In Washington, a person can be convicted of “reckless driving” for driving a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” The term “willful” refers to conduct that is intentional or purposeful. And “wanton” generally means the person understood but disregarded the consequences of the conduct.
(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 46.61.500 (2018).)
Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor in Washington. Anyone convicted of reckless driving is looking at up 364 days in jail and a maximum $5,250 in fines and penalty assessments. The motorist also faces a license suspension of at least 30 days.
Washington has another offense called “negligent driving in the second degree.” A motorist can be convicted of second-degree negligent driving for operating a motor vehicle in a manner that is both:
As used in the statute, “negligent” means an act that a reasonably careful person wouldn’t do or a failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do.
The consequences of second-degree negligent driving depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:
In some states, 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.”
Washington doesn’t restrict plea bargaining in DUI case. So it’s possible for a motorist who’s accused of driving under the influence to plea bargain for a reckless or negligent driving charge.
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 Washington can be serious. 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.