Reckless Driving

Reckless Driving in Michigan is viewed as a criminal offense. According to MCL 257.626 “…a person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. If a conviction occurs, the punishment is set by the sentencing Judge within the limits described above. The Michigan Secretary of State also penalizes the driver by assessing 6 points to his or her license for 2 years from the date of conviction. However, this particular offense is not subject to expungement, and will always remain a part of the individual’s criminal and driving record upon conviction.

If another driver or pedestrian is injured or killed because of the reckless driving, the charge evolves into a felony. Reckless Driving Causing Death, pursuant to MCL 257.626(4) is a felony that carries a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years. Reckless Driving Causing Serious Impairment, pursuant to MCL 257.626(3), is a felony that carries up to 4 years in prison. Reckless or Careless Driving Resulting in a Miscarriage or Stillborn is a 2 year maximum felony offense. Likewise, these offenses result in drivers license sanctions. The driver is also potentially subject to a civil lawsuit which could result in a large money judgment.

Because Reckless Driving is viewed as a criminal offense, the accused driver must appear in Court, and cannot resolve the matter by just sending a check to the District Court for the city in which the allegation arose.  A lawyer is required for this type of charge.  For any criminal offense, the accused has the Constitutional protections of legal representation, a presumption of innocence, the burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) resting with the prosecution, trial before a Judge or Jury, the right to confront witnesses, the right to compel witnesses to appear at trial, the right to testify, and the right to remain silent. When accused of any crime, it is recommended that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, such as the attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC.

A related, less serious, offense of Reckless Driving is Careless Driving. Careless Driving is a civil, not criminal, offense. According to MCL 257.626b, “A person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public including an area designated for the parking of vehicles in a careless or negligent manner likely to endanger any person or property, but without wantonness or recklessness, is responsible for a civil infraction”. As a civil offense, the driver responsible for this offense is not subject to any obligations with the presiding District Court other than a set fine of usually between $100 and $200. The Michigan Secretary of State assesses 3 points to the driver who is found responsible for Careless Driving for a period of 2 years, and this offense will always remain as part of the individual’s driving record. Because Careless Driving is not viewed as a criminal act, the accused driver does not have a right to a court appointed lawyer. However, anyone that receives a traffic ticket always has the right to hire a lawyer to defend the accusation.

Reckless Driving is seen as intentional dangerous driving, whereas Careless Driving can occur when the driver did not intend to subject other drivers to potential harm. How police officers interpret the driving involved is subject to their subjective interpretations, and sometimes those interpretations are just plain wrong.

If you receive a traffic ticket for Reckless Driving or Careless Driving in Michigan, there are consequences beyond paying the scheduled fine for the offense.  If the traffic ticket appears on your driving record it can impact your insurance rates, your ability to continue to drive (if you get too many points), your employment (if your employment involves driving), and the chances of getting a break from police officers, Prosecutors or City Attorneys for future traffic offenses.

If you have a contested hearing or trial, a lawyer can make every effort to obtain any videos from the police car prior to the hearing or trial (if the video exists).  It is unlikely that the police officer will bring his patrol car video to the contested hearing or trial.  The video may provide clear proof as to the quality of your driving at the time of the ticket.  If you are aware of any eyewitnesses that support your side of the story, your lawyer can compel them appear in Court on your behalf.  There is a possibility that a traffic light camera may have recorded your driving as well, which may be necessary to obtain.  The quality of the legal representation that you receive can affect the ultimate result that you receive.

Most contested traffic tickets are resolved through a settlement with a Prosecutor or City Attorney.  Tickets are rarely dismissed outright, because the city needs the revenue that the ticket generates.  How good of a settlement you receive depends upon a few factors: What is your prior driving record?; What happened that caused you to receive the traffic ticket?; Where did it happen?; Does the case involve a Prosecutor or City Attorney?; How was the matter negotiated on your behalf?.

If you do receive a ticket, it is never a good idea to argue with the police officer – even if the police officer is clearly wrong.  If the police officer does not like you, the police officer may tell the Prosecutor or City Attorney that they do not want a deal offered on the ticket, or they may oppose a better resolution to the ticket because they are holding a grudge.  If you are respectful and polite to the police officer, it may go a long way to the ultimate result that you receive.

Even though there is an added expense in hiring a lawyer to represent you concerning a traffic ticket or offense, it is worth the expense to try and protect your driving record and the consequences it may bring.  The attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC have handled hundreds of traffic related tickets and offenses, and are prepared to help you get the best possible result under your circumstances.

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