Washington law defines reckless driving as the crime where you drive a motor vehicle with a disregard for the safety of others. The offense is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a substantial fine and a possible jail sentence of up to one year. If you or a loved one is facing a reckless driving charge in Washington State, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney now for help.

What is Washington’s Law on Reckless Driving?

RCW 46.61.500 is the Washington statute that sets forth the crime of reckless driving. You generally commit this offense if you:

  1. Drive any vehicle, and
  2. Do so in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Examples of reckless driving include:

  • Driving at an excessive speed,
  • Street racing,
  • Instances of road rage,
  • Erratic driving, and
  • Distracted driving.

What are the Penalties?

Many are surprised to learn that reckless driving is not a type of traffic violation. Rather, the act can give rise to a criminal charge of a gross misdemeanor.

Depending on the facts of your case, the crime can result in:

  • Custody in county jail for up to one year,
  • A maximum fine of $5,000, and
  • A mandatory license suspension of no less than 30 days.

Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?

Yes. You have the right to challenge a reckless driving charge with a legal defense. Recall that you are only guilty of this crime if you drive with “willful or wanton” disregard for the safety of others. “Willful or wanton” normally means that you have to purposely drive in an unsafe manner. A defense, then, is for you to show that you did not drive in a dangerous manner with the intent to do so.

Consider, for example, the scenario where you are driving in winter on an icy road. You drive over a sheet of ice that results in you skidding into another car. Here, you are likely not guilty of reckless driving because the ice caused your unsafe driving, not any act of your own.

However, compare this situation with one where you are speeding on an icy road. You drive over the same sheet of ice and hit another car. Here, you are likely guilty of reckless driving because you were intentionally speeding in unsafe weather conditions. The speeding is a wanton act that you took with disregard for the safety of others.

You can also raise a defense that:

  • Your driving was safe under the circumstances,
  • The police stopped you without probable cause, and/or
  • You drove recklessly because you were responding to an emergency.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a reckless driving charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on various misdemeanor charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers also have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!