Driving while intoxicated is never a good idea. Unfortunately, some police officers adopt an overzealous approach when it comes to enforcing laws against driving under the influence. When a motorist with a small amount of alcohol in his or her system strikes a pedestrian, some police officers will arrest the motorist for reckless driving. While having a minor amount of alcohol in one’s system can negatively color a situation against the driver, it does not automatically mean that the motorist was responsible for the collision.
Pedestrians and the Right of Way
Under law in most states, motorists must yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks, at pedestrian crossings that extend from street corners and at any intersection on a street where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. Yielding includes stopping, slowing down or altering one’s course to permit the pedestrians to cross safely. At the same time, pedestrians may not cross the road with disregard for approaching traffic; leaping out in the roadway in front of quickly approaching traffic and expecting motorists to slam on their brakes is not reasonable. Failing to yield the right of way is an infraction.
That a motorist may have the right of way does not grant the motorist special dispensation to ignore persons in the roadway. Consultation with any DUI attorney will yield the same perspective; anyone who drives his or her vehicle in such a manner that endangers another person’s life or limb may be charged with reckless driving. If a person is unlawfully in the roadway and if the motorist has the last clear chance to avoid the collision, the motorist must do so.
Intoxication and Dangerous Driving
A motorist may or may not be able to avoid a collision if a pedestrian suddenly darts into a vehicle’s path. This depends upon the vehicle’s speed, the distance between the pedestrian and the vehicle and the driver’s ability to respond at that moment. Even slight intoxication can negatively affect a driver’s perceptions and reaction times. If a party to a collision smells of alcohol and demonstrates any symptoms of intoxication, responding officers may believe that the motorist could have avoided the collision. Hence, an officer may wrongfully arrest a motorist for reckless driving.
A wrongful arrest or citation for reckless driving can be costly. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in most states and a conviction will become a part of the arrested motorist’s criminal record. If the motorist was driving with a suspended or revoked license and if the pedestrian dies as a result of reckless driving, reckless driving becomes a Class 6 felony. The usual penalties for reckless driving are much higher than other offenses. However, a judge may reduce a charge of reckless driving to a charge of improper driving if the reckless conduct was slight. This reduces the misdemeanor charge to an infraction with a small fine.
If a collision occurs between a motor vehicle operated by a person with a blood alcohol content lower than the legal limit and a pedestrian, an innocent motorist may become a victim of a misunderstanding. Defeating a criminal charge for reckless driving requires an experienced attorney to challenge the perceptions of officers and witnesses at the scene. Additionally, an attorney can refer the motorist to competent and experienced attorneys to address any civil matters that may result from the incident.