Reckless Driving in Michigan is Worse than a DUI in Many Respects and Worth Fighting for a Reduction to a Non-Criminal Offense to Save CPL to Name Just One Benefit

RECKLESS v OWI IMAGE

Reckless Driving is a crime, does not require an accident of any kind and is comparable in many respects to a drunk driving

As a policy, our Firm does not use ‘scare tactics’ to get your attention.  On the contrary, our aim is to inform our website traffic visitors regarding legal topics in our areas of expertise.  In this article, we will provide information regarding the criminal traffic offense of Reckless Driving based upon our experience in the Macomb County District Courts (37th District Court in Warren, 38th District Court in Eastpointe, 39th District Court in Roseville, 40th District Court in St. Clair Shores, 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights and Shelby Township, 41-B District Court in Clinton Township, 42-1 District Court in Romeo, 42-2 District Court in New Baltimore) and explain why it is as serious (see above graph) as a drunk driving – OWI.

Reckless Driving is a six (6) point criminal offense. Six (6) points is the greatest number of points that can be assessed for any traffic or criminal violation within the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code! Other 6 point offenses include Negligent Homicide*, Leaving the Scene of Accident, and Fleeing or Eluding a Police Officer. Reckless Driving carries more points than the offenses of Operating While Visibly Impaired, Drag Racing or the civil infraction of Careless Driving.

Both Reckless Driving and OWI are criminal misdemeanor offenses which can carry up 93 days in jail, up to 2 years probation and will result in oppressive insurance premium hikes.When a client is charged with OWI 1st and the plea offer is for Reckless, it is routinely declined, because harsher driver’s license sanctions are imposed and like a drunk driving, six (6) points will be abstracted on the offender’s driving record.  Lastly, the CPL (permit to carry a handgun) of a person convicted of Reckless Driving will be lost for eight (8), compared to only three (3) years for an OWI conviction. That’s the bad news, and we hope we have your attention. The good news is that these are cases often legally manageable in the court system with favorable outcomes to be had with legal representation.

What Is Reckless Driving?

Per Michigan law, Reckless Driving is defined as driving ‘in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property…’. In lay speak, that means the driving is so dangerous it is considered a purposeful action. When a death occurs because of Reckless Driving, the prosecutor may consider charging the driver with felony manslaughter which can carry 15 years in prison.

The law is highly subjective and gives law enforcement wide discretion in how a ticket is written. Some common examples of Reckless Driving include changing lanes at high rate of speed, road rage, weaving in and out of traffic, texting while speeding or blatant disregard of traffic control devices (to name a few). Our Office has seen speeding violations that could have been charged as Reckless Driving and vice versa. A Reckless Driving is far worse than a ticket for a minor traffic violation (civil infraction) because:

  • Qualifies as a crime which permanently appear on a criminal record,
  • Potential for 93 days jail, fines up to $500.00, plus court costs,
  • It can carry up to 2 years of probation with possible conditions,
  • Community service, counseling & testing for alcohol and/or drugs can be court ordered,
  • Mandatory Concealed Pistol License (CPL) rights forfeited for eight (8) years pursuant to MCL 257.626, 
  • Mandatory $1,000.00 in driver responsibility fees imposed by Michigan Secretary of State,
  • Mandatory 90 DAY ‘HARD SUSPENSION OF YOUR LICENSE’ without restrictions is imposed by Michigan Secretary of State.

In Michigan, traffic offenses are categorized as either civil infractions or criminal offense offenses. Reckless Driving is often mistakenly thought of as a civil infraction offense like a speeding ticket. However, Reckless Driving is a criminal misdemeanor, not a civil infraction, and is punishable by up to 93 days in the county jail. We cannot say that we normally see judges impose jail upon conviction for a Reckless Driving. However, it is a criminal offense crime that would have to be reported on job and/or school applications if asked. It would also be an offense that could jeopardize those that drive for a living or use a company vehicle.

Oftentimes, our Firm is successful in getting a Reckless substantially reduced to a non-criminal Civil Infraction. Civil Infractions do not carry any jail time or probation. The maximum number of points that can be assessed for a civil infraction are 0-5. That’s right, there are offenses contained in the Michigan Traffic Code which carry ZERO points as will be discussed below.

