Under Washington law, drivers may be charged with reckless driving or may be charged with negligent driving. In both cases, the penalties can be very severe. Depending on the severity of the charges, a defendant may be facing fines of between $250 and $5,000 and may face not only a loss of driving rights but also the potential for jail time.
Reckless driving versus negligent driving
Many drivers do not know the difference between reckless and negligent driving charges. Not only are the penalties significantly different but the elements of proof required are also different.
- Negligent driving – Negligent driving in the first degree is a misdemeanor traffic crime in the state of Washington. RCW 46.61.5249 defines negligent driving in the first degree as: “A person is guilty of negligent driving in the first degree if he or she operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or an illegal drug.”Negligent driving in the second degree is a misdemeanor and is a traffic infraction. RCW 46.61.525 states that negligent driving in the second degree can be charged if a person operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is negligent and endangers any person or property.
To prove negligence, merely requires a law enforcement official to prove the driver acted in a manner that was not consistent with “what a reasonably careful person” would do under the same circumstances
- Reckless driving –The crime of Reckless Driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Reckless driving is considered a serious criminal traffic offense in the State of Washington. As a gross misdemeanor, it carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. If convicted of Reckless Driving in Washington the Department of Licensing will suspend the driver’s license for 30 days.To prove recklessness, it must be demonstrated the driver exhibited a gross disregard for the sake of other persons or for property. In many cases, when a driver is cited for DUI after a traffic accident, they may face enhanced sentences if they are also charged with reckless driving.
Retaining an attorney
If you are cited for reckless or negligent driving, it is imperative you contact an Attorney. Failure to do so could result in steep fines and a possible jail sentence.
Why Attorney Mark A. Chmelewski
Retaining an attorney after you have been charged is necessary to protect and defend your rights. Attorney Mark A. Chmelewski is a former prosecutor, understands the legal system and can help you defend against the charges you are facing. He understands that your right to drive is imperative and he will to fight to have charges reduced or whenever possible eliminated completely. Call today for help with any charges you may be facing and he will make sure you get the representation you require and deserve.
Regularly representing clients in Kittitas, Yakima, Grant, Chelan and Douglas Counties.