Reckless Driving in Washington: What to Know
Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor in Washington. Even though it’s not as serious as a felony, you face serious penalties that will impact virtually every aspect of your life.
Reckless Driving Penalties in Washington
If you are convicted of reckless driving in Washington, you will face:
- Up to 364 days in jail
- Up to $5,000 fine
- Mandatory license suspension of at least 30 days
You may also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in every vehicle you drive if your reckless driving conviction is part of a DUI plea agreement. An IID is a device that measures your blood alcohol content (BAC) and will not allow you to operate your vehicle if you are intoxicated.
Collateral Impact of Reckless Driving
In addition to the criminal penalties for reckless driving, you may deal with:
- Increased auto insurance premiums (requirement to get SR-22 high-risk insurance for 3 years)
- Loss of employment
- Impact on your immigration status, including deportation
Dealing with Reckless Driving Charges in WA
When suspected of reckless driving, a police officer will pull you over to conduct an investigation. This may entail a series of questions, including checking your driver’s license and registration.
You may be arrested if the officer gathers enough evidence suggesting you’ve engaged in reckless driving. After being arrested, you’ll undergo booking, where your fingerprints, personal info, and photographs are taken. You might be released on bail or your own recognizance, promising to appear in court without a financial deposit.
The charges are read at your arraignment and you’ll plead guilty or not guilty. Thorough investigation and negotiation by your criminal defense lawyer can result in dismissal, a reduced sentence, or an amendment to a lesser charge. Sentencing varies based on your negotiated plea or trial outcome, ranging from fines to incarceration.
The exact process may differ by jurisdiction and specifics of the offense, but this sequence outlines the typical course of events following a reckless driving charge.
Defending Against Reckless Driving
Defending against reckless driving charges in Washington can be a complex process and having an experienced criminal defense attorney is important. Here are some defenses that may be available in a reckless driving situation:
- You were not driving recklessly. To be convicted of reckless driving, the prosecution must prove that you were driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. This means that you must have been aware of the danger your actions were creating and that you chose to disregard that danger.
- You were not driving dangerously. Various factors that may be considered in determining whether you were driving recklessly include weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating, or cutting off other drivers. If you were not driving dangerously, this may help to show that you were not driving recklessly.
Alternative Reckless Driving Punishments
If you are charged with reckless driving, you may be able to avoid the harshest penalties and seek alternative punishments instead.
As part of your plea deal, you may be able to take a defensive driving course or serve time with an Electronic Home Monitor (EHM) instead of time in jail. Your reckless driving attorney can help you understand your potential options.