Careless and Reckless Driving

Careless driving is defined as driving or stopping a motor vehicle in a way that endangers the lives and safety of people or property. Reckless driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle while aware of and consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the driving may result in harm to another or another’s property, including racing or contest driving. Racing is defined as willful comparison or contest of relative speeds by operating one or more vehicles, regardless of whether the speed is greater than the speed limit. If you are charged with careless or reckless driving, you will be tried in court for a misdemeanor.

What to Do and Expect when Stopped by Law Enforcement

Being stopped by a law enforcement officer can be a stressful experience, but knowing what to do during the traffic stop will help to ensure a safe interaction for all involved. 

When you see emergency lights behind you:

  • Stay calm.
  • Slow your vehicle and activate your turn signal.
  • As soon as safely possible, pull to the right shoulder; or if on a multilane road and closer to the left shoulder, move to the left shoulder if there is a full lane to park.
  • Avoid stopping on a bridge, curved part of a roadway, or within the lane of traffic.
  • If the stop is made after dark, turn on your vehicle’s interior light.
  • Keep all doors shut, and remain in the vehicle unless directed otherwise by the officer.
  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel so they are easily observable.
  • Give the officer your full attention.
  • Do not make sudden movements or search for your driver’s license or vehicle documents; wait for the officer to give you instructions.
  • If you have a weapon or firearm in the vehicle, inform the officer upon your first interaction with them.

The officer may ask to see your identification (driver’s license, photo ID, etc.) and proof of insurance. If the documents are out of reach, tell the officer where they are located before reaching for them.

When the officer completes their interaction with you, they may issue a verbal warning, written warning or traffic citation that may include a fine.

If you disagree with the officer’s decision to issue a traffic citation, do not prolong the contact by arguing with the officer.

If you wish to contest the citation, you will have the opportunity to explain your point of view in court. If clarifying questions are needed about the warning or citation, ask the officer before the interaction is completed and avoid getting out of your vehicle after the officer walks away.

Failure to follow or refusal to comply with any lawful order or direction of a law enforcement officer is illegal and can result in being arrested. Do not resist if taken into custody by law enforcement.

The enforcement of traffic laws is an effective tool in changing unsafe driving behavior, reducing crashes and injuries, and saving lives. If a law enforcement officer gives you a warning or a citation for a traffic violation, their intent is to deter future illegal and/or unsafe behavior and to keep our roadways safe. Effective and clear communication from all involved parties can make a traffic stop a safe experience.

In addition to the guidelines above, if you have a firearm in the vehicle, keep your hands on the steering wheel in a visible location and when the officer approaches, let them know that you have a firearm in the vehicle, and tell them where the firearm is located while continuing to keep your hands on the steering wheel. Do not reach for the firearm. The officer may take possession of the weapon for safety reasons until the contact is complete.

Driver’s should not:

  • Reach around inside the vehicle. If you need to reach for an item, contact the officer verbally to indicate the item that you need to locate and only do so after the officer has given verbal permission.
  • Get out of the vehicle unexpectedly or approach the officer. If you need to exit your vehicle, contact the officer verbally to ask to exit the vehicle, and only exit after the officer has given verbal permission to do so.

While every traffic stop varies based on the circumstances, drivers can generally expect the officer to:

  • Greet the driver.
  • Identify themselves as a law enforcement officer   The Law Enforcement Officer will want to see your driver’s license and proof of insurance.
  • The Law Enforcement Officer needs to inform you, as the driver of the reason for the stop and explain the circumstances for issuance of the citation or warning.
  • Check both the validity and authenticity of the driver’s license.

The following forms of identification are acceptable in identifying the driver during a traffic stop:

  • Minnesota driver’s license.
  • Out-of-state driver’s license.
  • Temporary license.
  • Learner’s permit.
  • Military ID.
  • Consulate / International driver’s license.

Depending on the nature of the stop, the officer may issue a citation or warning, or take a violator into custody. 

The citation should contain the specific code or statute and a description of the violation. 

Accepting a citation from an officer is not an admission of guilt or responsibility; it’s simply acknowledging the receipt of the citation in the case of a civil violation and promising to appear in the case of a criminal violation.

All citations will be referred to a local jurisdiction for a hearing. Drivers can use the court system to address criminal or civil matters, with the option of a diversion program in some cases, such as driver education training.

Law enforcement officers are expected to maintain the highest level of professionalism during a traffic stop. Should questions arise regarding the officer’s conduct during a traffic stop, drivers should contact the officer’s law enforcement agency or supervisor using the officer information on the citation.

Fleeing a Police Officer

Fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle is illegal and dangerous.

Anyone who violates this law is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years and one day, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

If someone is killed or injured, the driver fleeing may be sentenced as follows:

  • If a death results while fleeing a law enforcement officer, the driver  may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 10 years, fined  not more than $20,000, or both.
  • If great bodily harm results while fleeing a law enforcement officer, the driver may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years, fined not more than $14,000, or both.
  • If substantial bodily harm results, the driver may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years, fined not more than $10,000, or both. 43 Sharing the Road Minnesota Driver’s

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