Under Wisconsin law, it’s illegal to text and drive while you’re driving unless you’re using hands-free texting features. It’s also illegal to drive while you’re distracted or to operate a motor vehicle in a way that puts other people in danger.
But can police charge you with the crime of reckless driving if you’re caught using your phone?
Is Using Your Phone Reckless Driving in Milwaukee?
Using your phone and reckless driving are two different things.
Wisconsin has laws against distracted driving. In fact, you cannot be “engaged or occupied with an activity, other than driving the vehicle, that interferes or reasonably appears to interfere with the person’s ability to drive the vehicle safely.” That means messing with the radio, putting on makeup or even turning around to talk to passengers in the backseat can also count as distracted driving.
If you get caught using your phone to text, send email or update your social media status while you’re driving, the police can ticket you – but that’s different from the crime of reckless driving.
What is Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving is more than a simple ticket that you can pay. It’s actually a crime, and the law defines it this way:
- No person may endanger the safety of any person or property by the negligent operation of a vehicle
- No person may cause bodily harm to another by the negligent operation of a vehicle
- No person may cause great bodily harm to another by the negligent operation of a vehicle
If you’re using your phone and driving recklessly – whether the reckless driving is a result of your phone use or something else – you absolutely can get into trouble for reckless driving.
What’s the Penalty for Reckless Driving?
If you endanger other people’s safety, you can be fined between $50 and $500. If you’ve been found guilty of reckless driving two or more times in the past four years, you could end up spending up to a year in the county jail.
If you cause bodily harm, you can be fined and sent to jail for up to a year, as well. However, if you cause great bodily harm and the court convicts you, you’re looking at a Class I felony – and that can put you in prison for up to a year and a half (with two years of extended supervision once you’re out). The judge can also order you to pay fines of up to $10,000.
What if You’re Accused of Reckless Driving?
If you’ve been accused of reckless driving, we may be able to help you. Call us at 414-383-6700 for a free consultation with an experienced attorney now.