Chicago Reckless Driving Defense Attorneys
If you were recently charged with reckless driving in Chicago it is extremely important that you understand the serious nature of the allegations against you. Although reckless driving is a traffic offense, it is charged as a criminal offense. Consequently, you could face a period of incarceration if found guilty of reckless driving. The negative consequences of that conviction may also follow you for a long time to come. Given what is at stake, it only makes sense to learn everything you can about reckless driving in Chicago.
The State of Illinois Reckless Driving Law
In the State of Illinois, the crime of reckless driving is governed by Illinois Compiled Statutes 625 ILCS 5/11-503 which defines reckless driving as:
- Driving any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or
- Knowingly driving a vehicle and using an incline in roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.
What Are Some Examples of Reckless Driving?
It is extremely important to remember that anytime you are charged with a criminal offense, or issued a ticket for violating a traffic law, the State must prove those allegations. In the case of reckless driving, a law enforcement officer may accuse a motorist of reckless driving under a wide range of circumstances. That doesn’t mean that those accusations will necessarily result in a conviction. Some of the more common situations that might result in being charged with reckless driving include:
- Driving at a high rate of speed, usually 35 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit.
- Weaving in and out of traffic without signaling.
- Failing to yield that results in cutting other drivers off.
- Uses an incline to cause your vehicle to become airborne.
- Failing to stop for a school bus.
- Drag racing
- Failing to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Reckless Driving in Chicago?
When there are no additional aggravating factors involved, reckless driving is charged as a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. A Class A misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor and carries with it up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 if convicted. If you are found guilty of reckless driving in Chicago and there were aggravating circumstances involved, you could be charged with a more serious crime.
Under certain circumstances that include the addition of aggravating factors, the offense of reckless driving can be elevated to a Class 4 felony. Reckless driving is a Class 4 felony if your reckless driving resulted in:
- Bodily harm to a child or a school crossing guard while the school crossing guard was performing his or her official duties.
- Great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another.
If you are found guilty of reckless driving as a Class 4 felony, you face a sentence that could include a term of incarceration of up to three years and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
What Is a “Wet Reckless?”
Sometimes, when a driver is initially charged with driving under the influence (DUI), the State and the defense reach a guilty plea agreement that calls for reducing the more serious DUI charge down to reckless driving. The prosecution may also realize, after reviewing the evidence, that the State cannot prove the DUI charge. Consequently, the prosecution may voluntarily reduce the charge without the defendant agreeing to a plea agreement. When that happens, it is often referred to as a “wet reckless.”
What Is Aggravated Reckless Driving in Chicago?
The crime of reckless driving can also be elevated to aggravated reckless driving which is charged as a Class 3 felony in Chicago. For an offense to be considered aggravated reckless driving, the actions that constituted reckless driving must have:
- Caused great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to a child or a school crossing guard while the school crossing guard is performing his or her official duties.
If you are convicted of aggravated reckless driving in Chicago, you face a sentence that could include up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
Additional Penalties for a Reckless Driving Conviction
Unlike other common traffic violations, reckless driving is charged as a misdemeanor offense. This means that a conviction for reckless driving is a criminal conviction. If you are charged and convicted of the more serious felony charges for reckless driving, you will have a felony conviction on your permanent record. In any case, a criminal conviction will appear on your record anytime a potential employer, landlord, or even creditor conducts a background investigation. In addition, you may be placed on probation as part of your sentence if convicted. During your period of probation, you will likely need to report to a probation officer on a regular basis, complete a driving course, submit to random drug and alcohol screening, and complete any additional special conditions imposed by the court. Finally, you will almost certainly be faced with significantly higher car insurance premiums for several years to come if you are convicted of reckless driving.
Does Reckless Driving Qualify for Court Supervision?
If you are facing a charge of reckless driving, there is some good news. You may qualify for a program known as “Court Supervision.” If you are accepted into the Court Supervision program, the court will not enter a conviction right now. Instead, the case will be continued for a period of time (usually one year) during which time you will be required to abide by all conditions imposed by the court. The court can tailor those conditions to the facts of your case; however, common conditions include things such as successful completion of traffic school, completing a designated number of hours of community service hours, and paying all fines and costs.
You must also refrain from committing any additional traffic or criminal offenses during the period of time you are in the Court Supervision program. If you are eligible for this option it is one guaranteed way to prevent having a criminal conviction on your permanent record.
If you were previously sentenced to Court Supervision for reckless driving or driving under the influence (DUI), you are not currently eligible. Likewise, if you are accepted into the Court Supervision program for this reckless driving charge, you will not be eligible for Court Supervision in the future for reckless driving or for DUI.
Can I Avoid a Reckless Driving Conviction?
For the State to prove that you were guilty of reckless driving, the prosecutor will need to show that you:
- Showed a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property OR
- Knowingly drove a vehicle and used an incline in a roadway to cause the vehicle to become airborne.
How will the prosecution prove either of those? Most often, the State’s evidence in a reckless driving case will be eyewitness testimony, video evidence, or electronic evidence from a radar gun or other device used to measure speed.
Eyewitness testimony is not the most reliable evidence as numerous studies have shown. When the eyewitness is a law enforcement officer, a court may be more inclined to consider the witness to be credible; however, the fact still remains that his/her testimony is likely subjective in nature. An experienced defense attorney will point out that the officer’s testimony is not based on objective facts but based on a subjective interpretation of what he/she saw.
If the State’s evidence includes video from a dash-mounted video camera, it will obviously be considered more objective than eyewitness testimony; however, that doesn’t mean that it cannot be challenged. Your defense attorney can point to the angle of the video, the road conditions, and the accuracy and reliability of the video camera when challenging the evidence. The same basic analysis applies if the evidence is electronic in nature. The radar gun itself could have been malfunctioning or might have been tracking a vehicle close to you.
Contact a Chicago Reckless Driving Attorney Today
Even if the evidence the State presents is reliable and credible, that evidence must still show that the manner in which you were operating your vehicle amounts to a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” That element of the offense of reckless driving can be more difficult to prove than it may appear. An experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and discuss with you the likelihood of the prosecution being able to prove the required elements for a reckless driving conviction.
If you were recently ticketed for reckless driving or aggravated reckless driving in Chicago, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced reckless driving attorney right away to ensure that you understand your rights and your legal options. Contact an experienced Chicago traffic law lawyer at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today by calling 800-996-4824 or by filling out our online contact form.