Criminal traffic tickets account for a high percentage of criminal misdemeanors in Washington State. Reckless Driving in Washington State is one of the criminal traffic violations and falls in the category of a gross misdemeanor. A gross misdemeanor in Washington has a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail, and a $5000 fine. In addition to these penalties, a Reckless Driving Conviction will have addition sanctions imposed by the Department of Licensing which includes 30 day license suspension and proof of financial responsibility or SR-22 Insurance for a period of three years.
The definition of Reckless Driving per RCW Code 46.61.500 is: Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.
There is a great deal of subjectivity from the arresting officer on whether your behavior is excessive speeding, negligent driving, or reckless driving. There is nothing black and white that makes a driver cross that line and depends on how the officer interprets your action. Some states have a specified amount over the limit to justify reckless, but Washington is not have strict criteria other than what the statute reads.
If you are pulled over, be courteous and give the officer your license and registration. Don't admit to driving recklessly since anything you say can be written in the police report and used against you. Be cooperative and polite. If charged with Reckless Driving you will be given a first court appearance date which will be your arraignment. At this hearing the charges will be read and the judge will determine after listening to the prosecutor read the police report whether there is probable cause to charge you with Reckless Driving. Most likely the judge will find probable cause and ask if you plead guilty or not guilty. Plead not guilty and then a pretrial conference date will be set about a month down the road. This will give you time to get either a private attorney, or a public defender if you cannot afford private counsel. You can also represent yourself but this is never recommended.
After your arraignment and before the pretrial, your attorney will have time to obtain the police report, discovery information, investigate the scene, speak with any witnesses, and meet with the prosecutor. In most cases Attorney Russell West can obtain a better outcome than reckless driving. A number of factors come into play which are the facts of the case, previous criminal history, and previous driving history. Of course the best outcome would be an outright dismissal, but prosecutors don't often offer this unless there are some major flaws in the state's case. Prosecutors and attorneys regularly negotiate to see if a plea agreement can be reached. This can be beneficial to both parties if a plea deal can be reached as it prevents a trial and the uncertainty of the outcome of a trial. If a plea agreement cannot be reached the case will move towards trial.
Russell West is experienced at working to get the best possible results if you have been arrested for a criminal traffic misdemeanor. A reckless driving arrest is not as bad as a DUI arrest, but it is still very serious and needs to be taken seriously. Russell West offers free consultations and would be happy to speak with you regarding your case. Call 509-993-0748.