With the pandemic limiting person to person interaction, some people have turned to cars and vehicles for a much-needed outlet. Which is our way of saying that San Antonio has seen an increase in driving-related offenses like reckless driving and racing.
But here’s the thing:
RECKLESS DRIVING IS A SERIOUS CRIME IN TEXAS.
Let’s take a look at the reckless driving statute:
TEXAS TRANSPORTATION CODE SECTION 545.401
(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property
(b) an offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:
(1) a fine not to exceed $200
(2) confinement in county jail for not more than 30 days; or
(3) both fine and the confinement
(c) notwithstanding Section 542.001, this section applies to:
(1) a private access way or parking area provided for a client or patron by a business, other than a private residential property or the property of a garage or parking lot for which a charge is made for storing or parking of motor vehicles;
(2) a highway or other public place
(d) notwithstanding Section 542.004, this section applies to a person, a team, or motor vehicles and other equipment engaged in work on highway surface.
The reckless driving statute covers a lot of different things that people might do while driving.
A couple of examples of things that could be charged as reckless driving:
- Texting while driving (or other distracted driving situations)
- Doing donuts in a parking lot or roadway
- Racing with other vehicles (could also be charged as racing on a highway, a different crime)
- Running stop signs or stop lights
- Improper passing, such as using the shoulder or passing without using a signal
It’s easy to think of these things as small offenses, ticket-worthy at the most. But here’s the thing: reckless driving is punishable by jail time. Depending on the facts of the case, you could be looking at up to thirty days behind bars.
How can an offense be both a ticket-level offense and eligible for jail time? Well, you see, reckless driving falls between a Class C and a Class B Misdemeanor.
The biggest thing separating Class C misdemeanors from Class Bs is that they are not punishable with jail time. That also means that people charged with Class Cs don’t have a right to an attorney. (Although you can hire an attorney to represent you on a Class C if you so choose.) But reckless driving is between a Class C and a Class B and so gets bumped up to jail time status. And anyone who has faced jail time can tell you: having an attorney on your side becomes real important real fast.
But why does this particular crime walk the line between severity levels?
Lawmakers in Texas have determined that the true issue behind reckless driving is its potential to cause serious harm. The same behaviors that receive reckless driving charges can be increased and receive much more serious punishment if someone got hurt in the process. So they consider it a serious crime to behave in a manner that could cause such damage, but since no one actually got hurt, it isn’t serious enough to warrant the full punishment range of a Class B status. In other words, if you are charged with reckless driving, you may have gotten lucky.
Lucky that no one got hurt.
Every case is different, so if you are arrested and charged with reckless driving, reach out to an attorney to discuss what your options are.
Drive safe Texas!