What Constitutes Reckless Driving in California?

What Constitutes Reckless Driving in California?
Christopher J. McCann

Reckless driving may sound just like a description of someone’s negligent behavior behind the wheel, however, reckless driving is an actual criminal offense in California that can result in serious consequences. Learn more about how reckless driving is determined and what your options are if you have been arrested or charged with reckless driving.

What is Reckless Driving?

California Vehicle Code Section 23103 defines reckless driving as operating a motor vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” You can be arrested on either a public road or a private parking lot for reckless driving.

In order to be convicted of reckless driving, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • Drove a motor vehicle
  • Was on a public roadway, highway, parking lot, or facility
  • Intentionally drove with wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

“Wanton disregard for safety” is defined as the awareness that a person’s actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to others, and the person intentionally ignored that risk.

If you were charged with reckless driving causing bodily injury under California Vehicle Code Section 23104, you are accused of causing a physical injury to another person, which required professional medical treatment. If there was “great bodily injury,” the penalties will be even more severe.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is not just a civil traffic offense. Reckless driving is actually a criminal offense that carries serious criminal penalties. The misdemeanor of reckless driving can include jail time of up to 90 days and a fine up to $1,000. The court may impound your vehicle for up to 30 days and suspend your driver’s license.

If you were charged with reckless driving with bodily injury, you are subject to imprisonment in a county jail or state prison for a minimum of 30 days to 6 months and/or a fine up to $1,000. If your reckless driving caused “great bodily harm,” the penalties can even be more severe.

Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in California can also impose administrative penalties against you. California Vehicle Code Section 12810(c) will require the DMV to place two points on your record for reckless driving. Also, your insurance company will likely raise your monthly insurance premiums dramatically, or even drop your coverage altogether.

Defenses to Reckless Driving

If you have other traffic violations that include excessive speeding, improper passing, failing to maintain a lane, or even other convictions of reckless driving, it may be difficult to reduce a possible sentence or conviction. However, some defenses to reckless driving include:

  • Not enough evidence that the defendant was driving the vehicle
  • The driving pattern was not reckless driving, but perhaps negligent instead
  • The defendant was acting out of necessity to avoid something posed greater peril, such as an emergency.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you were arrested and charged with reckless driving in California, contacting a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible can help you understand your next steps and build a strong defense strategy. Contact our legal team at The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann at 888-360-4256 or online today for your free consultation.

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