What is Reckless Driving?
According to RCW §46.61.500, a person is guilty of reckless driving if he drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
The phrase "willful or wanton disregard" means that the person is acting consciously in disregard of the consequences - that he knows of an impending danger to others and acts with indifference.
Many times, a person will be charged with reckless driving for speeding. There is no set speed that constitutes reckless driving, so the elements of the reckless driving charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the fact that a person is speeding can serve as evidence of reckless driving.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Washington:
Reckless driving is considered a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.
Also, any person convicted of reckless driving will have his license or permit to drive suspended by the department for a minimum of thirty days.
Further, the penalty for reckless driving may be more severe if the person is found guilty of doing so under the influence. A person who is convicted of reckless driving as a result of a driving under the influence charge will be required to install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles operated by the person if he has one or more prior offenses within seven years or if the reckless driving conviction was the result of a vehicular homicide or assault while under the influence.
Defending a Reckless Driving Charge:
There are a number of ways to defend a reckless driving charge. One of the best strategies is to challenge the elements of the charge. For example, to be found guilty of reckless driving, it must be demonstrated that you drove with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Therefore, you might argue that you were not driving in willful disregard for the safety of others and simply did not know of a risk or danger. In the case of a reckless driving charge based on speeding, you might challenge the results of the speeding test. Your defense strategy is crucial, and the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.