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Is Reckless Driving a Crime in New Jersey?

Reckless driving is considered tremendously serious in New Jersey. Punishments for reckless driving include jail time paired with strict fines and points on their license. But is reckless driving a crime? And, if it isn’t a crime, why is it still considered so serious? This blog post will explain what reckless driving is and how it’s punished in New Jersey. Remember that for traffic-related problems, you can always call a Bergen County traffic ticket attorney for advice and guidance.

What Is Reckless Driving?

According to the New Jersey Statutes, reckless driving is when someone drives “heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property.” The wording used is vague, and intentionally so, as it is meant to capture a wide range of harmful driving behaviors: speeding, driving under the influence, swerving through multiple lanes, driving the wrong way down a highway, and hitting or almost hitting pedestrians.

However, reckless driving is not a crime in New Jersey. Instead, reckless driving is in a more unique situation. It is a traffic violation that is treated as a crime, often called a “quasi-comic” in recognition of this unusual distinction.

Police officers are given discretion to decide when to charge someone with reckless driving. The two factors the police are supposed to consider when making this determination are intent and endangerment. If these can be proved in a court of law, then the defendant may be convicted of reckless driving.

Reckless driving won’t appear on your criminal record, though that isn’t as reassuring as it may sound. Given that reckless driving is often joined with other ticketed offenses, you may have several fines and points. The charge will earn you points on your license. Moreover, it stays on your driving record, and precisely because it goes on your driving record and not your criminal record, it can’t be expunged like a crime may be. Remember that employers are legally allowed to request your driving record before making hiring decisions.

How Is Reckless Driving Punished in New Jersey?

We’ve already covered parts of the penalties for reckless driving above. Points are a particularly notable punishment, as your license may be revoked or suspended if you get too many points.

For a first reckless driving offense, you may face up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $200, and possibly having your license suspended, all in addition to five points on your license. Furthermore, fines for a first-offense reckless driving charge can’t fall below $50.

A second offense may earn you another five points on your license, up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and again, the potential to see your license revoked. Since it is a second offense, the minimum fine is now $100.

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