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Reckless Driving Criminal Defense in Illinois

Reckless driving in Illinois isn't just a traffic violation, but it's also a crime. In fact, it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. So, not only do you face the likelihood of a fine if convicted, you also face the real possibility of jail or prison time.

If you have been arrested or charged with reckless driving, it is in your best interests to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn more about what you may be up against. At Dolci & Weiland, we believe our clients should be well informed of the charges against them, what their rights are, and what all the options are, so that you an make the best decision for yourself. Contact us today to learn more about our approach to criminal defense and to get started on your reckless driving defense.

What is reckless driving according to Illinois law?

The offense of reckless driving in Illinois is governed by 625 ILCS 5/11-503. Per this statute, a person commits reckless driving if he or she:

(1) drives any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or

(2) knowingly drives a vehicle and uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.

Willful and wanton conduct is defined by 745 ILCS 10/1-210 as:

a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property.

The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you either intentionally did what you did or did what you did out of complete disregard for the safety of others even knowing your conduct was risky. This could be proved by showing you were, for example:

  • speeding excessively;
  • driving dangerously given the conditions of the road or the weather; or
  • making your car go airborne by using a railroad crossing, hill, or – among other examples – a bridge approach.

What are the penalties for a conviction of reckless driving in Illinois?

The penalties for a conviction come in the form of a court-ordered sentence as well as collateral consequences.

If convicted, the sentence depends in part on your prior convictions, any aggravating reckless driving charges (i.e., causing great bodily injury, disfigurement, or permanent disability to another person), and the classification of the crime.

  • For a Class A misdemeanor reckless driving conviction where no aggravating circumstances exist, you face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. If it is your first offense, you may only be fined and then receive probation or community service as opposed to time in jail.
  • If you recklessly drove and caused bodily injury to a child or school crossing guard while the guard acted in his or her professional capacity, then the charge is filed as a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
  • If you recklessly drove and caused great bodily injury, disfigurement, or permanent disability to any other person, then the charge is filed as a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
  • If you recklessly drove and caused great bodily injury, disfigurement, or permanent disability to a child or school crossing guard while the guard acted in his or her professional capacity, then the charge is filed as a Class 3 felony punishable by two to five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. 

In addition to the above, you face higher auto insurance premiums. You also face the stigma a criminal conviction carries with it. A criminal record can also prevent you from attaining the job you want or keeping the job you have, especially if your position requires a clean driving record. If children were in your vehicle, you could face problems with child custody issues. You could also be denied entry into another country, like Canada. A criminal record can pose many challenges and risks throughout a person's life.

To note, if you were allegedly recklessly driving and kill another person, the charge will likely be reckless homicide and not reckless driving.

Are there any defenses to a reckless driving allegation?

Reckless driving charges are defensible. You should know this so you do not plead guilty at your arraignment but choose to fight the charge. The stakes for you, your family, and your future are high.

A good defense starts with the facts and the actual charge filed against you. If you were charged with aggravated reckless driving, then proving that the injury caused to another person was not "great" or did not result in disfigurement or permanent disability is a key component of the defense. 

The nature and circumstances of the event and the arrest can also provide sources of defenses. For example, if your traffic stop was improperly handled or the police overstepped the limits of their badge, there could be a defense.

You must have also have had the state of mind necessary to drive recklessly for it to amount to criminal activity. If you were excessively speeding to take a person to the hospital but were being cautious as you sped, then it may not amount to reckless driving. 

It is always important to keep in mind, too, that you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. At Dolci & Weiland, we uphold this principle and keep the State, judge, and jury accountable to it. We do so through strategic negotiation, persuasive argument, and challenges to the alleged evidence.

Who should you contact if you have been charged with reckless driving in the greater Chicago metro area?

If you have been charged with reckless driving, keep in mind this charge is more than a simple traffic citation. It has the potential to lead to steep fines, incarceration, and more. Contact Dolci & Weiland today to schedule a free initial consultation in one of our conveniently located offices and to learn how we can help your specific case.