First, the offense most people call reckless driving is actually called reckless operation in the Ohio Revised Code. The law, O.R.C 4611.20, is titled “Operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property,” and the key text reads, “No person shall operate a vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street or highway in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.”
Ignore the stuff about trolleys and street cars. An important thing to understand about Ohio’s reckless operation statute is that a vehicle can be just about anything with wheels and a motor. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and scooters meet the definition of vehicle.
Another thing to understand is that “willful or wanton disregard” has no statutory definition. Lawyers call this a term of art — something that has a generally accepted meaning for police, prosecutors and judges.
In Ohio, willful conduct describes an action that is taken intentionally, designedly, knowingly, or purposely. Wanton conduct is something done without a good excuse or without respect to the rights of others. To act in a wanton manner is to do a thing just because you feel like doing it and regardless of whether the activity might injure people or inflict damage.
Charging a driver with reckless operation indicates that the police officer or state trooper believes the driver demonstrated indifference to the consequences of his or her actions behind the wheel. Convicting that driver requires presenting clear and indisputable evidence that the person drove in way that could endangered life, limb, health or property while also knowing that his or her actions could cause harm.
Outlining the legal theory underlying a reckless operation case will make possible defenses against the charge easier to explain. But before getting into that, it is worth looking at a few examples of what is considered reckless driving in Ohio courts have identified as instances of punishable reckless driving.
Drivers have been convicted for
Note that none of these traffic violation are, by themselves, automatically considered and charged as reckless driving in Ohio. The ticketing officer must also cite a clear danger to people or property. That is where a reckless operation defense attorney will likely focus.
Questions that must be answered include
Mounting a vigorous defense against a reckless operation charge is essential because even a first-time conviction can result in a driver’s license suspension. In each instance, the conviction puts 4 penalty points on the driver’s record with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (2 points for some municipal convictions). Accumulating 12 penalty points in a 24-month period triggers an automatic license suspension.
The rest of the penalty chart for reckless operation looks like this:
|Reckless Operation Charge
|Maximum Fine for Reckless Operation
First offense with no other traffic violations
First offense with a conviction or guilty plea to another traffic violation in the previous 12 months
Up to 60 days
Second or third offense with a conviction or guilty plea to another traffic violation in the previous 12 months
Up to 60 days
Colin Maher of The Maher Law Firm represents drivers in all kinds of traffic cases in Columbus and surrounding Franklin County. You can speak to him now by calling (614) 205-2208 or connecting with Colin online.