In most jurisdictions, the charge of reckless driving will not be a lesser included offense of DWI. The charges of DWI and reckless driving usually are two distinct charges with different elements of proof necessary to establish the offenses. The crime of DWI usually requires proof that an offender drove, operated or was in control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Under many DWI statutes, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender drove, operated, or was in control of a motor vehicle while having blood alcohol content (BAC) in excess of the statutorily prescribed limit. In New York, a person commits DWI when they are found to have been driving with a BAC of 0.08 or the driver shows other signs of intoxication.

A reckless driving charge is different than a DWI charge. A reckless driving charge generally requires proof that an individual operated a motor vehicle “recklessly” so that the lives and safety of the public were endangered. The word “recklessly” usually is defined to mean that a person drove with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or property. The usual standard of proof in reckless driving cases not only requires proof of reckless operation of a motor vehicle but also proof that the reckless operation endangered the lives or the safety of the public.

Statutes that prohibit reckless driving, like DWI laws, are designed to deter dangerous driving and to make these actions crimes. DWI laws differ from reckless driving laws because they do not require proof of a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Reckless driving is usually a criminal offense classified as a misdemeanor. In New York, Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1212 codifies the offense of reckless driving. Under this statute, reckless driving consists of “driving or using any motor vehicle…in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.” Reckless driving in New York is a misdemeanor which carries a fine of $100 to $300 for a first offender.

In 2011, the legislature in New York passed a bill which created the new crime of aggravated reckless driving. Aggravated reckless driving is a class E felony in New York. A driver engaging in any of the following acts commits aggravated reckless driving: operating a vehicle in a manner that creates a grave risk of death; knowingly or through intoxication driving against the flow of traffic; driving 30 or more miles per hour above the posted limit while intoxicated or impaired; driving 30 or more miles per hour above the posted limit while racing another vehicle; or driving 30 or more miles per hour above the posted limit and weaving in and out of traffic. This new crime is codified in Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1212a.

It is important to note that driving while intoxicated alone does not always amount to reckless driving. Courts have generally found that driving while intoxicated alone does not manifest a sufficient degree of heedlessness, or conscious indifference to consequences, to amount to recklessness. To be found guilty of reckless driving, a person usually must engage in behavior other than driving while intoxicated to establish a case of reckless driving. The use of drugs or alcohol is often a factor to be considered in determining whether a driver committed the crime of reckless driving.

The attorneys at the law firm of Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are experienced in handling DWI cases. If you need a lawyer with knowledge and experience to handle your DWI case, call the law firm of Nave DWI Defense Attorneys.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.