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.
(Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 4511.20, 4511.201 (2018).)
The consequences of a reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:
For any reckless operation conviction, a judge can—but isn’t required to—suspend the driver’s license for six months to three years.
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. Regardless of whether the driver has prior traffic offenses, operation without reasonable control is a minor misdemeanor. And convicted motorist don’t face the possibility of license suspension.
Unlike with 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.
A driver who causes “serious physical harm” to another person while operating a vehicle recklessly can be convicted of “vehicular assault.” Vehicular assault is typically a fourth-degree felony. The penalties for a conviction generally involve six to 18 months jail time, up to $5,000 in fines, and a one-to-five year license suspension.
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.”
HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?
Generally speaking, sentencing law is complex and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including the severity of the damage at issue, credits for good in-custody behavior, and jail-alternative work programs.
If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.
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.