Reckless Driving/Driving to Endanger
Reckless driving or driving to endanger charges can arise in a variety of situations. Often these offenses are charged in combination with a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, but they can also be charged independently when a police officer observes you speeding, swerving between lanes, running a red light, or failing to stop at a stop sign.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, section 24 prohibits reckless driving of a motor vehicle. Section 24(2)(a) defines reckless driving as operating a motor vehicle in a way that endangers the lives and safety of the public, or engaging in drag racing. This broad definition gives police officers a high degree of discretion in determining what behavior qualifies as reckless driving.
To convict an individual for reckless driving, the prosecutor must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
First, that the defendant operated a motor vehicle.
Second, that the defendant did so on a public way. This generally means that the defendant drove on a public street, or somewhere the public has access to.
Third, that the defendant did so in a reckless manner. To drive in a reckless manner means that the defendant drives in a manner that is very likely to result in death or serious injury to another person and fails to appreciate the risk caused by his or her driving. In other words, the defendant knows or should know that his driving risks injury to another person, and chooses to ignore that risk and engage in the conduct anyway. The judge or jury considers all relevant facts when determining whether the defendant drove recklessly, including the speed of the vehicle, the defendant’s driving, the weather and road conditions, the vehicle’s condition, the time of day and area of the offense, and the presence of other individuals and cars, among other factors.
A reckless driving conviction does not require that someone else actually be injured, or even that other individuals are in the vicinity of the defendant when he drove recklessly. All that is required is that the defendant consciously ignores the risk created by his driving. At the same time, even if an accident happens and someone is injured, the prosecutor must still prove that the defendant drove recklessly, and not just negligently, to secure a conviction for reckless driving.
The statute calls for punishment of first-time offenders by a fine of $50 to $500, or by imprisonment ranging from 30 days to 2 years, or both. For a second offense, the statute specifies punishment of up to 5 years in state prison or 30 days to 2.5 years in the house of horrection, and a fine of up to $1,000. For third-time offenders, where the offense occurs within five years of the previous conviction for reckless driving, punishment increases to a fine of up to $1,000 and by imprisonment for a minimum of 6 months in the house of correction or 2.5 years in state prison.
In addition, the statute calls for an injury assessment fee of $250 against any individual who is placed on probation or granted a continuance without a finding on charges of reckless driving. Thus, even with alternative resolutions where there is no conviction, you are still responsible for paying this fee.
Given the wide range of behavior that could constitute reckless driving, and the harsh and increasing penalties assessed for these offenses, it is very important to take reckless driving charges seriously. In addition to the statutory penalties, a reckless driving conviction may increase your insurance premiums and affect your ability to renew your driver’s license. There are several options for fighting reckless driving charges and you should explore these options with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
At the law firm of Altman & Altman, our expert criminal defense trial attorneys have extensive experience fighting and resolving reckless driving charges. Call us today for a free and confidential consultation. We can discuss the specifics of your case, possible defense strategies, and your goals in resolving your case. We will stand by your side throughout this process and we will work relentlessly to get you the best result possible.
Client service is extremely important to our team and we are accessible to our clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We understand that facing criminal charges is a stressful process for you and your loved ones, and we will do everything to assist you, resolve your case and protect your record, and help you move on with your life.