Is reckless operation different from reckless driving?

No. Ohio state law just uses a special term for the offense of driving while displaying "willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property."

What constitute reckless behavior while operating a vehicle?

Examples of reckless driving include:

  • Driving 100 mph on a highway where the speed limit is 65 mph
  • Going airborne in a car
  • Acting aggressively in changing lanes and passing cars
  • Going the wrong way down a one-way street or getting onto the wrong side of the interstate
  • Tailgating at high speed
  • Failing to yield when turning or merging
  • Carrying too many passengers

Drivers who do such things almost definitely do not mean to hurt or kill anyone, but they are acting in ways that greatly raise the odds for someone to get injured or die. If you cannot understand why a police officer would consider your alleged actions behind the wheel reckless, ask a Columbus, Ohio reckless operation attorney for a second opinion.

Does "reckless" mean anything other than "unsafe"?

Acting unsafely is baked into the definition of "reckless." As a practical and legal matter, however, unsafe operation applies more to the car or truck itself than to the driver. Bald tires, cracked windshields, worn brakes, and unsecured loads in pickup truck beds are examples of things that bring citations for unsafe operation.

Does Ohio's reckless operation law cover only cars and trucks?

No. Motorboat drivers, personal watercraft operators, and pilots can all be cited for reckless operation. The relevant Ohio statute specifically warns boaters against jumping wakes, speeding in no-wake zones, and weaving through slower-moving vessels.

Does reckless operation relate to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

While driving drunk or stoned is considered reckless, operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI) is a separate, and more serious, charge. Police officers who suspect drivers of being under the influence will not issue reckless operation citations; rather, they will make arrests.

Reckless operation may enter the picture when prosecutors and judges get involved, however. A common strategy to clear cases is to allow first-time OVI suspects to plead guilty to reckless operation in order to avoid possible misdemeanor penalties that can include six months in jail.

If you get offered this option, consult with a DUI defense attorney in Columbus, Ohio. First, the prosecution's evidence may be weak and you may know you are innocent. No one should ever get punished for an offense the government cannot prove and should never have prosecuted. Beyond that, pleading down to reckless operation may not spare you a driver's license suspension or save your job if you drive for a living.

What penalties can I face for reckless operation?

The penalty chart for a single, first-time reckless operation conviction looks like this:

Criminal recordNo
Fines, including administrative and court fees$200-$300
Points against driver’s license4 if on a public road, 2 if on private property

Multiple reckless operation charges within the same calendar year get prosecuted as misdemeanors and carry the possibility of jail sentences lasting up to 12 months. Also, several traffic citations are often issued at the same time. Each alleged offense will be prosecuted and penalized separately unless some agreement is reached to combine or dismiss certain charges.

Should I fight a reckless operation charge?

Call Campbell Law to talk that out. Our founder, April Campbell, has handled many traffic and OVI cases in court and before BMV hearings.

The fact that you find yourself thinking about going to court to contest what some would consider a nuisance probably means you have more serious concerns. Our Columbus reckless driving attorneys provide free consultations to potential clients, and we may be able to help you weigh the consequence of accepting the reckless charge or putting together a defense.