O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390 is Georgia’s Reckless Driving statute. It defines Reckless Driving as driving in “reckless disregard for the safety or persons or property.”
Under the statute, Reckless Driving is a misdemeanor offense. This means that a person convicted of Reckless Driving may be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail or on probation, and may be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000, plus court costs and probation fees (if applicable). Reckless Driving may serve as a predicate offense for First Degree Homicide by Vehicle, a felony offense. State v. Biddle, 303 Ga.App. 384 (2010).
In addition to the criminal penalties that a person may face upon conviction for Reckless Driving, the Department of Driver Services also assesses 4 points on a person’s license as a penalty for committing this offense. For drivers over 21, Reckless Driving does not result in automatic suspension of a person’s license (like, for example, DUI). However, a person who accrues 15 points within a 24 month period of time may have his/her license suspended. Click here to read more about how points are assessed and how to potentially reduce the number of points on your license. For drivers under 21, a Reckless Driving charge (or any other offense that results in 4 or more points being assessed) will suspend the person’s license.
What Must the State Prove?
Reckless Driving does not require that the State prove an intentionally reckless act. Rather, the State must prove that the Defendant acted recklessly or carelessly “so as to show a disregard of consequences or a heedless indifference for the safety and rights of others who might reasonably be expected to be injured” by the Defendant’s actions. Dunagan v. State, 283 Ga. 501 (2008).
Examples of behavior that may constitute Reckless Driving:
- Driving 32 mph over the speed limit [Travis v. State, 314 Ga.App. 280 (2012)];
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street and nearly striking concrete median [Sachtjen v. State, 341 Ga.App. 612 (2017)];
- Turning in front of a car who had the right-of-way but failing to leave enough room for the other driver to stop [Bautista v. State, 305 Ga.App. 210 (2010)];
- Laying drags in the drive-through line of a restaurant, causing vehicle to swerve in close proximity to the drive-through call box [Griffis v. State, 295 Ga.App. 903 (2009)].
Relationship to DUI
Legally speaking, Reckless Driving and DUI are separate and distinct offenses, requiring a showing of separate elements. Croft v. State, 278 Ga.App. 107 (2006). For that reason, Reckless Driving is not a “lesser included” offense of DUI. That said, there is some overlap between them in terms of what the State must prove to sustain a conviction. For this reason, Reckless Driving tends to be the preferred charge when a Georgia DUI Defense Attorney manages to convince a prosecutor to reduce a DUI charge to a less serious charge.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Reckless Driving Charge?
I never suggest going to traffic court without an attorney. Reckless Driving is one of the more serious driving charges. In addition to the potential criminal penalties, which may include up to a year in jail, and the accrual of points on your license, you are facing skyrocketing insurance rates as well as the general inconvenience of wasting at least one day sitting in court. If you are charged with Reckless Driving, don’t take chances with your freedom. Call me today.