If you received a citation for reckless driving in Florida, you should be aware the charge is a criminal offense punishable with jail time. Once you enter a plea to the charge, you may be creating a criminal record that will last a lifetime. Although it is easy for prosecutors to charge someone with misdemeanor reckless driving, it often is very difficult for the prosecutor to prove the charge beyond all reasonable doubt.
Unlike other criminal offenses, reckless driving is focused on a person's state of mind instead of the person's actual behavior. Many people are shocked to learn the police can charge someone with a crime for reckless driving even when no crash occurred. This means if a person changed lanes in a hurry while speeding, which would have potentially put others at risk, it could be considered reckless driving.
Parents should be aware of the consequences of this driving citation because they often pay for the vehicle insurance for a teenager or young adult. These charges are most often given to young male drivers between the age of 17 and 24. While these young drivers already have the highest auto insurance rates, a conviction for reckless driving may cause a dramatic increase in rates for the next 36 months.
Reckless Driving Attorney in Tallahassee, FL
Reckless driving charges can have a serious impact on a criminal record and insurance rates. The charge is considered a criminal act, and there could be harsh consequences. If you have been charged with reckless driving, contact a traffic offense lawyer in Tallahassee at Pumphrey Law.
Our attorneys represent drivers charged with reckless driving throughout the Florida Panhandle, including Tallahassee in Leon County, Monticello in Jefferson County, Crawfordville in Wakulla County, Quincy in Gadsden County and Bristol in Liberty County. Call (850) 681-7777 for a free case evaluation.
Reckless Driving Information Center
- Reckless Driving Under Florida Law
- More Serious Than Careless Driving
- Reckless Driving with Property Damage
- Penalties for Reckless Driving
- Insufficient Evidence to Prove Offense
- Reckless Driving Resources
Reckless driving is often defined as a driving pattern which involves the "willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property," according to Florida Statute Section 316.192. In reckless driving cases, willful means "intentionally, knowingly and purposefully." Additionally, wonton is considered the conscious and intentional indifference to the consequences and the knowledge that damages is likely to be done to person or property.
Drivers can be charged with reckless driving for:
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Disregarding traffic signs
- Ignoring weather conditions
- Passing a school bus
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Violating multiple traffic laws
- Drag racing
- Improper passing
- Failing to use signals
- Failing to yield
Because the statute focuses on what the driver is thinking, such as regarding and disregarding, prosecutors often have a difficult time proving the offense at trial. Even before trial, your Tallahassee criminal attorney may be able to find a motion to dismiss which alleges the uncontested evidence does not support the crime charged.
The criminal charge of reckless driving contemplates a driving pattern that establishes an intentional disregard for the safety of person or property. A similar offense, careless driving, involves a mere failure to operate the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner without any showing of the driver's state of mind.
Florida Statute Section 316.192 states that any driver in Florida shall drive in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the curves, grade, corners, width, traffic and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the property, life or limb of another person. The failure to drive in a careful and prudent manner could constitute careless driving.
In many of these cases, the officer will cite the at-fault driver for reckless driving after a traffic crash. When it is alleged there was damage to other property, then the crime becomes a first-degree misdemeanor. A breathalyzer test likely will be taken to determine if alcohol was a factor in the crash.
If the court has reasonable cause to believe drugs or alcohol contributed to the violation, the court could order the driver to complete DUI school. If the use of alcohol was a significant factor, the court can order probation for up to one year. If the offense does not involve property damage, the court could impose six months probation.
If a person is convicted of reckless driving for the first time, he or she can be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both. A second or subsequent conviction of this offense can result in a prison sentence of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000 or both. Six months of probation could be applied to either offense.
If the reckless driving resulted in damage to someone else’s property or minor injuries to the victim, the driver can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. This could include up to 12 months on probation or in jail and a fine up to $1,000 and
If the offense caused serious bodily injury to the other driver, the offender can be charged with a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 or both. Serious bodily injury is defined as injury to another person which causes a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement or impairment of the function of any body part or organ.
The victim of the accident often will obtain a person injury attorney to sue the driver to collect money damages for those injuries. If you are involved in a car accident involving another person's serious injury, contact an attorney after the accident and avoid making any statements during the criminal investigation. You also should not speak to anyone from an insurance company until after you have obtained an attorney.
Often a law enforcement officer will charge a driver with reckless driving even though the officer should have issued the driver a civil traffic infraction for speeding, failing to maintain a lane or running a red light. The courts have looked at various fact patterns and found the evidence to be insufficient to support the charges, including findings that:
- Speeding is not enough to charge the driver with this offense, even when the speed is excessive
- Running a stop sign with a blinking light did not constitute wanton and willful disregard for the safety of others
Florida Reckless Driving Statute 316.192 - Read the statutory language of Florida's reckless driving statute.
Reckless Driving on Wikipedia - Read more about reckless driving statistics, stories, and consequences throughout the United States.
Finding A Reckless Driving Lawyer in Tallahassee
If you have been arrested or cited for reckless driving, contact an experienced Tallahassee traffic attorney with Pumphrey Law at (850) 681-7777. We provide free consultations to discuss the best way to fight the charge of reckless driving, and we will handle your case with the utmost importance.
Attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney.