Reducing a DUI Charge to Reckless Driving


For many decades in Chicago and other Illinois city courts, experienced criminal defense attorneys sought out special plea deals from prosecutors seeking “reduced” or “amended” charges so that the original charge of DUI could be changed to that of “Reckless Driving”. There were many reasons for this, including that:

  1. Reckless Driving just sounds much better than Drunken Driving or Driving Under the Influence. No one can dispute that if an employer or school obtained access to a person’s driving record, they would most likely be less upset upon seeing the words Reckless Driving than they would if they saw a DUI. Which is not to say that Reckless is a wonderful thing to see on a driving record, because it isn’t, because it’s still a Class A misdemeanor most of the time, just like a DUI. But it’s just better looking than a DUI to most eyes.
  2. Reckless Driving doesn’t necessarily involve alcohol. A person commits this offense when he or she drives their vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property. It is also applicable when the person uses an incline, railroad crossing or bridge to send their vehicle airborne. So, by pleading guilty to such a charge, instead of a DUI, it allowed the defendant to tell prospective employers, if they asked, that they had never entered a plea of guilty to a crime involving alcohol or drugs.
  3. Reckless Driving didn’t block defendants from later getting a good deal on a DUI. This last reason was probably the most important benefit to many people who received such a reduced charge; a benefit that in later years was substantially changed under Illinois law as explained below.

How Many DUI Supervisions Can You Get in Illinois?

At one point, the law technically allowed multiple supervisions on multiple DUIs as long as there were at least 5 years in between. Then, the law changed to allow a supervision on a DUI only as long as there was a span of 10 years in between. But for more than 25 years, the law that covers courts in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois has been that a person may receive only one DUI supervision in a lifetime. Why is supervision important? Because with a sentence of supervision, an offender’s driver’s license doesn’t get revoked and unless it’s suspended for another reason, he or she can continue to drive legally. That’s very important. It was this change in the law, limiting supervisions to one per lifetime, that in large part, gave birth to the common request to reduce a DUI to a Reckless.

That’s because it quickly became apparent that if a lawyer could get the prosecutor to change the name of the crime so that it was no longer called a “DUI”, then IF the defendant was later charged with yet another DUI, then he or she could still likely get a supervision and keep their driving privileges.

Who Plans on Getting a DUI?

The answer of course is no one. No one wants to be charged with any type of criminal case, or wants to be arrested, fingerprinted, and then required to hire a criminal lawyer to defend themselves in court. Certainly, no one wants a DUI and of those people who get a DUI, certainly no one wants another one. But still, people liked the idea that IF they ever got another DUI, they still had one more chance at avoiding a revocation.

Changes in the Law Affected Reckless Driving

But over the years, it became obvious to prosecutors, judges and legislators that the vast majority of Reckless Driving charges on people’s records were not really offenses that related to driving in a crazy or reckless manner, but were in fact really DUI charges that had been reduced. As a result of public pressure from groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), a further change of the law in Illinois then occurred. No longer would people have a “free pass” to get a supervision on their second DUI if they had their first one reduced. The new law blocked supervision under these circumstances. At first, the law blocked supervision only for what was called a “wet reckless” which was a reckless that had been reduced from a DUI. Later, the law was made even more strict and any presence of a reckless driving offense on a person’s driving record is enough to block a DUI supervision. This remains the present law.

Speak to our Experienced Legal Team

Despite changes to the law, reduced or amended charges are still very important and can greatly benefit our clients for purposes of employment, education and immigration. A knowledgeable attorney will still aggressively pursue such reductions and amendments. The legal team at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC has been helping clients accused of criminal and traffic matters out of tough situations for more than 30 years. Call us today at (312) 644-0444 or reach us online 24 hours a day.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : October 7, 2022