Reckless Driving Overview
Street racing is a popular hobby that can lead to serious legal consequences. In addition to being dangerous, reckless driving is illegal and can result in expensive fines and even jail time. However, hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf can help avoid these negative outcomes. Southwest Legal’s team of top-rated Riverside County criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience defending those who have been charged with reckless driving. If you’ve been charged with reckless driving, call Southwest Legal today for a free consultation and begin the process of beating your case.
California Vehicle Code 23103 makes it a misdemeanor to engage in reckless driving. Reckless driving is defined as driving with the “willful or wanton” disregard for the safety of others or their property. “Willful” means intentionally and “wanton” means indifferent. For example, street racing qualifies as reckless driving because the racers are either aware of the risk and chose to race anyway (i.e. willfully disregarding the risk) or they do not even consider the risk at all (i.e. wantonly disregarding the risk). Other examples of reckless driving include speeding in a school zone, driving 25mph above the speed limit, excessive lane changing, failing to signal, or driving on the shoulder of a highway.
Penalties for reckless driving
Unlike many traffic offenses, reckless driving is a misdemeanor rather than an infraction. This means being convicted of reckless driving will create a criminal record that will show up in background checks. A reckless driving conviction will also add 2 points to the driver’s record. Accumulating too many points within a given timeframe can result in the driver being labeled a “negligent operator” and having their license permanently suspended. The point scheme for being labeled a negligent operator is as follows:
4 points within a 12-month period
6 points within a 24-month period
8 points within a 36-month period
Furthermore, reckless driving is also punishable by up 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
There are also sentencing enhancements that will result in more severe penalties if a third party was injured as a result of the reckless driving. If a third party suffers a minor injury as a result of the reckless driving the punishment increases to up to 1 year in jail. If a third party is seriously injured by the reckless driving it becomes a felony and is punishable by up to 3 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Legal defenses against reckless driving
Three common legal defenses against reckless driving are:
- The defendant was not driving
- The driving was not reckless
- The defendant acted out of necessity
A defendant can defeat a charge of reckless driving by creating reasonable doubt that they were driving. The prosecution must prove all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt and one element of reckless driving is that the defendant was driving. Therefore creating doubt that the defendant was driving will successfully defend against a reckless driving charge. For example, a man loans his friend his car for the weekend. The friend drives recklessly and almost hits a pedestrian who then calls the police and reports the vehicle’s license plate number. When the police accuse the man of driving recklessly he can defend himself by showing that he had loaned his car to his friend the weekend when the incident took place.
A defendant can also defeat a charge of reckless driving by showing that their driving was not reckless. Police officers often make mistakes during their investigations and may characterize lawful driving as reckless for a variety of reasons. For example, a driver is charged with reckless driving after a traffic cop clocked him driving 30mph above the speed limit. However, the driver’s attorney obtains police records showing the radar device used by the officer was improperly calibrated and therefore unreliable. Without the radar device evidence, the prosecution can no longer prove the driver was driving recklessly.
A defendant can also defeat a charge of reckless driving by showing they were acting out of necessity. For example, a man drives on the shoulder of the highway to avoid traffic because he is driving his friend to the emergency room. Although driving on the highway shoulder would normally be reckless driving, the man can show he was acting out of necessity due to his friend’s emergency situation.
What Should You Do If You’ve Been Charged With Reckless Driving
Reckless driving is one of the more serious traffic crimes because it is a misdemeanor rather than an infraction. A conviction for reckless driving will create a permanent criminal record that can interfere with your career and social life. Furthermore, reckless driving can lead to fines, a license suspension, and incarceration. The best strategy for avoiding these penalties is to invest in a strong legal defense. Southwest Legal employs a team of top-rated Riverside County criminal defense attorneys with decades of experience defending those who have been charged with reckless driving. If you’ve been charged with reckless driving, call Southwest Legal today for a free consultation and take the first step toward beating your case!