Being charged with reckless driving in New Jersey is no small matter. It exposes an individual to the possibility of fines of up to $200, and up to 60 days in jail. Many times, charges of reckless driving are coupled with other charges related to speeding or driving while impaired, creating even more exposure to jail time and fines.
However, in order for an individual to be found guilty of reckless driving, the prosecutor must be able to prove the elements of reckless driving, which are:
- Operation of a motor vehicle in a careless manner
- That such careless operation willfully or wantonly disregarded the safety of others
- That the careless operation endangered or could be expected to likely endanger others or their property.
Willful or Wanton Disregard of the Safety of Others
This element of the statute requires a showing that the person charged with reckless driving did so intentionally, and represents one of the most common ways in which individuals can seek to have charges of reckless driving dismissed or thrown out. Finding that someone acted intentionally requires a showing that the person knowingly acted in the way they did. Proving intent may seem easy at first blush, but it requires the prosecution to show the state of mind of the individual at the time of the action. Since mind-reading is not available, prosecutors must use the facts surrounding the charges to infer the individual’s state of mind.
If you have been charged with reckless driving, your attorney will want to know the facts surrounding your charges. Was there a recent speed zone change? What were the weather conditions? Was the driver familiar with the road and its area? Was your vehicle’s speedometer properly calibrated? How were other drivers around you operating their vehicles? These are all factors that influence the inference of a person’s mental state and whether they acted intentionally.
Some facts make it easier to create an inference of intent. Some make it more difficult. An experienced New Jersey reckless driving defense attorney will be able to use all of the facts to make a finding of “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others” as difficult as possible.
Careless Operation of the Vehicle
Prosecutors must also have evidence or witness testimony regarding the careless operation of the vehicle. Not only must the prosecutor show that the driver’s operation of the vehicle was indeed careless; he or she must also prove that the person charged was actually operating the vehicle. The charging officer may have evidence of the driver’s operation of the vehicle; however, if he or she did not actually witness the individual charged operating the vehicle there could be questions about who was in control at the time of the reckless conduct.
Additionally, the prosecutor must show that the actions of the driver were careless. Poor driving is not necessarily reckless, and the prosecutor must be able to put forward evidence showing actions that would be deemed careless.
If you have been charged with reckless driving, your attorney will likely challenge the characterization of your operation of the vehicle as careless, and force the prosecutor to put forth evidence and testimony corroborating the assertion of carelessness.
Endangerment or Expectation of Endangerment
Finally, prosecutors must prove that the intentional careless driving of the individual endangered others or could be reasonably expected to endanger others. This element is sometimes difficult for a defense attorney to challenge, especially if the alleged act took place on a busy street or highway or a pedestrian-heavy area. However, if the act to place in a less-populated area or on lightly-used road, your defense attorney may be able to argue that your reckless act did not endanger others and could not reasonably be expected to endanger others.
Contact a New Jersey Reckless Driving Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with reckless driving, either in connection with another offense or on its own, do not attempt to resolve these challenges on your own, and certainly do not consider pleading guilty to these offenses. They carry serious fines, jail time and should not be treated lightly. An experienced New Jersey reckless driving defense attorney will be able to analyze the charges against you and make arguments against the charges that may result in the charges being reduced or dismissed.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.