According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average American travels about 40 miles per day. A majority of these trips are taken in personal vehicles, with the average person spending around 55 minutes each day behind the wheel of a car. Driving can be stressful and frustrating, especially if an individual is in a hurry, has a long commute, is late for a meeting or appointment, or is making his or her way through heavy traffic. In 2016, the Washington Post reported on a study that found that many drivers have engaged in aggressive behaviors while behind the wheel. These behaviors included tailgating, yelling, honking, and making angry gestures towards the other car.
In Georgia, driving recklessly or aggressively can lead to criminal charges. A conviction of this type of offense can cause an individual to lose his or her license, pay fines, or even face time behind bars. If you or a loved one has been charged with reckless or aggressive driving, contact Hall County DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson today to discuss your case.
What Is The Difference Between Reckless Driving And Aggressive Driving?
In Georgia, a person can be convicted of reckless driving if that person "drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property." O.C.G.A § 40-6-390 (2015). By contrast, aggressive driving is an offense when an individual "operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42, 40-6-48, 40-6-49, 40-6-123, 40-6-184, 40-6-312, or 40-6-390 with such intent." O.C.G.A. § 40-6-397 (2015).
These two offenses may seem similar but they are treated differently under the law. Aggressive driving is considered a more serious offense than reckless driving, carrying a more severe penalty. According to State v. Burrell, this statute was enacted in order to address cases of road rage. 263 Ga. App. 207, 207 (Ga. Ct. App. 2003). The court states that aggressive driving is a "specific intent crime with a targeted victim." Id. Thus, for a driver to be convicted of aggressive driving, when he or she is acting "with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person," the driver must be targeting a specific individual, such as the driver of the other vehicle.
Reckless driving is different. For a person to be convicted of this offense, there doesn't need to be a specific victim. Rather reckless driving "is the act of driving in such a manner [so] as to demonstrate a "reckless disregard" for all people or property — generally — whether or not any specific person or property is, in fact, endangered at the time of the indicted act.” Id. at 208.
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in the state of Georgia. O.C.G.A § 40-6-390 (2015). The penalty for a reckless driving conviction can include a fine of up to $1000 and/or up to 12 months behind bars. A judge does have the discretion to stay or suspend a sentence imposed under this section of the statute. In addition, a judge can also put a defendant on probation.
Aggressive driving is also a misdemeanor offense, however, it is a more serious misdemeanor than reckless driving. Aggressive driving is considered to be a high and aggravated misdemeanor. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-397 (2015). The punishment for this offense can include a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 12 months in jail. O.C.G.A. § 17-10-4(a) (2015). In addition to aforementioned penalties, a person who is sentenced to time behind bars can face additional consequences. The applicable part of the statute states: "Notwithstanding any laws to the contrary, a person sentenced for a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature may earn no more than four days per month earned time allowance." O.C.G.A. § 17-10-4(b) (2015). Thus, if a person is sentenced to thirty days behind bars, he or she must serve at least 26 days of that sentence. As a note, the sentence can be reduced by the amount of time that he or she served after being arrested.
Another consequence that a person who is convicted of a reckless or aggressive driving offense may face is license suspension. Suspension for these offenses operates differently than DUI suspension. A license is only suspended if the defendant accumulates a certain number points on his or her license during a certain period of time. In Georgia, if a driver earns 15 points on his or her license in a 24-month period, that driver's license will be suspended.
- Reckless Driving: 4 points
- Aggressive Driving: 6 points
Drivers who have their license suspended because they earned too many points can get a temporary license for their first two points suspensions. However, a driver who has his or her license suspended a third time for accumulating too many points in a five-year period will have his or her license suspended for two years, cannot get a temporary permit, will not be able to get the license reinstated early, will have to pay fines, and will have to complete a defensive driving course.
The rules are different if a driver is under the age of 21. In that case, a driver who earns four or more points on his or her license can have their license suspended for a period of six months. A second conviction will result in a 12-month suspension. Drivers who are under 21 are not eligible for a temporary license.
Reducing A DUI To Reckless Driving
If an individual has been charged with a DUI in Georgia, his or her defense attorney can work to have that DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving charge. By reducing the charge, an individual can avoid having his or her license suspended as well as avoid having a DUI on his or her record. Whether or not this strategy will work in a particular individual's case will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Contact A Hall County Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI or another serious driving offense, you want a skilled and knowledgeable attorney like Richard Lawson on your side. Hall County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson has over twenty years of experience defending those accused of DUI offenses in the state of Georgia. Contact his office today at (404) 816-4440 or contact him online.