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The precise definition of what constitutes reckless driving will vary by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, reckless driving falls within the realm of traffic offenses, while in others it can be charged as a criminal offense. If the violation is considered a traffic offense, then the violator will normally be issued a reckless driving ticket or summons in lieu of being taken into custody and arrested. If the recipient of a reckless driving ticket wishes to contest the violation, he or she must notify the court in writing that he or she is contesting the ticket and then appear for court and defend his or her actions.
Although the definition of reckless driving may differ somewhat from one jurisdiction to the next, in most cases it includes the wanton and/or willful disregard for the safety of others while operating a motor vehicle. In many jurisdictions, the driver's state of mind is an element of the violation or crime. In some cases, however, certain actions are automatically considered reckless driving, such as driving at a certain speed over the posted speed limit or racing.
In jurisdictions where a driver receives a reckless driving ticket, the first thing he or she must do if contesting the ticket is to read the entire ticket — front and back — carefully. In most cases, information that the driver will need in order to contest the ticket will be found on the ticket itself. Most notably, the driver should look for the court date assigned to the reckless driving ticket, the time frame the driver has to notify the court of his or her intention to contest the ticket, and the address where the notification must be mailed. Contesting a reckless driving ticket cannot be done over the telephone in almost all cases.
Once the driver has determined where to send notification of his or her intention to contest the ticket, he or she must either fill out the appropriate portion of the ticket or prepare a notice to the court indicating his or her intention to contest the ticket. The ticket or notification should be mailed to the court by certified or registered mail. A copy must also be sent to the prosecutor's office that handles traffic court cases.
The driver must then appear in court at the time and date assigned by the court for a trial. The driver may appear with or without an attorney; however, if the driver appears without an attorney, he or she is still expected to understand the elements of the violation and be able to defend himself or herself in court. If found guilty of reckless driving, common penalties include probation or suspension of the driver's driving privileges.
I've had two speeding tickets since I've been driving, and the officer had me dead to rights both times. The circumstances might have been mitigating, but when they clocked me, I was speeding. I signed the ticket, mailed in my fine and walked away.
Police officers don't often write reckless driving tickets, so when they do, the individual is usually guilty of the charge. An attorney would be helpful in possibly getting the charge reduced, or keeping the driver from going to jail, and doing community service and paying a fine, instead.
Defending yourself against a reckless driving charge without an attorney is folly. Depending on the charge, you could be looking at a felony, and the last thing you want is to defend yourself against a felony charge.
If the charge was based strictly on speed, the judge might be a little more lenient if the person's driving record is otherwise clean. However, for someone with numerous speeding tickets and/or fines, an attorney may be necessary to keep the driver from spending a fair amount of time in jail.
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