Reckless Driving Charges in Texas

People often use the term “reckless driving,” but its exact legal meaning can be unclear. While you might think you’d recognize it when you see it, you may not know how it’s legally defined. Reckless driving in Texas is a type of traffic offense that can result in criminal charges, not just a simple ticket. Usually, these are considered misdemeanors, but they can become felonies if someone is hurt or killed.

If a police officer sees you breaking a serious criminal offense, they can immediately stop and arrest you. These cases often rely on the officer’s account since there are usually no witnesses or physical evidence. To take legal action against a reckless driver, specific criteria must be met, just like in other crimes, to prove it with evidence.

Reckless Driving Law Defined

In Texas, reckless driving is defined in the Transportation Code 545.401 as driving a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard the safety of people or property on purpose ” This definition encompasses a wide range of actions, such as driving too fast, driving aggressively, or not paying attention while driving.

Because Texas law permits courts and prosecutors to assess each reckless driving case on its own merits, there is no set list of conduct that will always result in a reckless driving prosecution. However, some activities that are frequently considered dangerous driving include (but are not limited to):

  • Engaging in illegal street races
  • Ignoring police signals to pull over
  • Driving poorly when the road is wet or icy
  • Exceeding the speed limit by 20 miles per hour
  • Driving in a manner that causes property damage
  • Operating a vehicle in a way that endangers someone else’s life
  • Operating a vehicle while not paying attention or under the influence
  • Making sudden and reckless lane changes or driving in the wrong lane

Other Conduct and its Charges for Reckless Driving

Drag Racing on Public Highways (Tex. Trans. Code § 545.420)

Racing a car can lead to various charges, with one of them being recklessly driving. Usually, racing is considered a Class B misdemeanor. If you have a prior racing conviction, the punishment could be increased to a Class A misdemeanor.

In some cases, racing can even result in a felony charge. In Texas, there are three levels of felony charges for racing. These offenses include:

  • State Jail Felony: Should you accumulate two convictions for racing, your third violation escalates to a state jail felony. For state jail felonies, you can be sentenced to prison for six months to two years, and you might also face a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Third-Degree Crime: When racing causes an injury, it becomes a third-degree crime. A third-degree felony carries 2 to 10 years in county jail and can also result in a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Second-Degree Felony: If someone is seriously hurt or killed due to racing, it becomes a second-degree felony. Being convicted of a second-degree felony can lead to a prison sentence ranging from 2 to 20 years, along with a fine of up to $10,000.

Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Police Officer (Tex. Trans. Code § 545.421)

In Texas, it’s straightforward: if a police officer signals for you to stop your vehicle, and you ignore their signal by not stopping, you can be charged with fleeing or attempting to elude, as per the state’s transportation code in reckless driving.

  • Class B misdemeanor: You can be sentenced to a maximum of 180 days in jail time and fined up to $2,000.
  • Class A misdemeanor: If during the act of fleeing from the police, you recklessly put someone in immediate danger of getting seriously hurt. A Class A misdemeanor can lead to a maximum of one year in jail and fines of up to $4,000. 

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

You don’t have to simply accept being convicted of reckless driving. We can help you with your reckless driving case or any other criminal violation by attempting to negotiate a lesser serious traffic conviction. Texas Criminal Defense Group can also take your case to trial if necessary, where the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted recklessly. Don’t commit to a permanent criminal record without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney