Reckless Driving

Reckless Driving OCGA § 40-6-390 is one of the most common traffic offenses you can commit, but it is also one of the most open-ended laws in the State. An almost endless list of traffic violations may qualify as “reckless driving” in Georgia, and many drivers commit this offense without even realizing it. Some cases involve honest mistakes and “near misses,” while others involve gross negligence and serious wrecks.

The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reports that reckless driving is more common than ever in the Peach State. However, many Georgians have no idea how to navigate this charge. If you’ve been accused of reckless driving under OCGA § 40-6-390, it’s important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney with experience handling complex traffic cases. Failing to do so can result in conviction and many severe penalties.

This article will explore the nature of reckless driving charges under OCGA § 40-6-390, including types of reckless driving charges, possible penalties, and common legal defenses.

Make no mistake: Georgia takes the offense of reckless driving very seriously, and if convicted, you could face life-altering consequences. Our law firm can help you mount the aggressive defense you need to protect your future. Schedule a free consultation today.

What Is Considered Reckless Driving In Georgia?

Reckless driving under Georgia OCGA § 40-6-390 can take many forms. While some examples of reckless driving are obvious, others are more subtle. According to Georgia’s traffic laws, you commit this offense whenever you operate a vehicle with “reckless disregard” for the safety of others. You might also face this charge if you endanger property – even if your driving did not threaten other people. This law applies to all motor vehicles, as well as non-motorized variants, meaning you can be charged with a reckless driving offense while operating a car, truck, motorcycle, golf cart, scooter, or bicycle.

“Reckless disregard” refers to actions that no reasonable individual would ever take. In other words, it suggests the driver should have realized that this behavior created foreseeable and preventable risks. Reckless driving OCGA § 40-6-390 is an intentionally vague and open-ended law, and police officers may define it at their own discretion. While the possibilities are effectively endless, there are a few common examples of reckless driving OCGA § 40-6-390 to consider.

Failure To Yield

One of the most common examples of reckless driving is the failure to yield. Motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists may have the right of way in various situations – and each driver must understand the rules of the road. For example, a pedestrian usually has the right of way when attempting to cross at a stop sign. Vehicles turning left at green lights must yield to opposite vehicles turning right, along with all other traffic from that direction. The four-way stop procedure states that drivers who arrive first should have the right of way. Failure to yield properly in these scenarios (and many others) may result in reckless driving charges – even if no accident occurs.

Passing Over A Double Yellow Line

Crossing a double yellow line is only legal when turning left into (or out of) alleys, driveways, private roads, or parking lots. It may also be legal to cross double yellows when turning left onto another street. While technically legal, however, these maneuvers are often dangerous – and they can theoretically lead to reckless driving charges. In contrast, passing over a double yellow line is never legal when passing another vehicle. These double-yellow lines specifically mark no-passing zones, and you may face reckless driving charges even if you safely pass another vehicle.

Weaving Through Traffic

Assuming you use your indicators and respect the speed limit, there is nothing inherently illegal about weaving through traffic. However, a police officer may spot this behavior and nonetheless charge you with reckless driving. Remember, any behavior that puts other people in danger can constitute reckless driving – and weaving through traffic may fit this definition according to the observing officer. Motorcyclists may be especially likely to face consequences for weaving through traffic.

Excessive Speeding

After speeding excessively, you may face consequences for both breaking the speed limit and reckless driving. Police officers may charge you with both offenses, and this is especially common if your speed was particularly high or reckless. For example, you might have sped in a school zone or construction area. Perhaps you drove at 100 miles per hour in a quiet residential area. Whatever the case may be, speeding often puts other people (or property)  in danger and therefore fits the legal definition of reckless driving.

Running Red Lights

Running a red light is perhaps one of the most obvious examples of reckless driving. While this may acceptable if you entered the intersection on a yellow light, blatant disregard for red lights can easily lead to reckless driving charges.

