You probably already know from personal experiences or stories from friends that North Carolina is very strict when it comes to highway safety. If you’re speeding, you run the high risk of getting caught, and those tickets are never a fee that you want to pay.
No states officially issue jail charges for speeding, but certain states still have a way to put you behind bars for driving too fast.
North Carolina is one of those states.
How does our state do it? If you go too fast, you may be given a charge of “reckless driving.” And getting a reckless driving conviction could mean jail time.
But speeding isn’t the only way to get charged with reckless driving. Let’s look at a few driving behaviors that put you at risk for reckless driving, as well as the penalties and process for getting charged with reckless driving in North Carolina.
How Reckless Driving in North Carolina Works
The state of North Carolina can charge you with reckless driving if you are driving:
- “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others”
- “without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property”
Now, this is a pretty broad definition. It mentions driving at a high speed, but it doesn’t specify what speed can get you charged. It mentions driving “carelessly,” but what does that entail?
There are a few different behaviors that are considered “careless” or “heedless” driving in North Carolina, including:
- Running a red light
- Running through a stop sign
- Illegal passing
- Failing to yield where yielding is required
- Swerving aggressively
- Highway racing
On their own, each of theses behaviors may warrant a ticket that can be paid off without stepping in a courtroom. However, when a driver is displaying multiple careless behaviors or pairing any of these behaviors with speeding, an officer has the right to pull you over for reckless driving.
Speeding as Reckless Driving
In North Carolina, reckless driving due to speeding depends on the speed limit of the zone you’re driving in. In most areas, driving 15 miles over the speed limit is considered “reckless driving.” For example, driving 50 miles in a 35 mph zone or 70 miles in a 55 mph zone can get you charged with speeding.
The threshold decreases as the speed limit increases. So driving just 5 miles over the speed limit in a 70 mph zone can get you charged with reckless driving. And speeding over 75 miles per hour can get your license suspended immediately, even if this is your first offense.
What Happens If I Am Charged with Reckless Driving?
Most traffic violations can be settled with a payment sent by mail. You simply pay the fine, or possibly receive a plea bargain if you go to court. These are called “waivable” offenses.
For more serious traffic violations, like driving without a license or driving under the influence of alcohol, you will have to appear in court to contest the violation. Failing to appear in court could result in fines and an issue for your arrest. It’s serious business.
Reckless driving is not a waivable offense or your average traffic violation. In the state of North Carolina, it’s a criminal charge. That’s right. You may have to appear in criminal court… for speeding.
Penalties for Reckless Driving
If you are convicted of reckless driving, the offense will show up on your criminal record. Reckless driving is classified in North Carolina as a Class 2 misdemeanor. You may face penalties including up to 60 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Not only can speeding land you in criminal court, it can also send you to jail.
A reckless driving conviction may also result in 4 points on your driver’s license. It is important to keep track of the amount of points on your license. If you get 12 points on your license in a three-year period, your license may be suspended for two to 12 months.
And we haven’t even mentioned the potential for your insurance rates to skyrocket.
Fighting a Reckless Driving Charge
Depending on the behaviors you displayed being pulled over for reckless driving, or the manner in which you were issued the reckless driving charge, there are many ways to fight back.
Getting charged with reckless driving is not something to ignore or take lightly. If you face a court date for a reckless driving charge, contact a North Carolina reckless driving lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense. He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.