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Reckless Stunt Driving in Georgia
In 2021, the Georgia Legislature decided to crack down on offenses such as Street Racing and Laying Drags. As a result, it passed O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390.1. This law, which criminalizes Reckless Stunt Driving, took effect in July 2021.
What Does The Law Cover?
The Reckless Stunt Driving law is almost a combination of the Street Racing law, the Laying Drags law, and the Reckless Driving law.
Street Racing and Laying Drags are "predicate offenses" for the offense of Reckless Stunt Driving. That means that the State first has to prove that you were committing one of those two crimes before you can be convicted of Reckless Stunt Driving. Click here to learn more about Street Racing, or click here to learn more about Laying Drags.
Reckless Stunt Driving also adds the additional element of "driving with reckless disregard for the safety of those around you."
Therefore, at trial, the State would have to prove both that you were:
- Street racing OR Laying Drags, AND
- Driving with "reckless disregard" for the safety of those around you.
Notably, the law criminalizes Reckless Stunt Driving on public highways and on private property if you are driving on private property without the property owner's permission.
What does "Reckless Disregard" for safety mean?
In a prosecution for Reckless Stunt Driving, the State does not require that the State prove an intentionally reckless act. Instead, the State must prove that a Defendant acted recklessly or carelessly. In other words, the Defendant showed a lack of regard for the possible consequences of their actions, including possible injury to others. Dunagan v. State, 283 Ga. 501 (2008).
The "reckless disregard" part of the law isn't clearly defined. Whether a person is acting with "reckless disregard" depends on the circumstances surrounding the case. Excessive speeding, driving fast with no lights, and engaging in a high-speed chase are all examples of driving with “reckless disregard” for safety.
Steep Fines and Possible Jail Time Possible for Reckless Stunt Driving Conviction
If you are convicted of Reckless Stunt Driving, you are facing serious penalties, including jail time and steep fines.
License suspension for a Reckless Stunt Driving conviction
A conviction for Reckless Stunt Driving will trigger an automatic suspension of your driver's license, even if it is your first offense.
After your first conviction in five (5) years, the Department of Driver Services (DDS) will suspend your license. This suspension will last for twelve (12) months. However, you may apply for early reinstatement of your license after 120 days. For early reinstatement, you must pay a restoration fee of $210 (if paid in person) or $200 (if paid by mail).
After your second conviction in five (5) years, DDS will suspend your license for three (3) years. You may apply for early reinstatement after 18 months from the date of your conviction. For early reinstatement, you must pay a restoration fee of $310 (if paid in person) or $300 (if paid by mail).
After a third or subsequent conviction in five (5) years, DDS will deem you a Habitual Violator and revoke your driver's license. In general, revocations last for five (5) years. Georgia law does allow you to apply for a probationary license. Not everyone is eligible for a probationary license, and applying for one can be confusing. Read my blog post here to learn more about Habitual Violator status and Hardship Licenses.
Note that a plea of "no contest" (nolo contendere) will count as a conviction for determining the number of prior offenses. Say, for example, you have a nolo plea from 3 years ago and you plead guilty to a second offense today. In that instance, you will be treated as though this is your second offense for license suspension purposes.
Furthermore, DDS calculates the five-year "lookback" period based on arrest dates, not conviction dates.
It is a misdemeanor to drive on a suspended license. If DDS has suspended your license after a conviction for Reckless Stunt Driving and you are caught driving, you face serious consequences. The Reckless Stunt Driving law requires a fine of at least $750 and up to $5,000. You could also go to jail for up to 12 months. This is higher than the base fine for a normal Driving on a Suspended License charge. Read more about that offense here.
Vehicle Forfeiture After Third Conviction
You face license revocation, steep fines, and jail time if you are convicted of Reckless Stunt Driving for the third time within five (five) years. In addition to these severe penalties, the State will also take your vehicle. This is called "forfeiture."
There are a few exceptions to the forfeiture rule. For example, suppose the vehicle that the State attempts to seize is the only family vehicle. In that case, the court may order that the vehicle's title be transferred to another family member. That family member must be a licensed driver who requires the vehicle for "employment or family transportation purposes."
This title transfer is only possible if forfeiting the vehicle would cause financial hardship to the family that "outweighs the benefit to the state" from the forfeiture. Courts will only grant a title transfer one time.
Why hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney for a Reckless Stunt Driving charge?
If you have been charged with Reckless Stunt Driving, you should speak to an experienced Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. I understand that being charged with a crime in Georgia can be overwhelming because the stakes are so high. That is why I make every effort to save your license, keep you out of jail, and make the process as painless as possible. Call me today.
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