Running Stop Signs

You must come to a complete halt at a stop sign, scan the intersection, and proceed if safe. While completely disregarding a stop sign is a blatant form of reckless driving, you might also face this charge if you slow down and “roll” through the intersection without coming to a complete stop. Near-misses with pedestrians or other vehicles make reckless driving charges more likely after running stop signs.


Tailgating can easily lead to reckless driving charges in Georgia. Police officers may penalize this behavior, arguing that it increases the chances of an accident. Drivers must follow at a safe distance, even when tailing excessively slow motorists, or risk being considered a reckless driver.

Racing Other Vehicles

Racing is a separate criminal offense in Georgia. Under § 40-6-390.1, drivers may face charges for “reckless stunt racing” – and this may result in misdemeanor or felony penalties. Even if you did not participate in an organized street racing event, you could still be accused of “racing.” For example, you might engage in an unspoken speed contest with another driver after making eye contact at a red light; this aggressive driving may be considered reckless.

Driving A Vehicle Known To Have Mechanical Or Technical Flaws

You must keep your vehicle in proper condition, and any mechanical or technical flaws can potentially lead to reckless driving charges. For example, you might have driven with faulty brakes or an overheating, smoking engine.

Driving Under The Influence Of Alcohol Or Drugs

Drunk driving is a separate crime in Georgia, but it may accompany a charge of reckless driving. This combination is especially common after serious alleged DUIs, as prosecutors may wish to “send a message” by charging defendants with as many crimes as possible.

Penalties for Reckless Driving in Georgia

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Georgia. While you may only receive a traffic ticket for this offense, it is also possible to spend up to 12 months in jail. In this next section, we discuss a range of possible charges and their respective penalties.

Misdemeanor Reckless Driving

The “default” penalty for reckless driving in Georgia is a fine of up to $1,000, a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, or both. That being said, incarceration is reserved for only the most serious reckless driving offenses.

Felony Reckless Driving

It is possible to face felony charges associated with reckless stunt driving in Georgia. This is a more serious offense that generally involves street racing, donuts in parking lots, burnouts, and similar behavior. Courts consider this a “misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature,” and a plea of nolo contendere is not possible with this offense.

1st Offense

A first offense reckless stunt driving offense will result in a minimum of 10 days in jail, with a maximum sentence of up to six months behind bars. A first offense also leads to a minimum fine of $300, with a maximum fine of $750.

2nd Offense

A second reckless strunt driving offense within ten years is still a misdemeanor. However, it comes with a higher minimum fine of $600 and a maximum fine of $1,000. In addition, the mandatory minimum jail sentence increases to 90 days – with a maximum of one year behind bars.

3rd Offense

If you commit a third reckless stunt driving offense within ten years, you face another misdemeanor with a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000. You also face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year with a maximum of five years.

4th Offense

A fourth stunt driving offense within ten years carries the same penalties as a third offense, but you will face a felony instead of a misdemeanor. This is one of the most serious categorizations of reckless driving.

What Must The State Prove For A Reckless Driving Conviction?

Prosecutors must compare your actions to a hypothetical “reasonable person,” arguing that this imaginary person would have behaved more safely. However, this imaginary person is inherently subjective, and your criminal defense attorney can push back against the suggested definition of “reasonable.” For example, prosecutors might argue that a reasonable person would have slammed on the brakes at the first sign of a yellow light. Your lawyer might refute this claim by highlighting the dangers of such a sudden maneuver, arguing that a reasonable person would have continued through the intersection instead.

Prosecutors must also establish a degree of foreseeable risk. In other words, prosecutors need to show that you should have realized your actions were dangerous. Perhaps your incident involved something that no one could have possibly predicted, such as a pedestrian suddenly rushing across the road.

Defending Against Reckless Driving OCGA § 40-6-390 Charges

The most appropriate defense strategy depends on the unique circumstances of each incident, and it may be worth discussing these specific factors with a traffic defense attorney. That being said, various strategies have proven effective over the years, some of which we discuss below.

