If you’re facing a Georgia DUI charge, you might be wondering if you can reduce the DUI charge to a reckless driving charge. There are significant benefits to reducing a Georgia DUI case to a reckless driving charge. However, seeking the reduction to reckless driving isn’t always the best option for clients. The facts in each case determine whether or not a reduction in charges is warranted.
At Carter Pilgrim Stroud, our metro Atlanta DUI attorneys focus our practice on defending criminal DUI charges. Our DUI defense lawyers have successfully represented clients in Forsyth, Hall, and Gwinnett County and throughout the greater Atlanta area. We evaluate the facts in all of our client’s cases and develop the best defense strategy for each client. When doing so is advantageous, we will press prosecutors to reduce a DUI charge to a reckless driving charge. If you or a loved one are facing an Atlanta DUI charge, contact our law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how our attorneys can fight for your rights.
The Differences Between DUI and Reckless Driving Charges
A reckless driving conviction is typically preferable to a DUI conviction. Under Georgia law, driving while under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense. A first-time DUI conviction can result in fines, license suspension, mandatory DUI education, public service requirements, and jail time. Those with multiple DUI convictions face even harsher penalties, including higher fines and significant jail time. DUI penalties can also include the revocation of the defendant’s driver’s license and the use of an ignition interlock device. Those convicted of a DUI will have a criminal record that can interfere with job and school applications and can result in higher motor vehicle insurance rates.
A Georgia reckless driving conviction is not as severe as a DUI conviction. Reckless driving is considered a misdemeanor in Georgia. The Georgia criminal code defines reckless driving as driving in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property. Defendants convicted of reckless driving face fines of up to $1,000.00 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both. Even though the potential penalties for reckless driving are less severe than DUI penalties, defendants convicted of reckless driving will still have a criminal record.
Advantages of Making a Plea Bargain
In many cases, pleading down to a reckless driving charge is advantageous. To some defendants, it is worth pleading guilty to reckless driving to avoid the risk of living with a DUI conviction on their criminal record. When prosecutors agree to allow a defendant to plead guilty to a reckless driving charge, they will dismiss the DUI charge entirely. Reckless driving convictions are less likely to result in jail time. Further, defendants convicted of reckless driving will not face a mandatory suspension of their driver’s license. Reckless driving convictions result in four license points, whereas DUI convictions are zero-point offenses that remain on the defendant’s criminal record and driver’s license for life.
A reduction from a DUI to a reckless driving charge will prevent a driver’s license suspension for defendants over 21 years of age. However, if the additional four points bring the total points to 15 or higher, a judge will suspend the defendant’s license. For those under age 21, both DUI convictions and reckless driving convictions will result in an immediate driver’s license suspension.
Additionally, a DUI conviction requires a judge to impose mandatory minimum punishments. On the contrary, Georgia law does not require mandatory minimum penalties for reckless driving. Typically, insurance premiums do not increase as much for reckless driving convictions as they do when the insured has a DUI conviction on his or her driving record. Some insurance companies will drop a customer for a first-time DUI conviction. However, many insurance companies will not drop a customer for a first-time DUI unless they find aggravating circumstances.
One of the most significant benefits of pleading guilty to reckless driving is avoiding a jury trial. A plea deal is over relatively quickly. A jury trial for a DUI conviction is often stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. Jury trials are also inherently risky. With a plea deal, the defendant has complete control over whether or not he or she pleads guilty to reckless driving. In a jury trial, the defendant risks a guilty verdict and significant penalties for the DUI during sentencing.
Disadvantages of Reducing a DUI to a Reckless Driving Charge
Defendants who plead guilty to a reckless driving charge will still face the consequences of the reckless driving charge. Those who do not plead down will go to trial for their DUI charges. At the trial, the jury may decide on a “not guilty” verdict. Defendants who receive a “not guilty” verdict go home with a clean driving record and will not face any of the consequences. When defendants plead guilty to reckless driving, they face probation, community service, and fines. Defendants face similar, though usually less severe, consequences for reckless driving as a DUI.
Pleading guilty to reckless driving will not erase a defendant’s arrest for DUI. Typically, the defendant’s criminal history will still record “arrest: DUI” and “disposition: reduced to reckless driving.” Reckless driving convictions may limit the defendant’s job opportunities. For example, commercial drivers usually cannot drive with a reckless driving conviction on their driving record. However, it may still be possible to operate as a commercial truck driver, even with a reckless driving conviction. Typically, a truck driver will face suspension of his or her commercial driving privileges after conviction of two serious driving offenses within three years.
Our DUI Defense Attorneys Can Help
If you are facing a DUI charge, you might be considering pleading down to a reckless driving charge. Hiring a skilled DUI defense attorney is essential when facing a DUI charge. At Carter Pilgrim Stroud, we focus our law practice on DUI defense. After evaluating the facts of our client’s case, we work with clients to develop a winning strategy. In some cases, pleading down to a reckless driving charge is the best option. Contact our Atlanta law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help you.