Careless Driving/Reckless Driving in Michigan

Criminal Law
Careless Driving/Reckless Driving in Michigan

Careless Driving/Reckless Driving in Michigan

by Justin Van Den Heuvel

Bad drivers beware! You may be ticketed and punished if you are determined to be operating your vehicle in a careless manner. It may not seem fair, but police officers can “judge” you on the quality of your driving and issue you a ticket if the officer believes you were operating your vehicle in a careless manner. You may be in even deeper legal trouble if the officer believes you were deliberately driving in a reckless manner. Drivers who find themselves charged with careless driving or reckless driving should be ready to mount a vigorous defense to the charges.

What is Careless Driving?

Careless driving occurs when you operate a vehicle in a public area (including parking lots) in a negligent or careless manner that is likely to endanger other people or property. Officers exercise discretion in determining what constitutes “negligent or careless” driving. While driving while texting (for example) or not keeping your eyes on the road may be clear examples of negligent behavior, other driver behavior may not be so careless or negligent as an officer might think. In addition, the prosecution would need to prove that the way in which you were driving endangered the person or property of another. Doing “donuts” (tight circles) in an empty parking lot after dark where the parking lot has no obstructions or lights may not qualify as careless driving.

Careless driving is a civil infraction punishable by a fine.

What is Reckless Driving?

The difference between careless driving and reckless driving comes down to intent: whereas careless driving only requires careless or negligent conduct, reckless driving requires that the driver operate his or her vehicle in willful and wanton disregard of the danger posed to other persons or their property. In other words, reckless driving requires evidence that the driver both knew that his or her driving behavior was likely to endanger other persons or their property and that the driver decided to engage in the behavior anyway. Speeding on a crowded highway while weaving in and out of traffic may be considered reckless driving.

Simple reckless driving is a misdemeanor and can be punished with up to $500 in fines and up to 93 days in jail. Additional facts (such as whether a serious injury resulted from the driver’s conduct) can elevate this offense to a felony in certain cases.

Defenses to Careless Driving and Reckless Driving

In a prosecution for careless driving or reckless driving, the prosecution will need to prove (1) that the driver was in fact driving; (2) that the manner in which the driver was driving was either negligent or reckless; (3) in the case of reckless driving, that the driver knew about the risks to others but chose to drive in that manner anyway, and; (4) the driving behavior posed a risk to the person or property of another. Each of these elements is very fact-intensive. Drivers should therefore call Van Den Heuvel Law Office for experienced help in addressing these charges. Contact our office today at (616) 698-0000 or complete our online form for assistance.



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