Missouri does not have a specific law against “reckless” driving. Instead, reckless driving is called “careless and imprudent” driving. If you are charged with careless and imprudent driving in this state, you will need the advice and services of a Jefferson County traffic attorney.
Unlike running a stop sign or speeding – something recordable or measurable – careless and imprudent driving is more subjective and hinges on the details of each particular case. Careless and imprudent driving is one of the most serious traffic charges you can face in Missouri.
The courts in these cases consider a number of factors, but careless and imprudent driving is always more serious than a single mistake or moment of negligence. It is driving that willfully disregards the safety of others.
How is Careless and Imprudent Driving Handled in Missouri?
In Missouri, careless and imprudent driving is a criminal offense – a serious misdemeanor – that creates a criminal record and can send you to jail if you receive a conviction. Even a conviction for a first offense can potentially land you behind bars for six months.
How is careless and imprudent driving defined by Missouri law? What steps should you take if you are charged with careless and imprudent driving? And what penalties can be imposed for a conviction?
If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of careless and imprudent driving in Missouri, these questions will be answered. You will learn more about your rights, and you will also learn where to obtain the legal help you need if you are charged with any serious traffic offense in this state.
What Does the Law Require?
You could be charged with careless and imprudent driving if you operate a vehicle in a manner that poses a risk to others. To convict you, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you endangered others on the road. Missouri law requires drivers to operate a vehicle:
- in a “careful and prudent manner”
- at a rate of speed so as not to endanger others or their property
- with “the highest degree of care”
Examples of careless and imprudent driving include but are not limited to excessive speeding, road rage, racing, distracted driving, texting while driving, or any other driving behavior that violates the three driving requirements listed above.
How Will a Defense Lawyer Handle Your Case?
Because careless and imprudent driving is a criminal offense in Missouri, you must be advised and represented by a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney who will protect your legal rights and bring the case against you to its best possible outcome.
A prosecutor does not have to describe a motorist’s mental state at the time of the careless and imprudent driving incident in order to win a conviction. You can be convicted if the prosecution simply proves that you knew or should have known that your driving was endangering others.
Depending on your driving history and the details of the careless and imprudent driving charge, the right Jefferson County traffic lawyer may be able to negotiate for a lesser charge with a lesser sentence or even have the case against you completely dismissed.
If your defense attorney can demonstrate that all you are really guilty of is making a single poor judgment while driving, and that you had no criminal intent, you may be offered a reasonable plea bargain or the careless and imprudent driving charge against you may be dismissed.
What Are the Penalties for a Careless and Imprudent Driving Conviction?
Usually, the penalties for a careless and imprudent driving conviction in Missouri are:
- If no accident is involved, careless and imprudent driving is typically charged as a Class B misdemeanor. Convicted motorists may be penalized with up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- If careless and imprudent driving causes an accident, it is a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction may be penalized with up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- A careless and imprudent driving conviction also adds four points to a motorist’s driving record for a state violation and two points for a municipal ordinance violation.
Are There Additional Penalties?
A careless and imprudent driving conviction in Missouri remains on your driving record for three years, for four years if you are a commercial driver, or for five years if the conviction triggers a driver’s license suspension.
You should also consider the extra-legal penalties. A careless and imprudent driving conviction will increase your auto insurance rates, and if your job duties require you to drive, you may have difficulty keeping your job or finding similar employment.
If an accident caused by careless and imprudent driving results in significant property damage, serious physical injury, or death, a felony charge may be brought against the driver.
How Does the Point System Work?
If you accrue too many points on your Missouri driver’s license, your driver’s license will be suspended.
If you accumulate 8 or more points in 18 months, the Missouri Department of Revenue will suspend your license for 30 days (if it’s your first license suspension). The Department of Revenue will also suspend your driver’s license for one year if you accumulate:
- 12 or more points in 12 months
- 18 or more points in 24 months
- 24 or more points in 36 months
Can You Avoid a Careless and Imprudent Driving Charge?
As mentioned previously, careless and imprudent driving is subjective. A police officer has to make a decision as to whether your behavior constitutes careless and imprudent driving.
You are innocent of careless and imprudent driving unless and until a prosecutor can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are accused of careless and imprudent driving in Missouri, immediately contact a Jefferson County traffic attorney to fight on your behalf.