Can I Go to Jail for Drowsy Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 10,000 people annually die in DUI collisions, and a lot of deserved attention is given to driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Many states enforce strict penal codes that don’t pull punches when it comes to punishing those convicted of driving while intoxicated.

But what about drowsy driving, driving while tired, falling asleep at the wheel, or another situation where someone’s only impairment is fatigue? Data compiled by the NHTSA indicates that drowsy driving isn’t nearly as deadly as DUI or DWI with 800 deaths reported nationwide in 2017, but it is still a considerable problem that injured 50,000 people in 91,000 reported incidents that same year.

In a list of state laws about drowsy driving compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, some such as Maine, New York, and New Jersey have gone as far as criminalizing this behavior. Running through the list, though, it appears most other states have merely designated certain days, weeks, or months as periods of awareness about drowsy driving and how to prevent it.

Texas is one of the latter states and recognizes the week of Nov. 6 through Nov. 12 as “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.” That’s as far as the law in Texas goes with regard to drowsy driving, so no, falling asleep at the wheel isn’t a crime here – but that doesn’t mean you won’t end up in jail.

Drowsy Driving Can Cause Reckless Driving

If you’re nodding off and driving erratically because of it, a police officer might stop you on suspicion of DUI or DWI, but he or she can’t arrest you even if you admit you fell asleep. You might get arrested, though, if the officer believes the driving behavior that aroused his or her suspicion was criminally reckless.

In other words: Falling asleep at the wheel may not be a prosecutable offense, but something that happened as a result of drowsy driving can be.

Here are some possible ways drowsy driving could result in a reckless driving arrest:

  • You were not alert enough to watch for pedestrians or other vehicles and have caused an accident, possibly with injury or death.
  • While unconscious, your foot remained on the accelerator and caused your vehicle to speed well past the speed limit.
  • Because of your fatigued state, you mistakenly drove into oncoming traffic lanes or entered the highway on an offramp.
  • Your drowsiness resulted in your failure to obey other traffic laws.

These are just a few potential scenarios that could happen to you if you drive while drowsy. Each can result in a reckless driving charge that may be a misdemeanor or felony depending upon how severe your alleged offense is. Penalties for misdemeanors can mean steep fines and/or up to a year in jail, while felonies can result in worse fines and at least a year or longer in prison.

Were You Arrested for Reckless Driving? We Can Help.

At Rodriguez & Gimbert, P.L.L.C., our criminal defense attorneys help clients fight charges for misdemeanor and felony crimes. If you fell asleep at the wheel, you may have been arrested for reckless driving as a result of something that happened while you were unconscious. We can help you fight these charges to mitigate or eliminate your responsibility for them.

Learn more by scheduling a free initial consultation with Rodriguez & Gimbert, P.L.L.C. today. Contact us online or call (979) 559-3599 to arrange for yours today.

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