What Is a Careless and Imprudent Driving Charge in Missouri?

Have you been pulled over while driving or involved in a wreck while operating your motor vehicle? In comparison to seemingly more severe legal matters, the rules of the road are often ignored or treated with more casualty by drivers. However, the power that you hold behind the steering wheel is immense, and because of that, is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in Missouri. 

For many, the car is unknowingly the center of their lives. Vehicle transportation is also how you get to work, transport kids to school, travel to see family and friends, etc. Losing that routine can affect your employment opportunities and impact your schedule and day-to-day convenience as you proceed throughout your life. Even more so, no one wants to face jail time — especially for something as manageable as a traffic ticket. 

With the right team of legal defense in traffic court, you will be able to beat your case and move on with your life, in many cases, with a completely clean driving record. So before you pay a fine, it is important to explore your options. Here is what motorists need to know about careless and imprudent driving in Missouri.

What is careless and imprudent driving?

Many may do what the state defines as “careless driving” without even realizing it. Missouri does not have specific legislation prohibiting reckless driving. Instead, the state has a careless and imprudent driving law, which requires that motorists do the following:

  • Operate their vehicles in a “careful and prudent manner”
  • Maintain a speed that does not put others in danger
  • Demonstrate the “highest degree of care”

What does operating a vehicle with the highest duty of care really mean? It includes driving safely, following all traffic laws, operating the vehicle at a speed that is under or at the speed limit and does not put anyone at risk or at harm. 

In contrast, many different actions can fall under the category of careless and imprudent driving, including road rage, speeding, texting, and racing. Because this law is fairly broad and subjective, just about any unsafe behavior on the road could lead to this criminal charge. It is very much up to the subjection of the police officer at the scene. 

What are the potential consequences?

If you’ve gotten a traffic ticket before, you know how the process typically goes. You may get a small speeding violation or traffic violation and have to pay a small fine. You may also add a few points to your record on the Missouri point system. But the consequences were minimal, and you are back to driving carefully in no time. This is not the case when you are being charged with careless and imprudent driving. Careless and imprudent driving is a misdemeanor crime with potentially serious consequences.

With the intense regulations that exist surrounding the parameters of driving, many people do not know that bad driving behaviors can lead to more than just a traffic ticket. In some cases, reckless actions, such as speeding violations, on the road can result in punishments, including not only speeding tickets but also a negative impact on your driving record. Depending on how many mph over the limit, usually at least 20 mph, a driver was going at the time of being pulled over, this can result in a temporary or even permanent license suspension. Most states have a point system to track traffic violations that occur in a certain period of time for an individual driver. If someone continues to break traffic laws and operate their vehicle at a speed deemed unsafe, these repeat offenses can lead to a criminal charge, ultimately resulting in jail time.

 The exact penalties depend on if the reckless behavior resulted in an accident. If there was no collision, the convicted individual could face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. This is considered a Class B misdemeanor. For cases involving an accident, the maximum penalties increase to a $2,000 fine and a year in jail, and it switched to a Class A misdemeanor. Additionally, A careless and imprudent driving conviction also adds four points to a motorist’s driving record for a state violation and two points for a municipal ordinance violation.

Careless and imprudent driving can have far-reaching repercussions even if a motorist avoids incarceration and a fine. In addition to adding points to the driver’s license, a conviction stays on his or her record for multiple years, leading to increased auto rates and often preventing commercial driving activities. 

Examples of Careless or Imprudent Driving

Here are a few common examples of careless or imprudent driving. 

  • You commit a speeding violation by driving 20 mph over the limit, causing stress of potential danger to those around you. 
  • You break traffic laws by continuing through a red light, and hitting someone in the intersection. 
  • A driver in front of you presses the break harder than you would have liked, causing you to slam on your brakes. You become enraged and continue to cut off the car in front of you for several miles in the act of road rage. 

Even though the legal definition for careless driving in Missouri is loosely defined, it is clear in multiple cases if a crime should be considered a simple traffic violation or something more. It is always best to follow all traffic laws.

What Should I Do If I Am Charged with Careless or Imprudent Driving in Missouri?

Many things may occur after you are charged. You could immediately deal with license suspension, jail time, a bad driving record, and more. You may think of just paying the fine and dealing with the consequences later. This is not recommended, as the implications of guilt in such an instance could cost you more than the fine for a misdemeanor that remains on your record for all to see. 

If you were charged with careless or imprudent driving in Missouri, it’s important to contact an attorney right away. As these laws are somewhat ambiguous, a skilled attorney will be able to fight your charges. It’s possible that you may step away from the accident or ticket will no fine and no marks or points on your driving record.