Many Texans are under the impression that reckless driving is just a traffic ticket that you can pay off and be on your way, but this isn’t the case. Reckless driving charges in Texas are criminal charges that come with steep penalties and possible jail time. 

Because charges for reckless driving are no walk in the park, you should be aware of what behaviors to avoid if you want to keep your life — and your freedom — intact. So, what is considered reckless driving in Texas? 

The Houston reckless driving lawyers from Thiessen Law Firm are here to give you the rundown on the reckless driving laws in Texas, punishments you can expect for reckless driving convictions, and what to do if you find yourself arrested.

If you’ve already been arrested for reckless driving, give Thiessen Law Firm a call today at (713) 864-9000 to begin building your defense. Your future is worth the fight. 

What includes reckless driving?

Texas Transportation Code 545 § 401 is where the reckless driving Texas penal code lies. According to this code, reckless driving occurs when you “operate a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or property.”

As is the case with much statutory language, the reckless driving Texas penal code is left broad intentionally, so that Texas courts have the latitude to arrest and charge as they see fit. Because of this broad language, reckless driving encompasses a wide range of behaviors beyond simple negligence or speeding. 

What is the most common form of reckless driving?

While reckless driving can technically be any behavior in which you show a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others,” there are reckless driving behaviors for which people are more commonly arrested, including:

  • Excessive speeding
  • Driving too close to other vehicles, especially at high speeds
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Running red lights
  • Texting or distracted driving
  • Road rage or other aggressive driving behaviors

The important thing about most of these behaviors is that it can easily be shown that they were done willfully. For the state to prove that your actions were reckless, they must prove that you made a conscious decision and were aware of the dangers that this behavior posed to others. This kind of distinction underlines the importance of working with a skilled reckless driving lawyer, who can make sure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent. 

Is reckless driving a felony in Texas?

The standard offense for reckless driving is a Class B misdemeanor, but there are many ways in which a reckless driving charge can turn into other felony charges: namely if you are caught racing or if your reckless driving causes an injury or death. We will detail the many reckless-driving-related offenses and their punishments in just a moment. 

Another important note to keep in mind about reckless driving in Texas is that reckless driving is very often an additional charge. 

Although road rage charges don’t exist, engaging in aggressive driving behaviors can see you charged with endangering other people on a highway or assault. If you’re caught driving under the influence you may face reckless driving charges on top of your first DWI in Texas.

Reckless driving Texas punishments

The Texas Transportation Code outlines a few ways that you can be charged for reckless driving, with your standard reckless driving charge being the least severe and several ways for that charge to be escalated. 

A summary of the punishments for the many reckless driving offenses is below: 

OffenseChargeMaximum fineJail time
Reckless drivingClass B Misdemeanor$200Up to 30 days
Fleeing a police officerClass B Misdemeanor$2,000Up to 180 days
Fleeing a police officer while intoxicatedClass A Misdemeanor$4,000Up to 1 year
Racing on a highwayClass B Misdemeanor$2,000Up to 180 days
Racing on a highway (second charge)Class A Misdemeanor$4,000Up to 1 year
Racing on a highway causing injuryThird-degree felony$10,0002 – 10 years
Racing on a highway causing serious injury or deathSecond-degree felony$10,0002 – 20 years

In addition to the criminal penalties that you will face if convicted, reckless driving offenses often come with a laundry list of additional civil penalties, including:

  • Lengthy license suspensions
  • License revocation
  • Points against your driving record
  • Community service
  • Restitution for any victims of any accidents
  • Massive hikes in insurance premiums

Even misdemeanor reckless driving charges can come with significant civil penalties that can have a long-term effect on your quality of life. 

Can you get a reckless driving charge off of your record in Texas?

If you were convicted for reckless driving, you generally cannot get it off of your record — with a couple of exceptions. Below is a list of scenarios in which your reckless driving charge might be able to come off of your record. 

  • You were convicted as a minor. If you were arrested as a minor for reckless driving you may be able to get the record sealed or the charge expunged. 
  • You entered a deferred adjudication program. In some cases a court-ordered deferred adjudication program, in which you have to complete a probationary period and meet conditions set by the court, will be offered, keeping the charge off of your record.
  • Your case was dismissed or you were found Not Guilty. 

Whether you enter a court-ordered program or beat the charges, you’re going to need the best Houston criminal defense lawyers you can possibly get to fight for your future. 

The Houston reckless driving attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm are here to protect your rights

Now that you know what is considered reckless driving in Texas, you know that avoiding reckless driving behaviors is often possible, but a good attorney should be on speed dial for when it is not. While reckless driving charges are usually misdemeanors in Texas, there are many cases in which they can be upgraded or tacked on as additional charges to another crime. 

If you or a loved one is facing a charge for reckless driving, DWI, or any other criminal offense behind the wheel, the trial lawyers* at Thiessen Law Firm are here to make sure your rights are upheld.

Call the reckless driving lawyers at Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. 

*Continue reading: What is a trial lawyer?

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