps to do that. You may qualify to have a reckless driving conviction sealed or expunged only if you:

  1. were under age 25 at the time of the conviction
  2. are now age 25 or older
  3. have no other DUI or reckless driving convictions

Aggravated reckless driving convictions cannot be sealed or expunged. A conviction for aggravated reckless driving in Illinois will remain on your criminal record for life.

Are There Additional Penalties for a Reckless Driving Conviction?

You will also face non-legal penalties if you are convicted of reckless driving in this state. Your car insurance rates will likely increase, and you may have difficulty keeping or finding employment – especially employment that involves driving.

If you are convicted of aggravated reckless driving, and if you have a professional license, that conviction may trigger disciplinary action from your licensing board. If you’re not a citizen of the U.S., an aggravated reckless driving conviction can compromise your immigration status.

What Will a Defense Attorney Do on Your Behalf?

A reckless driving charge will be handled similar to any other criminal charge. First, your attorney will file paperwork informing the court that they represent you. They will also request all “discovery.” Discovery is all of the evidence that may be used in the case and would include police reports, dash camera videos, body worn camera videos, vehicle tow reports, the driver’s background, and anything else that may exist.

Remember, it is the prosecution’s job to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not the driver’s or their attorney’s job to prove innocent.

A skilled Chicago reckless driving lawyer will review this evidence to determine the strength of the case against you. They can poke holes in the proseuction’s case, provide an alternative theory, negotiate on your behalf, and do many other things that can improve the outcome of the case.

If the prosecution cannot prove that you had willful or wanton criminal intent, and that you merely made a bad driving mistake, the prosecution may offer you an acceptable plea bargain, and the reckless driving charge may be reduced or even entirely dismissed.

Before you hire a lawyer, you must make sure they meet two major requirements. First, make sure they handle reckless driving cases on a regular basis. Second, make sure they do so in the same courthouse where you are charged. You do not want a lawyer learning on the job or getting familiar with the court procedures on your case.

If you are found not guilty, the charge is dismissed, or you receive court supervision (and are under 25 years old), you may be eligible to have the charge expunged or sealed. A Chicago reckless driving lawyer can advise you about the process and help you prepare and file the necessary legal paperwork.

What if You’re Innocent?

In a typical plea bargain, you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge and to accept the penalties for that lesser charge. Do not accept a plea bargain offer before you have discussed the offer with your lawyer.

If you and your lawyer believe they cannot prove the case against you, then you should exercise your right to demand a trial.

What Else Should You Know About Reckless Driving?

There were 1,118 traffic fatalities on Illinois streets and highways in 2020, and that figure rose to 1,324 fatalities in 2021. Reckless driving is a major contributor to these accidents and fatalities, so law enforcement agencies in this state aggressively enforce the laws against reckless driving.

If you are charged with reckless driving, do not even consider acting as your own lawyer. Illinois law is complicated and detailed, too much will be at risk, and any mistake on your part could lead to a reckless driving conviction.

Instead, contact a Chicago defense attorney at the earliest possible opportunity. Your defense attorney will aggressively protect your legal rights, raise doubts about the prosecution’s evidence against you, and bring your case to an acceptable conclusion.