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When does a traffic offense become a reckless driving charge?

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2021 | Criminal law

Most people who get pulled over by the police in North Carolina will just receive a traffic ticket because of their driving actions. The officer might issue a citation for exceeding the speed limit, not using a turn signal at an intersection or rolling through a four-way stop. The driver just pays the ticket and hopefully learns to be a little safer on the road.

Sometimes, instead of just writing a ticket, the police officer will arrest someone and charge them with an actual traffic crime. Reckless driving is usually a misdemeanor offense rather than just a traffic violation. When does that occur?

The police officer has a lot of say in the allegation you face

The law in North Carolina defines reckless driving in two ways. The first is the practice of driving with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others. The second is driving without due caution. That definition includes driving in a manner or at a speed that puts people or property at risk.

Excessive speeding, racing and driving the wrong way in a lane could all constitute reckless driving. However, the circumstances will need to be extreme to justify charging someone with a misdemeanor offense instead of just issuing a citation. The police officer who conducted the traffic stop will usually need a compelling reason to allege reckless driving, such as high speeds in a residential neighborhood, to justify a criminal charge instead of a ticket.

Understanding what constitutes reckless driving in North Carolina can help you fight back against a pending traffic charge.