Reckless driving is a criminal offense in Alabama as well as a basis to establish civil liability in auto accident cases. Reckless driving is defined as driving a vehicle “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of persons or property, or without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property.” Reckless driving charges are not restricted to driving on state highways. A person can commit the offense even if, for example, he or she is driving in a parking lot or on school grounds.
In Alabama, what constitutes reckless driving is usually a question of fact based on the total circumstances. For instance, a driver may commit reckless driving by driving negligently, but at a speed or in a manner likely to endanger any person or property.
In our view, there would be a reduction in the number of auto accidents in Birmingham, Bessemer and Tuscaloosa if law enforcement in Alabama enforced the offense more aggressively, particularly on heavily travelled interstate highways found in these and other Alabama cities. Drivers who choose to drive at dangerously high speeds swerving in and out of traffic are guilty of reckless driving. Additionally, 18-wheelers and other large trucks that drive well in excess of posted speed limits should be charged far more often with reckless driving.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance is also a serious traffic offense in Alabama. A person cannot drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle while there is 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in his or her blood and/or under the influence of a controlled substance to a degree which renders him or her incapable of driving safely. Any driver under the age of 21 years of age may not drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if there is 0.02 percent or more by weight of alcohol in his or her blood. Driving under the influence is a criminal offense as well as a basis to establish civil liability in an auto accident case.
Crimes usually require an element of one of the following states of mind or levels of intent: purposeful, knowing, reckless and negligent. Most criminal offenses are made up of an act and an intent. An exception to this rule, however, is where the act alone constitutes a criminal offense. In these limited cases, a person who commits the act prohibited by law has committed the crime no matter what his or her culpable mental state was at the time of the offense. For example, speeding violations fit this exception. If a driver is found to be speeding, it makes no difference whether the driver was speeding purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently. The act of speeding alone is sufficient to commit the offense. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance also fits this exception. The conduct prohibited by the DUI statute is based on driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A person is guilty of vehicular homicide if he or she “shall unlawfully and unintentionally cause the death of another person while engaged in the violation of any state law or municipal ordinance applying to the operation or use of a vehicle….” Courts in Alabama have defined “unintentional” to include knowingly, recklessly or criminal negligence and held that it includes all forms of state of mind other than intent.
In our experience, it is important to closely monitor the progress and results of any criminal case resulting from an auto accident involving a serious traffic offense so that our investigation parallels the investigation conducted by assigned law enforcement officers. If you, or someone close to you, have been involved in an auto accident involving a serious traffic offense, we urge you to contact our skilled Alabama auto accident lawyers. At Cross & Smith, we have handled numerous auto accident cases in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If you would like to consult with us, please contact us online or call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free confidential consultation.