DUI charge reduced to reckless driving not completely accurate

by Sami Azhari on December 3, 2011

Reckless Driving | 11-501 DUI

A preferred outcome in many driving under the influence cases is reckless driving. The reason is reckless driving does not impact a person’s driving privileges in the same way as a DUI.

The Secretary of State is mandated by law to revoke the driver’s license of any person who is convicted of DUI. The statute that causes the revocation is 625 ILCS 5/6-205(a)(2). This section says the Secretary of State “shall immediately revoke the license… of any driver upon receiving a report of the driver’s conviction of… Section 11-501.” A person can check the traffic ticket to see the DUI statute cited. It usually reads 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), for a breathalyzer test of 0.08 or higher, or 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) where the driver refused testing.

Reckless driving is found in the Illinois Vehicle Code at 625 ILCS 5/11-503. There are some circumstances where the Secretary of State will take action against a person’s license for reckless driving. For instance, 3 convictions within 12 months will result in a revocation. The revocation for reckless driving is required under 625 ILCS 5/6-205(a)(6).

But chances are minimal that any person would ever be convicted of reckless driving three times in one year.

One conviction for reckless driving does not result in a revoked license.

Often judges and lawyers refer to DUIs that change to reckless driving charges as a “reduction.” In many Cook County courtrooms, it is called a “reducer”. This is technically not accurate. A DUI charge is a Class A misdemeanor offense (potential of up to one year in jail), and so is reckless driving. The penalties are the same. In this sense, a DUI is not reduced to reckless driving. It is still the same level of offense.

The legal term describing a DUI that is reduced to reckless driving is an “amendment” of the charge. In most DUI cases, the traffic ticket is the charging document. In DuPage County, police officers file complaints on full-sized paper citing the DUI statute and setting forth a probable cause statement.

The prosecutor will amend the charge by striking the language referring to 11-501 (DUI) and changing it to 11-503 (reckless driving). The circuit clerk for that county will then report the sentence to the Secretary of State electronically. Reckless driving may appear on that person’s driver’s abstract within a few weeks.

(Years ago, DUIs that were amended to reckless driving were called “wet reckless” cases. This term is generally not used in Illinois courtrooms any longer.)

To reiterate, a DUI is not reduced to reckless driving. It is still a Class A misdemeanor offense with the same possible jail sentence. This distinction is important because a person who is serving a sentence for reckless driving such as supervision, conditional discharge or probation can be re-sentenced for violating the sentence. If a defendant fails to complete DUI classes, pay fines, or is arrested for a new offense, the judge may put that person in jail.

A jail sentence for reckless driving could be up to one year, just as it would be for DUI.

But a word to the wise is that a person who violates a sentence for reckless driving may be looking at substantially more jail than a person who violates a sentence for DUI. The judge may believe the person got off easy with the reckless and impose a more severe penalty.

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