$1,000.00 State of Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee for Reckless Driving?

You read that right. As many Michigan drivers know, the Secretary of State has a ‘Point System’ for traffic offenses. Generally, if you accumulate 12 Points in two years, you are looking at suspension of your license. With points, there are also mandatory State of Michigan Driver Responsibility Fees which are subject to collection in addition to fines and costs which are paid to the court. Points are broken down into Category 1 and Category 2 Offenses. Category 1 Offenses are typically for citations like speeding. Category 2 Offenses would tend to be more serious and result in much steeper, immediate, and mandatory fees. Reckless Driving is a Category 2 Offense, and the fees to the State of Michigan are $500.00 a year, for two years. Once again, we have been successful in having this charge reduced to a Category 1 Offense avoiding these expensive mandatory State fees.

No Driving for 90 Days if Convicted of Reckless Driving

Yes, a ‘Hard Suspension’ applies to Reckless Driving, meaning if you are convicted of this offense you better call in some favors and download the Uber cab app. You cannot drive for 90 days for any reason upon being convicted of a Reckless Driving.  A person that is caught Driving while License Suspended (DWLS) is subject to further criminal problems along with an additional period of suspension tacked on by the Michigan Secretary of State. The 90 day suspension is no question harsh, this is a longer suspension than the 30 day suspension imposed for an Operating While Intoxicated. However, by getting a Reckless Driving amended to a lower offense or civil infraction, we have been successful in keeping our clients on the road and saving them the repercussions associated with a criminal conviction such as losing CPL rights! There is a wide-berth for negotiations on these cases. There have been circumstances where cases like this are resolved with a major reduction to Impeding Traffic or Double Parking (0 points/record/no license sanctions).  Getting a Reckless Driving reduced to a 0 point offense is within the range of possible outcomes. More likely scenarios would include a reduction of Reckless Driving to a civil infraction that carries 2 or 3 points, that is non-criminal and does not mandate license suspension, loss of CPL rights or driver responsibility fees.

Anyone facing such a Reckless Driving charge would be wise to have counsel that is experienced with the Macomb County Courts and will advocate the best possible outcome.

IN CONCLUSION

Short of an incident involving a felony driving offense (fleeing and eluding) or an incident where another motorist or pedestrian is injured, Reckless Driving is one of the most serious driving offenses on the books. Our Firm has distinguished itself in Criminal Law with 35 years experience working on Traffic Cases. Our goals in handling a Reckless Driving case are to get a meaningful reduction in the charge, preferably to a minor civil infraction; thus avoiding a criminal conviction, substantial points, suspension of driver’s license, jail, probation, driver responsibility fees and a big hit with the insurance company. Based upon our extensive expertise, these are realistic objectives.

Stop staring at your ticket and deciding if you should contact the court and handle the case yourself – YOU SHOULDN’T. There is a lot at stake and anyone with a Reckless Driving would be advised to at least consult with an attorney. Abdo Law provides free consultations and encourages any readers of this blog post to call with questions regarding this or a similar charge.

*Negligent Homicide has been replaced by the charge Moving Violation Causing Death though it is still listed on the Secretary of State’s website

Traffic related links:

Why it Pays to Fight Every Traffic Ticket

Hit and Run, Leaving the Scene of Accident (LSPDA, FSA)

Fail to stop within an assured clear distance/due care and caution

Michigan Secretary of State Point System

Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee Program

Links to Macomb County District Courts, Fines, Costs, Points:

37th District Court (Warren, Centerline) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule

38th District Court (Eastpointe) Traffic Fines Instructions

39-A District Court (Roseville) Link to Website

39-B District (Fraser) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule

40th District Court (St. Clair Shores) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule

41-B District Court (Clinton Township, Mount Clemens, Harrison Township) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule

41-A District Court (Sterling Heights) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule

41-A District Court (Shelby, Macomb Township, Utica) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule

42-1 District Court (Romeo, Washington Township, Richmond, Bruce, Ray) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule

42-2 District Court (New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, Lenox, New Haven) Traffic Fines and Costs Schedule