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Traffic tickets

reckless driving

Laws regarding reckless driving charges vary from state to state—including the name of the offense and its definition. This offense may also be known as reckless operation of a motor vehicle or driving to endanger—but generally requires that the government (prosecution) prove the driver was willfully operating a motor vehicle in a way that showed indifference to the safety of persons or property.

And in some states certain driving behavior may be considered reckless driving per se (pronounced pur-Say)—which is reckless driving by definition or “on its face.” For example, if a driver is driving more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit or is engaged in street racing, the driver may be charged with reckless driving per se, and the prosecutor will not be required to prove any other elements of the reckless driving offense, as such behavior is reckless driving by definition—with the definition being provided by the state legislature in the traffic code.

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, reckless driving is a criminal offense outlined under Texas Transportation Code Section 545.401. The law defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle with 'willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.' This means that the driver must be shown to have acted intentionally or with gross indifference to the consequences of their actions while driving. Texas does not explicitly define certain behaviors as reckless driving per se, but actions such as excessive speeding or street racing could be considered evidence of reckless driving. The charge is a misdemeanor and can result in penalties including fines, jail time, and driver's license suspension. Law enforcement officers have the discretion to issue citations for reckless driving, and prosecutors decide whether to pursue charges. Ultimately, a judge or jury determines the driver's guilt or innocence, assessing whether the prosecution has met the burden of proof to establish that the driver's actions constituted reckless driving under Texas law.

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