What Constitutes Reckless Driving in Michigan?
November 14th, 2023
Reckless driving is a serious offense that can result in significant penalties, including a “hard” 90-day driver’s license suspension (does not allow for restricted driving privileges), up to 93 days in jail, and a fine of up to $500.
If you were charged with reckless driving in Michigan, criminal defense attorney Robert Elmen can help. Contact Elmen Legal today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your situation and begin your defense. Robert Elmen will evaluate your situation, explain the charges against you, and help you evaluate your options. He will investigate your case and prepare an aggressive defense designed to have the case dismissed, the charges reduced, or minimize the severity of the penalties you face.
What Is Reckless Driving?
In Michigan, the crime of reckless driving occurs when you operate a motor vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” “Willful” refers to conduct that is purposeful or intentional as opposed to accidental. “Wanton disregard” means you understood your behavior was risky but did it anyway.
The penalties for a conviction will vary based on your circumstances.
- Standard reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and a “hard” 90-day driver’s license suspension.
- Reckless driving involving serious injuries is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and between $1,000 and $5,000 in fines. You will be required to forfeit your vehicle or have it immobilized for up to 180 days.
- Reckless driving involving death is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and between $2,500 and $10,000 in fines. Your vehicle will be immobilized for up to 180 days or you will be required to forfeit it.
Careless Driving vs. Reckless Driving
Michigan also recognizes the crime of careless driving, which occurs when a person drives “in a careless or negligent manner likely to endanger any person or property, but without wantonness or recklessness.”
Careless driving is a civil infraction punishable by a fine of $100.
The difference between the two is often one of degree, and the dividing line is not always clear. Reckless driving generally involves conduct that is obviously and intentionally dangerous, while careless driving applies to less obvious and unintentional instances of poor driving.
Defending Against Reckless Driving Charges
After a reckless driving charge, many jurisdictions allow a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser offense. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your situation to identify your best defenses and work to have your case dismissed or the charges reduced.
To prove reckless driving, the prosecutor will present evidence that often includes the speed of your vehicle, the road conditions, and, if applicable, evidence of intoxication. The jury will then decide whether your actions exhibited a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
One way to defend against charges of reckless driving is to show that the driver made an error in judgment that would explain their erratic driving, which can eliminate the element of “willful or wanton disregard.”
Contact Robert Elmen at Elmen Legal
If you were charged with reckless driving or careless driving in Michigan, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help. Robert Elmen will review your situation, explain the applicable law, and build a defense that will minimize the likelihood of a conviction and the severity of any penalties you may face.
Elmen Legal is based in Ann Arbor and represents people charged with crimes in Saline, Pittsfield Township, Chelsea, and Ypsilanti, and in Washtenaw, Wayne, Monroe, Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Ingham, Livingston, and Oakland Counties.