Serving the Elizabeth NJ Superior Court & All Municipal Courts in Union County

Union County NJ Criminal Defense Lawyers

Over 200 Years Combined Experience

Former County & Municipal Prosecutors

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall defend charges in Linden, Cranford, Elizabeth, Roselle Park, Union Township, Clark, Hillside, Westfield, Kenilworth, Springfield, Plainfield, Scotch Plains and elsewhere in Union County New Jersey.

Reckless driving is a potentially serious offense in the State of New Jersey.  A person commits a reckless driving under N.J.S.A. 39:4-96 if they drive “heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger a person or property.” Whether an individual’s operation of their vehicle falls within these terms can, however, be rather subjective and this can lead to issuance of summonses for this violation too often. Whether you fall within this description or not, you should know that our attorneys avoid a conviction for reckless driving in the vast majority of cases. The lawyers at our Union County criminal firm rely upon over a century of combined experience, including years serving as prosecutors, to secure favorable outcomes on behalf of our clients. Contact us anytime of day to discuss your reckless driving ticket/summons in Linden, Hillside, Elizabeth, Union Township, Cranford or another Union County municipality. An attorney can be reached immediately for a free consultation at 908-272-1700.

Understanding The New Jersey Reckless Driving Law – N.J.S.A. 39:4-96

The New Jersey Legislature, though not increasing the fines associated with the offense, has shown an intent of late to punish severely those who drive recklessly.  For instance, the legislature has added reckless operation into a number of criminal violations, such as vehicular homicide, and if an element of reckless driving is present in vehicular homicide this would elevate the offense to first degree manslaughter.  Reckless operation of a motor vehicle that results in bodily injury or serious bodily injury may also be prosecuted criminally as an assault.  Indeed, so serious are the ramifications from a reckless driving ticket that municipal court judges are required to refer these traffic complaints to the county prosecutor prior to disposition whenever there is reason to believe that an indictable offense could also be charged.

On the other hand, reckless driving may be charged by the police in factual situations where no person suffered injury, property damage or death. Typically, this will occur when reckless driving is charged as a companion violation to DWI. Police agencies in New Jersey will almost always charge reckless driving as a companion violation to drunk driving on the theory that N.J.S.A. 39:4-96 constitutes a “back-up” charge which can be used if the drunk driving case fails.

The elements of this offense are: (1) operation of a motor vehicle; and (2) willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others.  Note that it is not necessary that any injury to a person or damage to property actually occur in order for you to be found guilty of this ticket or summons in Plainfield, Scotch Plains or another one of the municipal courts in Union County.  For the purposes of this offense, it is sufficient merely to have created the possibility for injury or damage to sustain a conviction.  On the other hand, while it is not necessary that any injury or damage occur as a result of reckless driving, police officers and the court may not infer from injury to person or damage to property that the person was driving recklessly without more.  This type of res ipsa loquitur inference, although perfectly acceptable in a civil proceeding, is improper in a quasi-criminal matter because it shifts the burden of proof to the defendant to demonstrate that he or she was not reckless.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

In a bare bones offense, though, the penalties associated with a first offense are fines ranging from $50 to $200 and possible jail time of not more than 60 days.  For second and subsequent offenses, the fines increase to between $100 and $500 and the jail time may not be more than 3 months.

Union County Reckless Driving Attorney

Given the severity of this motor vehicle offense, you should not attempt to face these charge alone. Here at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our lawyers have a rich history of successfully defending reckless driving in Westfield, Kenilworth, Roselle Park, Clark, Springfield and elsewhere. An attorney that makes up our eight member defense team is available 24/7 for free consultations. If you would like to take advantage of the opportunity to speak to an attorney on our staff, call 908-272-1700.