Normally on Reckless Driving misdemeanors you can walk out of court without jail, without a misdemeanor and just a fine. This blog post is about what should happen with your Reckless Driving Tickets and what would be unusual.
American Fork, UT is the hub between Salt Lake valley and Utah Valley, sitting at the point of the mountain just off Interstate-15. American Fork as of 2020 has 37,268 people and has no justice court, but instead contracts with the Fourth Judicial District Court in American Fork to handle it’s traffic matters. The Fourth District Court at American Fork in 2022 handled 4,880 traffic or parking matters.
(1). Straight Speeding. Reckless Driving tickets can be pled down to straight speeding Infractions with an enhanced fine under Utah Code 41-6a-601(4)(b). Fines are mandatory minimum and range from:
Normal speeding fines are around $130 to $240. You are generally required to take traffic school and then the case will close without probation.
Pros: No Probation. The case closes upon payment and taking traffic school. You are not on probation. Being on probation can lead to violations and land in you in jail. Not being on “Paper” or probation is a good thing. See the common types of probation HERE.
Neg: Huge Fine. The fine is huge compared to the bail schedule Reckless Driving at $690. See Utah Code 41-6a-601(4)(b).
Points. Nothing in this plea bargain avoids the 75 points associated with speeding. Minors only get 100 points on their record and one single Reckless Driving ticket with 80 points or 75 points on a straight speeding ticket may suspend an under 21 license. Read about Utahs points system HERE.
Infraction. You will have an Infraction on your record which may be picked up by your insurance to raise your rates. Having an Infraction on your record is way better than a misdemeanor on your criminal record.
(2). Plea in Abeyance. Reckless Driving tickets also can be dealt with by a first time offender program called a “Plea in Abeyance.” See 77-2a-101. You pay a standard bail schedule $690 fine and are placed on court probation for 12 months. Traffic school is generally required. The drawback of PIAs to Reckless Driving is that any traffic violation can violate your probation and revoke your PIA—entering your conviction. Some people have heavy feet and therefore the PIA is not a good option.
Pro: No Conviction. No criminal conviction ever because it was a plea in abeyance.
No Points. All driving points are avoided with a PIA because PIAs are not convictions requiring that points be reported to the Utah Driver’s License Division.
Neg: Probation. Some people just can’t stay citation free during the probationary period. Any traffic citation or other charge risks voiding the PIA agreement and entering the misdemeanor conviction against you.
(3). Careless Driving Infraction. Not used as much is the little sister of Reckless Driving, Careless Driving. Careless Driving doesn’t look on your insurance, but it is an Infraction and only carries 40 points. Careless Driving is found at 41-6a-1715.
Pros: 40 points. Only 40 points are assessed for careless driving and it’s an Infraction which always beats having a misdemeanor on your criminal record. Adults get 200 points in 2 years. Minors get 100 points in 2 years. Pleading down to Careless Driving alleviates any points issue.
Neg: Careless Driving looks worse than an simple speeding ticket, but still beats a misdemeanor. Who knows how insurance underwriting would treat a Careless Driving ticket versus excessive speeding at 114mph over? Likely the underwriting process will consider you age and background, rather than the distinction between Careless Driving and excessive speeding.
(4). Reduction to Infraction Reckless Driving. Not the best way to resolve a Reckless Driving ticket, but it still beats having a misdemeanor on your criminal record. Basically you plead down to a straight Infraction Reckless Driving—A non-crime. Pleading down to an Infraction can be an immediately pleading down to an Infraction, or via a two-step 402 sentencing reduction.
Pros: No Probation. When you plead directly down to an Infraction Reckless Driving, you pay the bail schedule $690 fine, take traffic school and close the case. No probation. Infractions beats a misdemeanor.
Neg: 80 Points. When you plead down to an Infraction Reckless Driving, the 80 points and reckless driving label still follow you around.
Background and Experience. Attorney Jake Gunter handles around five Reckless Driving tickets every month, all around the Great State of Utah. He has practiced law for nearly 20 years in Utah, Michigan, Federal and military tribunals. He knows what normal is and what abnormal is. Here is what is not supposed happen. Criminal law is packed with uncertainty and hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical to limiting your exposure and uncertainty. Predicting what the judge is going to do is what the big bucks are paid for.
Yet, this can happen, but it would be unusual.
(1). 3 Minutes Tirade. Judges have prerogatives to dole out justice the way they feel fit. Every judge has their own set of particularities. Some judges have soft spots for veterans and old people, while other work tirelessly with drug addicts to help them.
What should not happen is a 3 minute tirade from the judge about how you are going to kill everyone and you almost killed yourself. Especially when that is not true.
(2). Threatening to Throw you in Jail on Infraction. What should not happen is any threat to throw you in jail for an Infraction. It is an illegal sentence to incarcerate people on Infractions in Utah. Threating someone that any future probation violations will be dealt with harshly is another matter.
(3). Prejudging the Facts. What should not happen is the judge prejudging the facts and telling you that you will go to jail automatically if another speeding violation occurs or any violation. Prejudging the facts prior to hearing the case is not good judicial temperament or process.
(4). Max Fines. Having the book thrown at you with the max Infraction fine should not happen, unless an individualized, articulated reason is proffered. The Utah State Legislature has already spoken on fines while speeding over 100mph. They are spoken for at Utah Code 41-6a-601(4).