Colorado Traffic Law – 42-4-1402 – Careless Driving – Bodily Injury – Death
Colorado Traffic Law – 42-4-1402 – Careless Driving – Bodily Injury – Death – As a young prosecutor – some 30 plus years ago – the saying went that if a traffic police officer could not think of a criminal charge in a situation such as an factually ambiguous “accident” – they would always write the person up for Careless Driving – 42-4-1402. This article looks at the “kitchen sink” charge of careless driving in Colorado.
What Exactly IS The Colorado Traffic Crime Of Careless Driving – 42-4-1402
What follows is the Colorado crime of Careless Driving – as it is defined under Colorado law – always start with the law:
§ 42-4-1402. Careless Driving
(1) A person who drives a motor vehicle, …in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances, is guilty of careless driving.
(2) (a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection (2), any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense.
(b) If the person’s actions are the proximate cause of bodily injury to another, such person commits a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense.
(c) If the person’s actions are the proximate cause of death to another, such person commits a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense.
Class 2 Misdemeanor Careless Driving:
$150 to $300 in fines
10 to 90 days in the County Jail
Class 1 Misdemeanor Careless Driving
$300 to $1,000 in fines
10 days to 1 year in the County Jail
A Careless Driving traffic crime conviction will add 4 points to your license, unless the Careless Driving resulted in a death, in which case 12 points are accessed.
Now Compare The Colorado Traffic Crime Of Reckless Driving – 42-4-1401
42-4-1401 Reckless Driving: Any person who drives any motor vehicle, bicycle, or motorized bicycle in such a manner as to indicate either a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
42-4-1402 Careless Driving: Any person who drives any motor vehicle, bicycle, or motorized bicycle in careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances, is guilty of careless driving.
And How Does So Called Aggressive Driving Factor In?
Aggressive driving is more than careless driving. It ius considered to be reckless driving and is defined as any behind-the-wheel behavior that places another person (or people) and/or property in danger through willful action without regard to safety.
According to the State of Colorado examples of reckless driving may include assertively entering a freeway or by changing lanes to protect yourself from another motorist encroaching on your lane is acceptable.
The difference between careless and aggressive or reckless driving is your mental state – your intent.
If a law enforcement officer notes your actions as endangering another person or property (including the other motorist’s vehicle) you can be charged under Colorado’s reckless driving statute (42-4-1401) and if convicted, up to eight points can be assessed against your driving record.
A single act, such as tailgating another driver, passing on the shoulder or running a red light could be seen by a law enforcement officer as aggressive if the officer believes the action is willful and places others in danger. A combination of acts, such as speeding, cutting off other vehicles, swerving toward another motorist, honking, flashing headlights, yelling and using
The Downside of Colorado Traffic Violations
Most Colorado traffic offenses are the rough equivalent of Colorado misdemeanor crimes:
The impact of a conviction for a Colorado traffic crime can be:
- Points added to your Colorado driving record
- Significant fines
- Higher insurance premiums
- The Loss of one’s driving privileges, (suspension, denial, or revocation
- Jail (for certain traffic offenses, like DUI or reckless driving)
Some Additional Examples Of Colorado Careless Driving
- Excessive speed; racing; competitive driving against another vehicle
- Too fast for the conditions – driving at a speed that is inappropriate for the prevailing road or weather conditions
- Driving much too close to the vehicle in front, persistent inappropriate attempts to overtake, or cutting in after overtaking.
- Driving while distracted (reading or adjusting the controls of electronic equipment such as a radio, your cell or navigation equipment.
- Driving when knowingly suffering from a medical or physical condition that significantly impairs your driving skills – that includes the failure to take prescribed medication.
- Driving when deprived of sleep or rest.
- Driving a poorly maintained or dangerously loaded vehicle.
If You Are In An Accident And Someone Is Seriously Injured Or There Is A Death – What Would Help?
If there is a serious car accident and you are at fault for the accident and in that situation someone is seriously injured or dies – what are the kinds of things that might make a difference?
1. Having A Good Driving Record
A good driving history is one very important “mitigating factor” as compared to a bad driving history that demonstrates lack of concern for others – the latter would be an “aggravating factor.”
2. How You Acted At The Scene Of The Accident
Another mitigating factor would be your actions at the scene of a serious accident. Did you seek to give the victim or victims assistance – did you call 911 – etc. Be careful here as assisting may actually make matters worse – do not offer help to the victims at the scene if there is the possibility of making things worse such as where the victim has suffered a physical trauma. If you can offer direct, positive, assistance to victim at the scene of a collision, this will be scene as “personal mitigation.”
3. if The Evidence Is Strong – Demonstrating Accountability And Remorse If You Are Legally Responsible
At sentencing for the death of another – there is nothing more important than expressing remorse. This means accepting genuine accountability for your actions.
A Closer Look At Colorado Careless driving
Careless driving is driving that:
…falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver
Reckless driving necessarily includes the crime of careless driving but they both contain two basic elements:
(1) The act of driving a motor vehicle; and
(2) the state of mind in “disregard” of or “without due regard” for safety.
In both reckless and careless Colorado driving statutes, the essence of the mental element is disregard of safety in driving – it is the absence of care which renders the driving criminal.
However the degree of negligence required is for reckless driving is far more culpable than in careless driving… it does, however fall short of intentional wrongdoing and is therefore still covered under most automobile insurance policies.
Careless Driving is usually charged as a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, but if the result of Careless Driving caused bodily injury or death to another, it is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense.
Careless driving is one of those charges that is in the “eyes of the beholder.” The elements of the traffic crime of careless driving leave the charge to the complete discretion to the arresting officer. There are no real guidelines and each case depends on the facts of that case.
While a collision alone should not be evidence of negligence in careless driving cases – it is often used by the police as the only basis for the charge. Lawyers call this “res ipsa loquitur” – the think speaks for itself.
Experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyers should vigorously argue that the circumstances surrounding the collision are what matters – and the mere fact that there is an accident is too vague in criminal cases. The charge is one of the most subjective crimes that exists in Colorado criminal law – fight it ..
Colorado Traffic Law – 42-4-1402 – Careless Driving – Bodily Injury – Death
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