When you're driving, you can be pulled over for simple traffic violations – running a stop sign or a red light, speeding, failing to use a turn signal, and so on – or you can be pulled over for a criminal offense.
Reckless driving and DUI are two criminal driving offenses you can be charged with in Illinois. And depending on the severity of the circumstances, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Let's first look at these two charges separately, and then see how they are connected to each other.
What is Reckless Driving?
You might think reckless driving is when someone drives, well, recklessly. But under Illinois law, “reckless driving” is very specific. A person commits reckless driving if he or she:
- Drives any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, or
- Knowingly drives a vehicle and uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill to cause the vehicle to become airborne.
This means if you drive without any thought to the safety of others, you could be charged with reckless driving. Or if you do something that basically makes your car fly briefly.
Reckless driving is a Class A misdemeanor unless it causes bodily harm to a child or a school crossing guard on duty, in which case it becomes a Class 4 felony.
You can also be charged with felony aggravated reckless driving if you cause great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another, or if you cause great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to a child or a school crossing guard on duty.
What is a DUI?
DUI – driving under the influence – is probably the better known of these two charges. If you get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol with a 0.08 or higher blood alcohol content (BAC), you could be charged with a DUI.
A first or second DUI is charged as a Class A misdemeanor. That misdemeanor can be upgraded to a felony – or an aggravated DUI – if your BAC is 0.16 or more, or if a crash resulted in great bodily harm to a child under 16. DUIs committed in school zones, without valid insurance or a valid license, with two previous DUI convictions, or that result in death are also considered aggravated DUIs and you will be charged with a felony.
Dismissing a DUI Charge for a Reckless Driving Charge
So we understand the two different charges, but how are they related?
Well, sometimes when you're being charged with a DUI, the State may dismiss that DUI chargeif you instead plead guilty to reckless driving.
Even though they are both Class A misdemeanors, there are pros and cons to this decision depending on your driving history.
The biggest advantage to this plea deal is that you will get to keep your license. A DUI conviction will result in a minimum one-year driver's license suspension, which can cause a number of issues if you heavily rely on driving yourself to and from places. A reckless driving conviction doesn't carry a driver's license suspension unless:
- You have 2 or more moving violations in the past year.
- You are pleading guilty to or are convicted of aggravated reckless driving.
- You have 2 previous reckless driving convictions in the past year.
So as long as your driving record is clean and you have no other convictions, this might be a good deal. But if you already have other moving violations or prior convictions, be upfront with your attorney so he or she can negotiate the best possible deal.
A reckless driving conviction still has a penalty of at least one year in jail, though. So if you're going to make this deal, make sure your lawyer eliminates or mitigates the jail term.
If you do plead guilty to reckless driving, you now have a reckless driving conviction on your record. That means your license can be suspended or even revoked if you're convicted of subsequent moving violations or reckless driving charges within a 12-month period. So if you are able to keep your license in this situation, you need to understand that if you continue to drive recklessly or while under the influence, you could be risking your license.