Texas Transportation Code 545.401 – Reckless Driving
WHAT IS RECKLESS DRIVING IN TEXAS?
The Texas law against reckless driving prohibits driving in a manner that rises to a wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of others.
- What are examples of reckless driving in Texas? Texas courts have upheld several unsafe driving maneuvers as meeting the criteria for reckless driving:
- speeding, in addition to other unsafe actions;
- almost colliding with other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians;
- weaving in an out of traffic;
- changing lanes without a signal, when it was unsafe to do so;
- failing to yield;
- failing to apply the brakes;
- spinning or screeching tires; and
- speeding through a parking lot and hopping the curb.
WHAT IS THE RECKLESS DRIVING LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Transp. Code § 545.401. RECKLESS DRIVING; OFFENSE.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
(b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:
(1) a fine not to exceed $200;
(2) confinement in county jail for not more than 30 days; or
(3) both the fine and the confinement.
(c) Notwithstanding Section 542.001, this section applies to:
(1) a private access way or parking area provided for a client or patron by a business, other than a private residential property or the property of a garage or parking lot for which a charge is made for the storing or parking of motor vehicles; and
(2) a highway or other public place.
(d) Notwithstanding Section 542.004, this section applies to a person, a team, or motor vehicles and other equipment engaged in work on a highway surface.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR RECKLESS DRIVING IN TEXAS?
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor that is punishable by no more than 30 days in county jail.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR RECKLESS DRIVING IN TEXAS?
The punishment range for reckless driving is up to 30 days in jail, and a maximum $200 fine.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR RECKLESS DRIVING IN TEXAS?
A person charged with reckless driving may be eligible for probation after a conviction, or deferred adjudication without a conviction, for a period not to exceed two years.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO RECKLESS DRIVING IN TEXAS?
The statute does not authorize specific defenses to reckless driving. A person accused thereof may attempt to negate at least one of the elements the State must prove at trial.
- What is the necessity defense in Texas? Texas Penal Code Section 9.22 authorizes a person to commit otherwise criminal conduct if it was immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm, and the urgency of avoiding the harm clearly outweighed the harm sought to be prevented by the criminal conduct. The necessity defense is available for a reckless driving charge, and will be a heavily fact-specific inquiry for a jury.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR RECKLESS DRIVING IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for reckless driving is two years.
RECKLESS DRIVING IN TEXAS
Texas law punishes drivers who operate their vehicles in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property as reckless driving.
TEXAS RECKLESS DRIVING COURT CASES
The case law regarding reckless driving in Texas illustrates the type of willful or wanton disregard for others’ safety punishable by the statute.
- In Fore v. State, the defendant was convicted of reckless driving for spinning his tires and turning aggressively toward a bicyclist. Officers heard the defendant’s truck tires squealing, saw him do donuts in the road near the cyclist, then stop and drive toward the cyclist in a way designed to scare him. The defendant testified he was trying to avoid hitting the bicyclist, but the jury was free to disbelieve his testimony and believe the officers’ opinion that the aggressive actions appeared intentional. Conviction affirmed.
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WE FIGHT FOR DISMISSAL
WE FIGHT FOR DISMISSAL
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15
Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+
Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.
Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.
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