Anytime a person is arrested for DUI in Birmingham, there is the possibility that he or she is going to be facing more than just one charge.
This is obviously true if the precursor to the arrest was an accident that resulted in property damage or injuries. But it can also happen even if no one was hurt.
Most of these other charges stem from the arrestee’s panic. For example, a defendant may wrench away from an officer attempting to secure the suspect in handcuffs. This could be the basis for charges such as obstruction of justice, resisting arrest without violence or even assault on an officer.
But perhaps one of the more common charges we see in DUI defense is reckless driving. Per Alabama Code 32-5A-190, this charge carries its own significant penalties. It’s defined as driving a vehicle in a manner that is careless and heedless in willful or wanton disregard for the rights and safety of persons or property. Alternatively, it can be charged when a person operates a vehicle without due caution and at a speed or in a manner that is either endangers persons or property or is likely to endanger persons or property.
While examples of reckless driving might include weaving in and out of traffic or disregarding traffic signals, the single greatest underlying reason for a reckless driving charge is speeding. In fact, this is why many DUI offenders are stopped by police in the first place.
While speeding in and of itself may get you a traffic ticket, speeding while driving intoxicated can be considered the basis for a reckless driving charge.
State law says that anyone convicted of reckless driving for the first time faces anywhere from five days to three months in jail. Fines range from $25 to $500. A second conviction for reckless driving is punishable by between 10 days and six months, and a fine of between $50 and $500. It may also result in the loss of one’s license for up to six months.
A first-time DUI conviction, meanwhile, is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of between $600 and $2,100.
Because DUI is so much more serious of an offense, DUI defense attorneys will sometimes negotiate with prosecutors to plead the DUI charge down to just reckless driving. Ideally, however, both charges will be dismissed.
It’s important to know that just because you are found to be driving under the influence does not mean that the state can prove you were driving recklessly. Per the 2012 New York ruling in People v. Goldblatt, has to be some other element that demonstrates your operation of the vehicle displayed wanton and willful disregard for others and their property. (I.e., “One can drive recklessly without being intoxicated, and, conversely, one can drive while intoxicated without being reckless.”)
But if the state determines you were intoxicated, that is going to be considered a factor in deciding whether the totality of facts show cause for reckless driving (per the 1961 Wyoming ruling of Norfolk v. State).
That means those facing impaired driving charges are going to face an uphill battle in disproving a reckless driving charge. If so, you’re going to need an experienced DUI defense lawyer to take on your case. Providing enough reasonable doubt as to your level of intoxication can go a long way toward reducing the possibility that you’ll also be convicted of reckless driving.