Clark, NJ Reckless Driving and Careless Driving Lawyers
Years of Clark Municipal Court Experience handling Reckless Driving and Careless Driving Violations.
We have successfully defended thousands of clients charged with violations of NJSA 39:4-97 and NJSA 39:4-96.
Reckless driving is the more serious charge and carries 5 points, nearly half of the 12 points for which the Motor Vehicle Commission can suspend your license.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:4-96, reckless driving, the State must prove that that you were driving a “vehicle heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of others in a manner that endangers or be likely to endanger, a person or property.”
Heedlessly, willful and wanton in some ways have almost opposite meanings are the basis for this serious offense of reckless driving. Heedlessly is unmindful but to the point of dangerousness whereas willful and wanton are intentional and deliberate actions knowing the danger that may result. These are all states of mind that can be proven by the facts and circumstances of the events resulting in the reckless driving ticket. For example, if you were traveling at a high rate of speed on a dark stretch of curvy road on a rainy night – from these circumstances the State could infer you were driving heedlessly or willfully disregarding the safety of others using the road.
The penalties for first offense of reckless driving are: 5 points; fine of not less than $50 nor more than $500; $33 court costs plus a $6 surcharge; possible jail time in the county or municipal jail of no more than 60 days. The second offense increases the fine to not less than $100 and not more than $500 and up to 3 months in jail. The fines are doubled in a Safe Corridor, Construction Zone or 65 m.p.h. area.
Reckless driving can result in steep financial penalties and of course, jail time is the most serious of all penalties, affecting every aspect of your life. In addition, if the court finds you acted willfully than pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 the judge has the option to suspend your license – and there is NO minimum or maximum term. Willfully is defined as intentionally and deliberately regardless of the consequences.
A plea bargain option for a reckless driving charge is to downgrade to careless driving if other options such as unsafe driving or obstructing traffic are not available as they are no point moving violations but as such it could be very difficult to downgrade a reckless driving tickets to one of these charges.
Careless driving is a 2 point moving violation that is commonly charged when there is an accident or speeding or failing to yield to a signal or sign.
N.J.S.A. 39:4-97 provides that a person is guilty of careless driving if they drive “a vehicle carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection” and in a manner “so as to endanger or be likely to endanger, a person or property..” The statute tells us what we already know – that you must drive with caution and that driving that is likely to cause injury or damage property will result in a guilty conviction.
The penalties for careless driving are 2 points, a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $200; $33 court costs plus $6 surcharge. The fines are doubled in a Safe Corridor, Construction Zone or 65 m.p.h. area. You could face up to 15 days in county or municipal court jail.
Many if not all forms of careless driving are likely to endanger person or property. Importantly, the mere happening of an accident is not enough to convict a driver, the burden is still on the State to show that your driving was reckless or careless.The key therefore, is to first determine if the manner of driving was not careless but instead a result of circumstances beyond the control of the driver who was driving safely. For example, a rainy cold dark night during which a driver is driving at or below the speed limit but a sudden ice patch causes a spin out and subsequent accident. In this situation it could be argued that they were driving with caution and circumspection but the sudden unexpected ice could not be avoided and was the cause of the accident. Perhaps a dismissal or at least a downgraded charge to unsafe driving (N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2 or even obstructing traffic (N.J.S.A. 39:4-67). Both no point violations as long as you haven’t been found guilty of unsafe driving more than twice before.
Reckless driving and careless driving are moving violations that must be analyzed to determine where the States’ case is weak in order to argue for the best down grade or even possibly a dismissal. Convictions for both violations will result in points to your license which could results in annual surcharges over and above the fines and fees you pay in court and even a suspension of your license from the Motor Vehicle Commission.
If you give me the opportunity to review and discuss your case, as an experienced criminal lawyer I can help you find the best corse of action and fight for your license.