What Is Reckless Driving?
You may be familiar with the general term “reckless." Perhaps you have heard it, read it, or even used it as a part of your daily vocabulary. However, are you familiar with what the word means with regards to its application to a driving behavior? What does reckless driving mean in a court of law and what are the potential punishments if you are convicted?
Reckless Driving in Legal Terms
Reckless, careless, negligent, and thoughtless are all similar words to describe the same behavior. They are all adjectives to describe an action committed with blatant indifference toward the lives and property of themselves and those surrounding them. In fact, the Illinois General Assembly explicitly defines reckless driving in State Statute 625 ILCS 5/11-503, which states that a person has committed the act 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 uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.
What This Means to You
First, understand that the first half of the definition is extremely vague, especially when compared with the second half of the statute. The first provision does not say specifically if the person is speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, following too closely, or anything of that nature. Ambiguity is both beneficial and detrimental to us as citizens. The bad news is that when a law is ambiguous, it becomes the responsibility of the officer on duty to rely on their judgment. Unfortunately, their decision determines that the behavior was reckless, the officer then has the authority to make an arrest, rather than issuing a simple citation. In addition to the arrest, the vehicle may be impounded, which can accumulate hefty fees at the impound lot.
Should there be a conviction, Illinois is very harsh with regards to reckless driving due to the safety hazards and risks inflicted upon others by the driver. A judge has the authority to issue a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 as a misdemeanor offense. Although, in some cases, reckless driving can be determined to be up to a Class 4 felony.
As mentioned before, there is a silver lining to the unclear nature of this law. There is a disturbing implication with the term “wanton disregard” that suggests that the driver was behaving with ill-will toward the safety of others. The prosecution must prove to a jury of your peers that you intentionally acted out of malice to make a conviction. An intention is tough to prove in a court of law because no one knows for sure what is going on in the mind of someone else at any given time.
If you have been arrested, contact our aggressive Maywood criminal law attorneys, serving clients in Glendale Heights, Lombard, Bloomingdale, and all surrounding Chicagoland areas. Call Stringini & Garvey, P.C. today at 630-834-9595.