No one wants to look in their rearview mirror and see an officer’s lights start flashing. All the same, Georgia’s traffic officers stop drivers every day. Indeed, there’s a good chance you might someday find yourself sitting on the side of the road as an officer strides slowly to your door.
According to a recent survey of traffic stops, American officers pull over roughly 32 million drivers per year. That’s more than 87,000 traffic stops per day. Some drivers receive warnings. Some drivers receive tickets for minor offenses. Others find themselves facing criminal consequences that could be far more serious.
10 serious traffic offenses
Georgia does not rank within the top 10 states for most traffic stops per miles driven. Even so, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reports that we see traffic fatalities at a rate above the national average. That fact places pressure on traffic officers to root out dangerous driving. Officers might charge some drivers with serious offenses even when those charges aren’t warranted.
Altogether, Georgia criminal statutes identify at least ten traffic violations as “serious” offenses:
- Reckless driving
- Reckless stunt driving
- Driving under the influence
- Endangering a child while driving under the influence
- Homicide by vehicle
- Feticide by vehicle
- Serious injury by vehicle
- Fleeing a police officer
- Homicide by interference with official traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal
- Aggressive driving
Some of these serious offenses are misdemeanors. Many are felonies. Some start as misdemeanors and can become felonies, depending on the circumstances.
The circumstances matter
Indeed, it is often crucial to properly understand the circumstances surrounding any serious traffic offenses. Especially with charges such as “reckless driving” and “aggressive driving,” you can see clearly that there is often room for interpretation:
- The criminal code says that reckless driving is driving a vehicle “in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
- Aggressive driving is operating a motor vehicle “with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person.”
Both these charges allude to the driver’s state of mind. It is possible that officers can make incorrect assumptions about a driver’s state of mind. They need to support their assumptions with evidence, and it is worth noting that the prosecution must use that evidence to prove the crime beyond the shadow of a doubt. If a good defense attorney can challenge that evidence or the prosecution’s interpretation of the evidence, the charges may not stand.
Charges do not equal convictions
Fortunately, there are options for drivers facing such serious charges. You have the right to defend yourself. Naturally, the best defense will change with the charges and the facts, but a good defense attorney can help you identify your options.
You might be able to get the charges reduced. You might arrange for a pretrial decision. Or, you might go to court and fight your charges in trial. Whatever you decide, you have the right to defend yourself from wrongful charges and all the immediate and long-term consequences that follow a conviction.