Careless driving in Delaware, or inattentive driving, which is covered by the same state statute, is an offense which can have serious consequences if it results in harm to a pedestrian, cyclist or anyone else who is using a public right of way.
Careless driving is defined by the statute as driving in a careless way without regard to the weather, traffic or road conditions. Inattentive driving is defined by the same statute as driving without paying full attention to the operation of a vehicle or not keeping a proper lookout.
Both of these offenses are quite similar and depend on a very subjective judgment made by a police officer, if he or she decides to give you a citation for either of them. Of course, if you have an accident in which something or someone gets damaged or hurt, then it is much more likely that you will get a citation anyway, if the officer thinks it was your fault.
Careless Driving Fines if No one Has Been Hurt
If no one has been hurt, then it is unlikely you will get more than a fine for careless / inattentive driving. A fine for this offense in Delaware is likely to set you back between $25 to $75. If it is not your first offense for careless / inattentive driving, then the fine will be raised to between $50 and $95.
Careless Driving Penalties if a Person has Been Seriously Injured
The situation is quite different if you hurt somebody seriously or it is alleged that your driving caused someone to get hurt seriously. If you are convicted, then you will be fined up to $550 and it is possible that your license will be suspended. The fine and suspension will depend on whether you attend a driver modification course operated by the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and complete 100 hours of community service, which has to include at least some time devoted to traffic safety.
The suspension of both the fine and the license will await a hearing, which will be given a year after the conviction for careless or inattentive driving. At the hearing, you would need to show that you have completed the two basic requirements mentioned above or show very good grounds why you couldn’t complete them. If the DMV is satisfied, then the two penalties will be dismissed.
Note that Delaware’s penalties for careless or inattentive driving may seem a little less severe than other neighboring states, but may still have some effect on you in the long term. A ticket for careless or inattentive driving is likely to be given at the same time as a ticket for another alleged violation, such as speeding or failure to yield the right of way and it may be that these charges are more serious than the one for careless or inattentive driving.
When Should you Plead Not Guilty
Before you make a plea in response to a Delaware careless or inattentive driving ticket, you will have to think carefully about the consequences of a guilty plea. How much is a likely penalty going to affect you down the track? If the charge means that you are in danger of losing your license, or the time taken to complete community service or a driver modification course is going to affect your job then you may be better off pleading not guilty and hiring a Delaware traffic violation officer to help you fight the charge(s). Pleading not guilty means that the prosecution is then forced to prove that you were driving carelessly and you may be able to dismiss the charge completely or make a plea bargain for a lesser sentence.