You give your car a bit too much gas as you pull out from the intersection, and hear your tires squeal just before you see the blue lights in the rearview mirror…
Or, your soda falls from the drink holder and your car swerves into the wrong lane as you reach to catch it…
There are many potential ways to get a ticket for reckless driving in South Carolina – it’s pretty much a catch-all charge that covers any situation where a police officer thinks that you are driving… well, recklessly.
A SC reckless driving ticket can be a stand-alone charge that you need to fight in order to keep your license and prevent your insurance rates from skyrocketing. Or, it can be the “holy grail” for someone charged with driving under the influence (DUI) who is looking for a way to keep the more serious offense off their record.
Below, I will go over some of the basic information that may answer your questions about reckless driving charges in SC.
SC Reckless Driving Charge Basics
Reckless driving means driving in a way that’s dangerous to other people. S.C. Code § 56-5-2920 defines reckless driving as driving “any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Because the definition of reckless driving covers a wide range of potential conduct, it will often include other offenses that have their own code sections and separate penalties such as:
- Improper start (“peeling out”).
- Failing to stop for a police officer.
- Driving 25 miles per hour or more over the speed limit.
- Failing to yield right-of-way.
- Passing another vehicle when there’s limited visibility.
- Racing against the driver of another vehicle.
Reckless driving alone can be a serious offense that you need to fight. But, because the elements of reckless driving also fit so many other offenses, it can also be used in plea bargaining – for example, in exchange for your plea to reckless driving, a prosecutor could dismiss your DUI or racing charges.
It is also the only traffic offense that is eligible for the pretrial intervention (PTI) program. This means that, in an appropriate case, a prosecutor could send a DUI charge to PTI by dismissing the DUI and rewriting the ticket as reckless driving.
What are the Penalties for Reckless Driving in SC
A reckless driving conviction in South Carolina is a misdemeanor criminal offense, and it is also a traffic offense. This means that: 1) it will go on your criminal record, and 2) it cannot be expunged because it is also a traffic offense.
As a criminal offense, a first-offense reckless driving conviction carries a potential penalty of up to 30 days in jail or a fine. As a traffic offense, it also carries a penalty of 6 points from your license and it will almost certainly cause your insurance premiums to rise.
A second conviction for reckless driving within five years will result in a 90-day license suspension, and three convictions within three years will result in a license revocation as a habitual traffic offender.
If you are licensed in another state, a reckless driving conviction may result in an immediate license suspension depending on the laws of your home state…
Is Careless Operation the Same as Reckless Driving in SC?
There is no SC state-law offense for careless operation, but many municipalities have careless operation offenses that will only apply in the city courts.
Careless operation in SC’s municipal courts is also a 30-day misdemeanor, but it does not result in a loss of driver’s license points. It also does not count as a reckless driving for purposes of license suspension or revocation. The fine amounts tend to be higher for careless operation, and, in the right case, it may be an acceptable alternative for a plea bargain.
Caution – when the SC DMV transmits a careless operation conviction to your home state’s DMV, your home state may treat it as a reckless driving conviction and it could result in a license suspension depending on the laws of your home state.
When a reckless driving incident results in another person’s death, the charge is upgraded to what is called reckless vehicular homicide in SC.
Questions about Reckless Driving Charges in South Carolina
1. Is reckless driving a criminal offense?
Yes, reckless driving is considered a criminal offense.
2. Is reckless driving a traffic offense?
Yes, reckless driving is also a traffic offense.
3. Will reckless driving affect employment?
A reckless driving conviction could cause you to lose your job, particularly for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). If you have a CDL, even a first-time reckless driving conviction will revoke your CDL. A reckless driving conviction could also make it difficult to find employment as a driver in the future.
4. How can I expunge reckless driving from my record?
A reckless driving conviction cannot be expunged because it is a traffic offense. It can, however, be sent to the pretrial intervention (PTI) program and expunged upon completion of PTI.
5. Does reckless driving show up on a background check?
Yes, reckless driving will show up on a background check, the same as any other criminal offense.
Were You Charged With Reckless Driving in Myrtle Beach?
Facing charges is an intimidating process for anyone. The arrest and booking, the court dates and all the legalese can quickly become overwhelming.
Charges for reckless driving may be particularly stressful because of the many collateral consequences that would follow a conviction – a potential jail sentence, license suspension, increased insurance premiums, and loss of employment if you drive for a living.
The experienced Myrtle Beach traffic violation attorneys at Coastal Law, LLC, know how to help you to avoid the negative consequences of a reckless driving conviction. Schedule a free consultation by completing our online form or by calling us at (843) 488-5000.