Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all guilty of trying to multi-task when we are driving. Cell phone use is a probably one of the most common distractions that we perform while driving, and it is also probably the most lethal, but it is certainly not the only activity in which we engage while driving that presents a danger to ourselves and others. Every day we see women putting on make-up, men checking out women as they walk by, parents raising Cain at squabbling kids in the back seat, or any of a thousand other things that diverts their full attention off of the road. We often think to ourselves, “Wow, look at that jerk. He’s going to kill someone,” without the awareness or acknowledgement of our own similar actions. After all, he’s a jerk; we are just… busy, right?
Again, we are ALL guilty of such behaviors, and if you haven’t had an accident, a traffic ticket, or some other incident as a result, you have been darned lucky. Fortunately, most of us get our “wake-up call” before we injure ourselves, someone else, or wreck someone’s property. The unfortunate part of that wake-up call is that it usually arrives in the form of getting issued a careless or reckless driving traffic ticket.
The difference between a careless driving traffic ticket and a reckless driving traffic ticket can be perplexing to the average driver. The most important difference to bear in mind is that a careless driving violation is a misdemeanor offense, whereas a reckless driving traffic ticket can result in an arrest and a fine. If you are charged with reckless driving in an incident that results in someone being severely injured, you can be charged with a felony. With a careless driving traffic ticket, you will get points against your license and have to pay a fine, but that is about all. It addresses your driving, but not your mental state. This is because you are viewed by the police officer issuing the traffic citation as simply making poor choices; he or she not doesn’t feel that your actions were willfully dangerous.
Reckless driving is distinctly different in that you can face up to 90 days in jail, even if it is the first time you have been charged with this violation. This is because your driving is perceived as being without concern for the well-being of others on the road. In other words, you knowingly put other drivers at risk for injury by your actions. Because the law views this to be such a serious occurrence, a second conviction can result in up to six months in jail.
As you can see, your behaviors have a bearing on how you will be charged, and there will be other things that are used to determine how you will be charged, as well. Did the police officer pull you over because he noticed that you were weaving in and out of traffic? Were you cooperative with the police officer or did you have a chip on your shoulder at the time? Since there is a progression of things from the perspective of law enforcement when it comes to a traffic stop of this nature – careless driving to reckless to aggressive driving, which is considered the combination of two factors – coming across as angry and aggressive when you are stopped can be detrimental to how the traffic stop turns out for you. As discussed, if you get charged with reckless driving, these factors can make the outcome a lot worse for you, especially if you decide to fight your traffic ticket in court (which you always should). Once the cop tells the judge or hearing officer that he observed you engaging in X-type of driving behavior and then you were hostile with him when he pulled you over, the odds of the judge letting you off easy are pretty slim. True, you cannot be charged with aggressive driving in Florida, but the concept of aggressive driving can certainly be used in determining which way the charge will be written – careless or reckless.
We have all heard the expression, “Attitude is everything.” Over time, I have noted that is very true and not just when it comes to the issuance of a reckless versus careless driving ticket so be sure to maintain a pleasant disposition when pulled over by a police officer, no matter the reason. If you are engaging in some activity that diverts your attention from your driving and get pulled over, it is critical to maintain a positive attitude if you hope to get let off with the lesser charge. Of course, cell phone use is going to be a harder sell these days than something like turning the radio station because there has been so much controversy recently in the media over the safety of their use while driving. This, however, should not prevent you from remembering to be polite and never admit to engaging in reckless behavior. It has been my experience that like judges, cops tend to be intolerant of excuses for violating traffic laws.
Keep in mind that no matter the region in which you are driving, the chances are good that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of law enforcement officials whose job it is to find drivers who may not be paying as much attention to their driving as they should. No matter the number around, it only takes one police officer, sheriff’s deputy, or highway patrol officer to see you engage in distracted driving in order to complicate your life for a bit. Stay focused on your driving because the cards are stacked against you. This is one really good reason why you should always seek the advice of a good traffic ticket attorney.
If you do get a careless or reckless driving traffic citation, give me a call for at a free consultation at 967-954-9888. We can help you to determine not only which charge you are likely to face, but also strategize a good defense in court so that you can get a reckless driving charge reduced to careless driving. Even better, we may even be able to get the traffic ticket dismissed altogether.