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When can Illinois charge a motorist with reckless driving?

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Most traffic infractions in New Jersey are very minor offenses that risk a financial penalty and possibly licensing consequences. However, there are a handful of traffic violations that might actually lead to someone’s prosecution and a criminal record if they plead guilty or the courts convict them.

Impaired driving is arguably the most common and severe of such offenses. There are also quite a few people each year who end up accused of reckless driving and facing more serious penalties than they anticipated initially. Reckless driving can affect everything from someone’s eligibility for insurance coverage to their ability to pass a background check. Those accused of reckless driving may feel frustrated because they aren’t sure about how to respond to those allegations. Understanding the way that Illinois defines reckless driving can help people to explore their options for fighting their pending charges.

There are two definitions of reckless driving

State statutes in Illinois provide two separate definitions for reckless driving, and motorists whose behaviors meet either of those definitions could very well end up facing charges. One of the definitions is arguably far more subjective than the other.

The first definition of reckless driving is the decision to operate a motor vehicle in a way that someone knows is dangerous for themselves or others. Examples of this type of reckless driving may include drag racing, excessive speeding or driving the wrong way on a one-way street. During a traffic stop, the officer’s perspective on the situation can be the determining factor regarding whether someone simply has a ticket to pay or will face a reckless driving charge.

The second definition of reckless driving is not subjective but highly specific. Any time a motorist intentionally speeds up or drives over certain objects to make their vehicle airborne, that constitutes reckless driving. If the wheels of a vehicle leave the ground because of the actions taken by the motorist, any police officer who witnesses that could potentially arrest that individual for recklessness at the wheel.

Drivers who fight back can minimize penalties

Properly responding to reckless driving charges can make all the difference for those worried about their insurance rates and ability to pass a background check. The specific circumstances that led to someone’s arrest or prosecution will influence the best defense strategy in their case. Establishing, for example, that there was a justification for why someone performed a maneuver that may have looked reckless from the outside, could be enough to avoid a reckless driving conviction if the offense relates to the first definition enshrined in state law. Learning more about Illinois state statutes is often an important starting point for those who want to avoid a conviction after an arrest for a major traffic offense.