In Washington State, reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor criminal traffic offense. Reckless driving charges can pose substantial consequences, and it is important to understand the law.
Under Washington State law (RCW 46.61.500): Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
Street racing, erratic driving, or other behavior that may result in losing full control of the vehicle may result in an arrest with reckless driving charges filed. Reckless driving is often confused with “negligent driving”, which is a lesser charge with lower penalty limits. The primary distinction of reckless driving is that it involves willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Please see our prior blogs posting about negligent driving in the first and second degree in order to full understand the differences.
Violation of Washington State’s reckless driving statute is a gross misdemeanor and carries significant penalties:
- Jail time of up to 364 days
- Up to a $5000 fine
- Mandatory license suspension of no less than 30 days
Depending on the circumstances, additional consequences of a reckless driving conviction may include:
- Ignition Interlock requirement
- Increased auto insurance premiums, including SR-22 high risk auto insurance
- Loss of employment
- Impact on immigration status
While the penalties for reckless driving are quite significant, this is often a lesser charge negotiated for when the original charge is DUI/DWI. Penalties are not mandatory with reckless driving and are left to the judge’s discretion, and it is generally preferable to a DUI conviction on one’s record.
These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.