Many teens feel a rush of freedom after getting their driver’s license. But sometimes that exhilaration leads to poor decisions and reckless driving. A lack of experience, along with an understanding of driving rules that’s sometimes still only theoretical, compounds mistakes.

But when teens cross a line and wind up charged with reckless driving, the potential consequences are incredibly serious. All too often, parents underestimate the charges their child faces. They may categorize reckless driving as merely a traffic violation instead of as a criminal offense. However, it’s critical to prepare a strong defense to a reckless driving charge, as the repercussions can affect the driver’s ability to drive, college prospects, job search and insurance rates for years to come.

What is reckless driving? 

Reckless driving is an umbrella charge for multiple types of unsafe decisions a driver might make on the road.  Legally, a reckless driving charge requires driving with reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.  Even if an instance of reckless driving doesn’t end in an accident, the charge alone is serious. Reckless driving may include:

  • Speeding
  • Weaving in and out of lanes
  • Failing to yield
  • Tailgating
  • Passing on a double yellow line
  • Running a red light or stop sign

For adults, reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Georgia. It comes with a fine of up to $1,000 and 12 months in jail, along with four points on your license. Georgia law also treats 17-year-olds as adults for traffic charges, meaning that at 17, one mistake could end up on the driver’s permanent criminal record. It’s also worth noting that for drivers under 21, a reckless driving conviction means an automatic license suspension.

What are the reckless driving penalties for teens? 

For teens under 17, a reckless driving charge means the case will be heard in the juvenile court. While the judge has more flexibility as far as sentencing goes, punishments for teens are often steep and may include one or more of the following:

  • A license suspension 
  • An order to attend a defensive driving course
  • An order to attend counseling
  • An order to attend additional classes
  • An order to attend school  or obtain a degree or GED
  • A fine
  • Community service
  • Probation

A young teen would not face incarceration in a juvenile facility unless he or she also had an extensive juvenile history. 

Additionally, convicted teens would face:

  • Higher insurance rates for years to come
  • The challenge of explaining the driving record to colleges and jobs
  • The possible need for a moral conduct waiver if enlisting in the Armed Forces

How long does a reckless driving conviction stay on a teenager’s record?

If the driver is under 17, the reckless driving charge will go on his or her juvenile record as well as his or her driver’s history. However, contrary to what many parents and teens assume, this does not mean the record disappears once the young person turns 18. 

At 18, provided two years has passed since final discharge, a convicted teen is eligible to have his or her records sealed, but this doesn’t remove the record from the teen’s driver’s history.  Drivers still must disclose their reckless driving conviction when applying to certain jobs that inquire about driver’s histories or juvenile records. The Department of Driver Services will continue to track point totals as well, which means drivers who had the offense appear on their driver’s history will not be able to remove it from their driver’s history in the future.

Speak with a traffic violation lawyer today

It’s important to always take reckless driving charges seriously. Because some courts understand the potentially devastating effects of traffic charges on a child’s future, there may be opportunities to reach alternative resolutions to Reckless Driving Offenses. 

If you’ve received a reckless driving charge, call us at 770-720-6336 to schedule a Defense Strategy Meeting.