Information on crimes that are commonly charged in Michigan. If you need legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.
(1) A person who violates this section is guilty of reckless driving punishable as provided in this section.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
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Many people see “Reckless Driving” as a minor offense, far less serious than “Operating While Intoxicated”—in fact, the first thing many people charged with a drunk driving charge ask their lawyer is “Can we get it reduced to a ‘Reckless Driving’?”—but, in reality, Reckless Driving is as serious a charge as a drunk driving charge, and can carry even stronger penalties.
Unlike a speeding ticket, which is a “civil infraction”, a Reckless Driving charge is a misdemeanor, and a conviction can (and sometimes does) result in jail time of up to 93 days, and/or a fine up up to $500, plus court costs and fees. Additionally, it puts 6 points on your driver’s license, and there are significant license sanctions: a first conviction results in a 90-day driver’s license suspension (no driving at all for 90 days), and a second conviction results in a permanent revocation of your license. These license sanctions are automatically applied by the Secretary of State; the judge has no authority to alter them. The judge will also order you to forfeit your vehicle or immobilize it. Additionally, if you have a commercial driver’s license (“CDL”), it will be suspended for a year (even if the incident did not involve a commercial vehicle). It also has repercussions outside of driving. For instance, it will prevent you from have a Concealed Pistol License (“CPL”) for eight years.
Reckless Driving charges that result in a serious injury or death become felonies. In those cases, the stakes are obviously even higher.
To convict a person of Reckless Driving, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the defendant was driving the vehicle; (2) the vehicle was being driven somewhere open to the general public (so not in a dirt track on your own private property, for example); and (3) the defendant was driving the vehicle with—essentially—complete disregard for safety. In most cases, this third element becomes the point of contention: while the driver may have been “careless”, was the driver going further than that? This is a question a jury (or, in a bench trial, the judge) has to decide.
Many Reckless Driving cases are resolved with a plea to a similar, but much lesser, offense: Careless Driving (a civil infraction that carries no jail time and has lower fines, but does put 3 points on your license). These cases seldom go to trial, but trials are not unheard-of on these charges.
Because it is a “traffic code” offense, this offense cannot be expunged under Michigan’s criminal record expungement statute, MCL 780.621 et seq.
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