When a New Jersey police officer stops a motorist, it is up to the officer to determine whether to charge the driver with reckless driving or a lesser charge. It is a judgment call with potentially serious consequences. A reckless driving charge may be considered a criminal offense. Other charges available to the officer – such as careless driving, speeding, racing or not maintaining the proper speed in a traffic lane – are not considered criminal offenses.
Pleading or being found guilty of reckless driving in New Jersey may result in jail time and a fine, as well as higher auto insurance premiums. If the reckless driving charge stemmed from a car accident that left someone else injured, you could face civil liability as well from the injured party.
What Can a New Jersey Reckless Driving Attorney Do?
If you have been charged with reckless driving, you will need to inform yourself of your legal options to make a well-informed decision about how to proceed. An experienced NJ defense attorney at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can review the facts related to your reckless driving charge and offer legal guidance based on experience.
While each case stands on its own, many drivers across New Jersey who faced reckless driving charges have been well served by putting their trust in the seasoned defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall.
- We have carefully selected former prosecutors and public defenders and built one of the most experienced legal defense teams in New Jersey. Our skilled lawyers have a detailed understanding of New Jersey criminal law. They are supported by a large staff of legal professionals and support personnel. We can devote the time and resources needed to mount a strong defense if you have received a reckless driving ticket and are facing charges.
- Our attorneys have decades of litigation experience in municipal and county courtrooms across the Garden State. We know how local courts work, based on time spent on both sides of the table. We bring to your case the knowledge, experience and professional working relationships necessary to resolve traffic offense charges in a manner that causes the least disruption to your life.
Contact the Law Offices of John F. Marshall in Red Bank, New Jersey, or at any of our other offices across the state to learn how one of our reckless driving attorneys can help minimize the legal risks you face. Call 1-877-328-0980 or fill out our online form today so we can get started helping you with a free initial legal consultation
The Difference Between Reckless Driving and Careless Driving Charges in New Jersey
In many cases, an experienced lawyer can get a reckless driving charge in New Jersey reduced to careless driving. The difference can be significant.
In addition to four times more jail time, a reckless driving conviction carries an assessment of 5 points against your driving record, as compared to 2 points for careless driving.
What Are the Penalties for Careless and Reckless Driving in New Jersey?
Reckless driving (NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-96), or driving in a way that willfully endangers others, carries penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a fine of at least $50 and up to $200.
Careless driving (NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-97), or driving without due caution and likely endangering others, is punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a fine of at least $50 and up to $200 (NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-104).
If you receive 6 or more points on your license within three years, the State of New Jersey imposes a surcharge. Surcharges are fines that you must pay annually for three years – in addition to any court fees or other penalties.
Failing to make a surcharge payment may result in your driver license being suspended. Afterward, it will cost $100 plus the surcharge amount owed to get your driving privileges restored. If you continue to fail to pay, the Superior Court will issue a judgment allowing the state to engage a collection agency to collect unpaid surcharges. This adds collection costs and interest charges to what you owe.
Your license may be suspended if you accumulate 12 points or more on your license/record at any time.
As you probably know, auto insurance companies use points on your driver license as a reason to raise insurance premiums. And though points in New Jersey expire if you go a year without a moving violation or complete an approved driver improvement program, insurance companies may ignore this and continue to charge higher rates for several years.
What Does the State Have to Prove to Convict You of Reckless Driving?
As in a criminal case, if you do not plead guilty to reckless driving, the prosecution cannot obtain a conviction unless it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated the law. The burden of proof is on the prosecutor to show that you drove with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others in a manner likely to endanger others. You have the right to challenge any reckless driving charge and to have an attorney represent you.
As your defense attorneys, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will investigate to determine why you were charged with reckless driving and raise questions about the validity of the charge. Our goal will be to have the charge dismissed, if possible, or reduced to a lesser charge, such as careless driving. Charges that cannot be dismissed altogether may be reduced so that a fine is the only penalty.
In a reckless driving case, we will question why the police officer assumed you “willfully” made the alleged driving error that caught their attention. The driver’s intent is the central difference between reckless and careless driving.
In addition to being required to prove you intended to drive recklessly, the prosecution must also prove you were operating the vehicle if you are charged with any moving offense. Proving “operation” customarily requires actual observation or circumstantial evidence demonstrating that the defendant was operating or possessed an intention to operate the vehicle.
To establish “intent,” the prosecution typically needs to present evidence that the defendant placed the vehicle’s keys in the ignition and/or that the vehicle was running when the law enforcement officer encountered the defendant.
Prosecutors and police officers called to testify are not always prepared to do so. But our lawyers prepare to defend clients on this or any other issue that presents a potentially viable defense.
In addition to evidence that supports the defendant’s exoneration or a reduction of the charges, traffic offenses may be dismissed due to:
- Lack of probable cause
- Failure to advise of Miranda rights upon arrest
- Mistaken identity
- Unreliable or unavailable witnesses.
Often, our skilled defense attorney can get a traffic offense charge reduced or dismissed if there was no property damage or personal injury and the defendant has a clean record and good standing in their community or school.
An alternative to having a charge dismissed without a trial is to agree to a conditional discharge. If you successfully complete New Jersey’s probation program, you may have the charge removed from your record. To be eligible, you must have no previous conviction nor prior diversion on your record (e.g., previous Conditional Discharge, Pretrial Intervention, Drug Court, or a similar program in another state). You must also not be charged with any disorderly person offense or petty disorderly person offense.
A Conditional Discharge probation means you must remain arrest-free for a year and comply with other requirements during this period including paying any fines. Upon completion of the probation period, the original charge is removed from your record.
In most cases, reckless driving charges are heard by the N.J. Municipal Court within the city or township where the ticket was issued. Making a plea deal in a local court requires a defense attorney to have positive professional relationships with prosecutors who handle municipal court traffic cases. It also requires a defense attorney with a thorough knowledge of what New Jersey law makes possible and whose firm makes the time and resources available to investigate and challenge traffic offenses. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can provide a robust defense for you.
Meet Our New Jersey Reckless Driving Defense Lawyers
When defending a client against charges of reckless driving, careless driving or any other traffic violation, our attorneys consider the facts surrounding the charges and the consequences on our client’s life. Our attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are experienced at negotiating with prosecutors and work to protect our clients from unnecessarily harsh penalties.
Our lawyers represent clients in a wide variety of cases from Red Bank, N.J., and offices across New Jersey, defending them in municipal and superior courts against all traffic and criminal charges.
An initial legal consultation with a lawyer from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is always free. If you would like to speak with a traffic lawyer from our firm, call or e-mail us now to discuss your traffic ticket.