Ohio's Reckless Operation (Driving) Laws and Penalties

Read about Ohio’s reckless operation laws and the consequences of a conviction.

Ohio's reckless driving laws basically make unsafe driving illegal. This article covers the legal definition of the offense and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.

How Ohio Defines "Reckless Operation"

In Ohio, a person can be convicted of "reckless operation" (also called "reckless driving") for operating a vehicle "in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property."

Generally, the term "willful" refers to conduct that is purposeful or intentional, rather than accidental. And "wanton disregard" basically means the person understood the conduct was risky but decided to do it anyway.

Reckless Operation Penalties in Ohio

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties depend on the driver's record.

No Prior Traffic Convictions—No Jail Time

When a motorist has had no prior motor vehicle or traffic convictions within the past year, reckless operation is a minor misdemeanor. The maximum punishment for a minor misdemeanor is a $100 fine—jail time isn't a possibility.

One Prior Traffic Conviction—Maximum 30 Days in Jail

Reckless driving is a fourth-degree misdemeanor if the driver has been convicted of one motor vehicle or traffic offense within the past year. A fourth-degree misdemeanor carries up to 30 days in jail and/or a maximum $250 in fines.

Two Prior Traffic Convictions—Maximum 60 Days in Jail

If a driver has been convicted of two or more motor vehicle or traffic offenses within the past year, reckless driving is a third-degree misdemeanor. Convicted motorists face up to 60 days in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines.

License Suspension for Reckless Operation in Ohio

For any reckless operation conviction, a judge can—but isn't required to—suspend the driver's license for six months to three years.

Operation Without Reasonable Control in Ohio

Ohio has another offense called "operation without reasonable control." Operation without reasonable control is similar to reckless driving, but the possible penalties for a conviction are less severe.

How Operation Without Reasonable Control is Defined in Ohio

Unlike reckless driving—which requires proof that the driver intentionally or knowingly did something dangerous behind the wheel—a motorist can be convicted of operation without reasonable control for accidentally losing control of a car. Basically, the reasonable control law holds drivers responsible for maintaining a steady course and being able to stop their car in time to avoid collisions.

Penalties for Operating Without Reasonable Control in Ohio

Regardless of whether the driver has prior traffic offenses, operation without reasonable control is a minor misdemeanor, which carries a maximum $100 fine. And convicted motorists don't face the possibility of license suspension.

Vehicular Assault in Ohio

Vehicular assault is another charge that's related to reckless driving.

How Ohio Defines Vehicular Assault

A driver who causes "serious physical harm" to another person while operating a vehicle recklessly can be convicted of "vehicular assault."

Penalties for Vehicular Assault in Ohio

Vehicular assault is typically a fourth-degree felony. The penalties for a conviction generally involve six to 18 months of jail time, up to $5,000 in fines, and a one-to-five year license suspension.

DUI/OVI Reduced to Reckless Operation

In Ohio, it's possible for a driver who's charged with driving under the influence (DUI) to plea bargain for a lesser charge. When a DUI is plea-bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it's sometimes called a "wet reckless."

Talk to an Ohio Defense Attorney

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Ohio can be serious, especially when the offense involved injuries. If you've been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, get in contact with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation.

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