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Traffic tickets

careless driving

Laws regarding careless driving charges vary from state to state—including the name of the offense and its definition. This offense generally requires that the government (prosecution) prove the driver was carelessly or negligently disregarding the rules of the road or failing to operate the motor vehicle in a careful and prudent manner. A driver who fails to stop at a stop sign or to signal a turn or lane change or is texting while driving, for example, may be cited for careless driving.

Careless driving is generally a less serious infraction or offense than reckless driving, and which offense a driver is cited for may be determined by the degree of the violation and whether it caused an accident.

As with many traffic violations, the officer issuing the citation and the prosecutor have significant discretion in determining whether there was a violation of a traffic law and whether the violation constitutes a certain offense, as defined by the state legislature in the traffic code or in a municipal ordinance.

This discretion to issue a ticket or citation and prosecute the charge against the driver is balanced by the discretion of the jury or judge in determining whether the prosecution met its burden of proof sufficient to convict the driver (for a criminal offense) or find the driver responsible (for a civil infraction, violation, or offense).

In Texas, careless driving is not specifically defined as a unique offense under state statutes, but it can be encompassed under the broader category of 'failure to drive in a single lane' or 'failure to control speed' as per the Texas Transportation Code. These violations imply that a driver was not operating their vehicle in a careful manner, which could be considered similar to careless driving in other jurisdictions. Texas does have a specific statute for reckless driving, which is a more serious offense and involves driving a vehicle in 'willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property' (Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.401). The distinction between careless and reckless driving in Texas is based on the level of negligence and the potential for harm. Traffic violations in Texas are typically classified as misdemeanors, and the severity of the charge can depend on the circumstances of the violation and whether it resulted in an accident or injury. Law enforcement officers have the discretion to issue citations, and prosecutors have the discretion to pursue charges. Ultimately, it is up to a judge or jury to determine if the prosecution has met its burden of proof to convict the driver of the alleged offense.

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