Reckless driving is one of the most serious traffic offenses in Utah, on equal footing with drunk driving. Worth 80 points on your driver’s license, reckless driving can contribute to a license suspension and other penalties. What kind of driving qualifies as “reckless” is not always clear, but our Salt Lake City traffic ticket lawyers explain the definition of reckless driving in Utah and discuss what kinds of conduct can lead to reckless driving charges.
Definition of Reckless Driving in Utah
In most states, reckless driving has a definition that is hard to pin down. Utah uses a definition like this as well: it is considered reckless driving to drive “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This essentially means that if you know that how you are driving is dangerous but you continue to do it anyway, it could be considered reckless driving. Still, this definition is quite vague. Fortunately, Utah has a second definition that is easier to pin down.
Under the second definition of reckless driving in Utah Code § 41-6a-528(1)(b), reckless driving consists of 3 or more traffic infractions within a 3-mile stretch of road. Generally, a police officer will have to observe what you are doing to charge you with reckless driving, but as soon as they see three moving traffic violations at once or in quick succession, they can charge you with reckless driving.
Speeding can be one of these offenses, but it isn’t necessary for reckless driving. For example, you could be charged with reckless driving if you were speeding, passing on a double yellow line, and running a stop sign all in quick succession, but you could also face reckless driving charges for running a red light, failing to signal, and driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
What Speed is Considered “Reckless Driving” in Utah?
Typically, speeding by itself would not be considered reckless driving. Under the second definition of reckless driving, speeding would need to be accompanied by 2 more traffic offenses for reckless driving charges. However, the first definition of reckless driving could still cover speeding if there are additional circumstances that show that the speeding was especially dangerous. For instance, if the road is covered with snow and heavy traffic, speeding would be especially dangerous and could lead to reckless driving charges.
These kinds of charges for reckless driving are sometimes considered “speeding plus” charges, where you need to be found guilty of speeding plus another element that makes the driving reckless. Speeding, on its own, should only be charged under the speeding statute.
Even if speeding is not charged as reckless driving, you could still face a driver’s license suspension or other additional traffic tickets and fines for the offense. Speeding can result in 35 to 75 points on your license, depending on how far over the speed limit you were driving. The full 75-point penalty is common if you are caught driving 21mph or more over the speed limit.
Other charges could be filed for racing, even if you are not racing against another car. This can lead to additional points that, when combined with the points for speeding, could also build up to a license suspension, even if you were less than 21mph over the speed limit.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Utah
As mentioned, reckless driving typically results in 80 points on your license. For drivers under 21 years-old, getting 70 points in one infraction leads to an automatic license suspension. For adults over 21, accumulating 300 points within 3 years results in an automatic suspension for at least 3 months. However, you could be asked to appear at a hearing and face penalties after accumulating only 200 points.
In addition to the driving penalties, reckless driving under Utah Code § 41-61-528 is a class B misdemeanor. A class B misdemeanor is punished by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. This is a steep price to pay for a traffic offense. For many first-time offenses, a driver is likely to face a fine and points only – and the fine may be lower than the max fine of $1,000. However, if the circumstances surrounding the arrest involved an accident or other additional infractions, the judge might issue higher penalties. For repeat offenders, maximum fines and jail time could be ordered.
In some cases, judges may allow or request that you perform compensatory service instead of paying a fine. This community service can be used to cover $10 per hour worked. Your attorney can help guide you through the potential penalties and punishments you could face if you were accused of reckless driving.
The crime of reckless driving is independent of any of the other 3 moving violations that make up a reckless driving offense. In some cases, you may be charged independently for moving violations and reckless driving. Our lawyers may be able to fight some aspects of these charges so that overlapping charges are sentenced as one offense instead of multiple traffic tickets.
Call Our Salt Lake City Reckless Driving Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one was arrested or cited for reckless driving in Utah, call our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers today. Overson & Bugden’s Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers can fight to get serious traffic tickets and criminal charges dropped and reduced, potentially saving you from high fines and jail time. For a free legal consultation, contact our law offices today at (801) 758-2287.