Reckless driving in Illinois: the law and penalties

by Sami Azhari on June 26, 2012

Reckless Driving Illinois | Cook County

A traffic ticket for reckless driving in Illinois can cause serious problems. First, the police officer can decide to, rather than ticket the offender, make an arrest and take the driver into custody. If this happens, the police officer will have the vehicle towed. The driver will have to pay a fee to get it out of impound. It can be very expensive.

The driver will also have to post bond or go to jail.

Second, the driver will have to go to court to face the judge. Judges in Illinois traffic courts are not forgiving when it comes offenses like reckless driving. The reason is that an offense such as reckless driving puts others at risk. The person who is guilty of reckless driving threatens the safety of other people on the roadway. It is cases like this in which judges impose severe penalties.

The law allows the judge to sentence the offender to jail for up to one year for reckless driving. The court can also impose a fine of $2500.

But the court is not required to sentence the defendant to jail. Rather, the judge can put him on probation. While on probation, the offender may be required to complete traffic safety school or even community service. Whereas most traffic offenses do not result in a sentence requiring community service, reckless driving is one of the exceptions. Community service is possible for reckless driving because the court looks at it as a punishment for putting other people’s safety at risk.

The reckless statute driving is found in the Illinois vehicle code at section 625 ILCS 5/11-503. The statute says that it is against the law to drive with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of people or property.

Reckless driving is categorized as a Class A misdemeanor. Because the offense is a misdemeanor, and not a petty offense like many other traffic violations, this means that a conviction can be a permanent criminal record. Also, a conviction for this crime can cause the person to be disqualified from having other arrests and charges expunged or sealed.

In the past, many prosecutors were willing to reduce charges of driving under the influence to reckless driving. The purpose behind this practice was to allow the defendant to avoid a conviction on DUI, which would cause the Secretary of State to revoke his license. Reckless driving convictions do not have this effect.

This practice caused state lawmakers to react by disallowing supervision for DUI if the defendant ever had a charge of reckless driving. The statute that was passed was worded so strictly that even a person who has never been arrested for DUI will be denied supervision if he has a prior reckless driving charge.

And so, a one-time ticket for reckless driving can have a severe impact in the future.

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