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What is Reckless Operation?


"Reckless operation" is the term Ohio uses for the traffic violation most states call reckless driving. And interestingly, the law covers more than driving a car or truck. Thus, what you may not know is that reckless operation of a boat or other watercraft can draw a ticket, a fine, and a license suspension, just as much as driving recklessly can.

But while the reckless operation statute is fairly specific on what the person steering a boat or watercraft cannot do, it isn't so specific when it comes to driving. Here is what you can't do when you're driving a boat:

  • Go airborne
  • Follow a water skier too closely
  • Weave through a line of other vessels
  • Create a dangerous wake
  • Force another boat to turn suddenly just to avoid a collision

But for driving a vehicle, it's different. Ohio allows cities and counties to explicitly define what the main statute refers to as "willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property." This means that police officers who make traffic stops and respond to accident scenes, have a significant amount of discretion to determine when you're recklessly driving.

Actions that can be prosecuted as reckless operation of a car or truck include:

  • Exceeding the posted speed limit by 25 mph or more
  • Jumping a curb
  • Going the wrong way on a highway or one-way street
  • Falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Crossing a double yellow line
  • Illegal passing
  • Running a red light
  • Driving while impaired

Here's what you need to know about having a reckless operation conviction on your record:

  1. You'll get points, and possibly a license suspension or jail time, if you're convicted of Reckless Operation

Reckless operation charges put 4 points on a convicted person's license. Multiple convictions on the offense within a single 12-month period can result in high fines and a jail sentence. Also, state law leaves it up to courts to decide whether to suspend the driver's license of a person found guilty of reckless operation. When imposed-which is often-that suspension lasts six months to three years. And, it extends to both personal licenses and commercial driver's licenses. Yikes.

  1. Reckless Operation is linked to OVI

A first-time charge for operating a vehicle while impaired will sometimes be prosecuted as a reckless operation violation instead. A prosecutor may offer this option to a defendant for many reasons, including having little evidence for alcohol or drug use. Before signing off on any such plea deal, however, the person being charged should consult with a skilled and experienced Columbus, Ohio, OVI defense attorney. A reckless operation conviction can bring penalties similar to a drunk or drugged driving conviction. So, agreeing to accept the so-called "reduced" charge may not yield you the benefit you're looking for.

  1. Many Defenses Against a Reckless Operation Charge Exist

The initial decision to issue a reckless operation charge rests largely with the police officer. So, questioning the evidence police and prosecutors claim to have for any of the actions that might be construed as "willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property" almost always makes sense. Just a few of the questions a Columbus reckless driving lawyer would want answered conclusively would be the following:

  • Can radar records show the accused driver was speeding in a potentially dangerous manner?
  • Does video show what the police officer says happened?
  • Could mechanical problems or personal illness explain the events observed by the officer?
  • Did the accused have to swerve or move into an intersection in order to avoid a more dangerous situation? Or, did the accused move to make way for an emergency vehicle?

If you need a reckless operation attorney in Columbus, Ohio, who can ask these questions and others, call Campbell Law at (614) 356-8515 or contact us online.

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