Medical Emergencies

If you experienced some kind of medical emergency before the alleged offense, it may be difficult for prosecutors to convict you. For example, you might have suffered a minor stroke or heart attack – forcing you to slam on the brakes or veer off the road. Perhaps you suffered a seizure, and you lost control of your body. You might have experienced an adverse reaction to your medication through no fault of your own. These are just a few examples of how medical emergencies can lead to wrongful accusations of reckless driving.

Insufficient Evidence

As with all other criminal offenses, prosecutors shoulder the burden of proof when it comes to reckless driving. If they cannot present compelling evidence that you drove recklessly, you cannot face a conviction. The age-old principle of “innocent until proven guilty” holds true in Georgia, and this certainly applies to reckless driving allegations. Your criminal defense attorney can also call into question the evidence laid against you – perhaps highlighting errors in police reports or inconsistencies among eyewitnesses.

You Were Not Driving

The most obvious defense against reckless driving is simple: You were not behind the wheel at the time of the offense. Perhaps someone else was operating the vehicle, and you were merely a passenger. Perhaps the vehicle was parked. Maybe your charges stem from a case of mistaken identity. For example, a reckless motorist may have been operating a vehicle of the exact same model, make, and color as yours.

Using GPS Data

Technological innovations may provide a range of potential evidence, and GPS data represents a particularly compelling example. Using GPS data, it may be possible to refute claims of reckless driving – especially when it comes to speed, right of way, and similar factors.

Plea Deals

If the evidence laid against you seems overwhelming, you might consider pleading guilty. Taking a plea deal may ensure more leniency from the court – and it could mean the difference between jail time and community service. Speak with your criminal defense attorney in Georgia to determine whether this is the right strategy for you.

Reckless Driving FAQs

If you’ve been charged with reckless driving in Georgia, you probably have many questions. The best way to find clarity is by seeking legal advice from an experienced reckless driving defense attorney. In the meantime, check out the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

  1. Does a reckless driving misdemeanor suspend my driver’s license?

While reckless driving is a serious traffic offense, it does not lead to license suspension for most drivers in Georgia. However, drivers under the age of 21 face an automatic license suspension if convicted. In addition, this charge may push any driver over the 15–point limit within 24 months, resulting in an automatic suspension.

  1. When reckless driving is a felony or misdemeanor in Georgia

By default, reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense in Georgia. However, reckless driving may lead to separate felony charges – especially if it causes injuries or deaths. Fleeing the scene of an accident could also cause additional felony charges.

  1. What if I am charged with reckless driving and another person has died or been seriously injured in an accident?

If you cause serious injuries or deaths as a result of your reckless driving, you face additional charges. These include “serious injury by vehicle” and “homicide by vehicle.” Both are felonies in Georgia.

  1. Can I get a DUI reduced to reckless driving in Georgia?

It is possible to get a DUI reduced to reckless driving OCGA § 40-6-390, and this is also known as “wet reckless.” This strategy is often the result of plea bargaining alongside experienced traffic defense lawyers in Georgia.

  1. Can I be convicted of both a super speeder violation and reckless driving?

It is possible to face both a super speeder violation and a reckless driving charge in Georgia. However, a super speeder violation simply adds $200 to an existing speeding ticket – and it does not involve any potential jail time.

Fight Reckless Driving OCGA § 40-6-390 with a Georgia Defense Lawyer

Reckless driving OCGA § 40-6-390 represents a daunting prospect for many Georgia drivers, but this charge may be easier to fight than you realize. Internet research is a positive first step, but an online article cannot provide you with targeted, effective guidance. For this, you will need to discuss potential defense strategies during a consultation with a defense lawyer. Contact Joseph Williams Law to schedule a free consultation with a compassionate attorney who will fight for your future.

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