What Is the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Reckless Driving in Georgia?

A angry man driving a car yells and shakes his fist through the car window demonstrating aggressive driving.

In the State of Georgia, reckless driving and aggressive driving are two separate and different traffic offenses. Both are serious charges that can result in a significant fine and jail time, as well as points on your driving record. Either offense may occur in conjunction with a DUI arrest or as a separate charge independent of DUI. If you face reckless driving or aggressive driving charges in any circumstances, representation by a knowledgeable criminal and traffic offense lawyer is essential.

Reckless Driving

The offense of reckless driving is established by Section 40-6-390 of the Georgia Code. The law states that “Any person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving.” The section further provides that a conviction of reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment up to 12 months, or both. The law specifically allows the court to stay or suspend a sentence or place the defendant on probation.

A reckless driving conviction also adds four points to your driving record, which has the potential to result in suspension of your driver’s license if you accumulate 15 or more points in a consecutive 24-month period. For drivers under the age of 21 years old, any offense of four points or more results in suspension of your Georgia driver’s license.

Under the law, reckless driving does not require any specific intent on the part of the driver. If there is evidence that the driver acted in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property, regardless of whether the driver had the intent to cause injury, that evidence may support a conviction of reckless driving.

Under any circumstances, reckless driving is a serious offense. It is not a simple traffic ticket. If you are charged with reckless driving, you should talk with an experienced traffic offense attorney before you make any decisions about how to proceed.

Aggressive Driving

The Georgia offense of aggressive driving is more serious than reckless driving — and the penalties for an aggressive driving conviction can be much more severe.

Section 40-6-397 of the Georgia Code establishes the offense of aggressive driving. The statute states:

A person commits the offense of aggressive driving when he or she operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42 [Overtaking and passing generally], 40-6-48 [Driving on roadways laned for traffic], 40-6-49 [Following too closely], 40-6-123 [Turning movements; signals required on turning, changing lanes, slowing, or stopping], 40-6-184 [Impeding traffic flow; minimum speed in left-hand lanes], 40-6-312 [Operating motorcycle on roadway laned for traffic], or 40-6-390 [Reckless driving] with such intent.

The provision that differentiates aggressive driving from reckless driving is that aggressive driving requires “the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person.” In contrast, reckless driving involves conduct that creates a danger to people or property, regardless of intent.

Aggressive driving is a more serious offense, because it involves intentionally harassing or intending to injure another person. Georgia courts recognize that aggressive driving may involve conduct directed at any other person, not just other drivers. The intentional actions may involve passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, or any other person.

Under the law, conviction of aggressive driving is a “misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature” that carries potential penalties of a fine of up to $5,000 and a jail term up to 12 months, or both. Aggressive driving also adds six points to your driving record. As such, it results in an automatic license suspension for any driver under the age of 21 years.

Defending Against a Reckless Driving or Aggressive Driving Charge

Our experienced criminal and traffic offense lawyers vigorously defend clients against reckless driving and aggressive driving charges, whether or not the charge arises out of circumstances that also involve DUI charges.

As explained above, reckless driving is a very broad statutory standard that requires a showing of the driver’s “reckless disregard” for the safety of persons or property. Undermining the basis of a reckless driving charge therefore usually involves challenging the evidence that purports to demonstrate the driver’s reckless disregard. Professional knowledge and skill are required to accomplish that task, which is the reason that legal representation is essential if you’re charged with reckless driving.

In contrast, aggressive driving involves the element of intent to harass or injure another person. A prosecutor usually endeavors to demonstrate a person’s malicious intent through the evidence, which often includes witness statements. Testimony and evidence typically relate to the driver’s specific conduct and inferences about intent that arise from that conduct. A skillful defense attorney knows how to challenge and undermine this type of evidence in a traffic offense charge. If you face an aggressive driving charge, you should never attempt to represent yourself in the proceedings. You should always contact a defense attorney as soon as possible after you are charged.

Talk with an Experienced Georgia Traffic Offense Lawyer

Our attorneys at Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia have the right combination of experience, skill, and knowledge to defend against reckless driving and aggressive driving charges, as well as DUI. Based in Cartersville, we serve clients throughout Bartow County, Cobb County, Cherokee County, Gordon County, Floyd County and Paulding County. If you need representation on a Georgia reckless driving, aggressive driving, or DUI charge, please give us a call at (770) 382-0984 or contact us via the internet, so we can begin working on your case right away.

Categories: Criminal Defense