Reckless Driving Florida Law and Penalties
Reckless Driving is a crime in Florida and is defined by Florida Statute §316.192(1)(a) as driving a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Reckless Driving should not be confused with careless driving – a noncriminal traffic infraction for vehicular actions that do not rise to the level of recklessness. Reckless Driving is a misdemeanor that carries mandatory minimum fines determined by the Florida legislature. Additionally, a Court may impose jail up to 90 days for a first offense and 6 months for a second offense. Like most other criminal cases, charge and sentencing enhancements for Reckless Driving are possible for aggravating circumstances such as a crash or the use of alcohol. If a crash causes the serious bodily injury of another, Reckless Driving becomes a third degree felony, punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5000 fine.
Willful or Wanton Disregard
While the statutory definition of Reckless Driving may seem vague, there are certain actions that clearly fit the charge. One such action is fleeing a law enforcement officer. (Note that Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer is also a crime of its own; it is a felony per Florida Statute §316.1935.) Other actions that constitute Reckless Driving generally involve a combination of multiple traffic violations such as weaving in and out of traffic, excessive speeding, continually changing speeds, following others too closely, and disobeying traffic control devices. However, recent case law suggests that one traffic offense alone, in certain cases, could rise to the level of Reckless Driving.
Reckless Driving and DUI
While a Reckless Driving charge is certainly not a good thing, it is generally better than the charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). In a situation where the accused is initially charged with DUI, certain jurisdictions offer a first-offender diversion program that involves a plea to the lesser charge of Reckless Driving. Probation terms for this “wet Reckless” plea include a fine, court costs, DUI school, and community service; the huge benefit of a “wet Reckless,” aside from avoiding a conviction by receiving an “adjudication withheld,” is that it generally does not come with the license suspension that is mandatory for DUIs. In Palm Beach County, the first-offender DUI diversion program is not guaranteed to a Defendant, and certain factors disqualify a Defendant from consideration of this leniency; examples include a crash, a breath alcohol level of .20 or above, and/or not having a valid license at the time of the incident. In situations where the accused might not technically qualify for a “wet Reckless,” an experienced criminal defense attorney may still be able to negotiate a Reckless Driving plea on a DUI case by finding legal, procedural, or factual issues with the prosecution’s case.
The Life of a Reckless Driving Charge
Returning to our discussion about “dry Reckless” cases (meaning a Reckless Driving charge unrelated to DUI diversion), the criminal charge of Reckless Driving generally begins at the scene of the stop or accident when a law enforcement officer issues the accused a citation or Notice to Appear. While a police officer does not have to physically arrest a suspect for Reckless Driving, the officer has the discretion to do so. Upon case initiation by either citation, Notice to Appear, or arrest, the Defendant is obligated to go to court to address the matter. The Defendant should receive a Notice of Hearing within a couple of weeks of the incident that specifies the date, time and place of the Defendant’s arraignment. Arraignment is simply a legal word for formal reading of the charges. Typically, the accused pleads “not guilty” at this first court hearing to have the opportunity to hire a criminal defense attorney, review the evidence, and weigh the options. This is perfectly normal, expected, and not held against the defendant in any way. The case then proceeds to additional hearings for the purpose of demanding discovery (the evidence), negotiating with the prosecution, and making decisions about resolving the case or filing motions, taking depositions, and/or going to trial.
How Casanova Law Can Help
Attorney Lourdes Casanova
Casanova Law is a criminal defense law firm experienced in Reckless Driving cases. Founding Attorney Lourdes Casanova is a former prosecutor for Palm Beach County and has litigated thousands of criminal traffic cases during her combined time as a prosecutor and now a criminal defense attorney. Our representation of those charged with Reckless Driving include:
- Filing a Notice of Appearance on the Client’s behalf
- Sending a preservation letter to any business or building with surveillance cameras that may have captured the incident
- Reviewing the evidence for legal, procedural and factual errors made by law enforcement
- Negotiating with the State Attorney’s Office regarding the plea offer
- Advising the Client about the evidence, the plea offer, and all legal options
- Attending the Client’s court hearings on the Client’s behalf
- Filing a waiver of the Client’s presence at pre-trial court hearings
- Litigating the case by way of any motions, depositions, and/or trial as necessary to fight for our Client.
If you have been charged with Reckless Driving, contact us as soon as possible so that we can take immediate steps to protect your rights.