Reckless Driving Laws

California Reckless Driving Laws

A reckless driving traffic violation is considered a major offense with serious repercussions. Reckless driving in California is treated as a more serious offense than careless driving, improper driving, and driving without care and attention. If you’re charged with reckless driving, you could face time in prison or revocation of your driver’s license. A bail bondsman might also be assigned to your case to ensure that you appear in court.

Understanding Reckless Driving 

Reckless driving laws and penalties are designed to severely punish reckless driving where it occurs and be severe enough to deter its occurrence in the future. What exactly is reckless driving? Standard reckless driving in California per California vehicle code section 23103 is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a way that shows “wanton” and “willful” disregard for the safety of other persons and property. 

In the state of California, reckless driving is considered a civil traffic infraction, which means that reckless driving is a criminal offense that comes with serious consequences. At the very least, someone found guilty of reckless driving could face misdemeanor charges and up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $1000. Reckless driving laws and penalties may also include an impoundment of the vehicle for 30 days and either a suspension or outright revocation of the driver’s license. 

The penalties for reckless driving will racket up as the consequences of the reckless driving mount. For instance, property damage or seriously injuring another driver or nearby pedestrian could increase the charges against someone found guilty of reckless driving. Standard reckless driving is met with two points on your driving record by the DMV, but DUI charges or murder charges for reckless driving could also come into play with California’s felony reckless driving laws. A wet reckless charge might factor into a plea agreement in the state of California.

Reckless driving with injuries to nearby property or other drivers will surely lead to heftier charges and perhaps the cancellation of the reckless driver’s automobile insurance. Reckless driving with injuries would certainly cause your automobile insurer to think twice about offering you the same low premiums since insurance companies are in the business of risk and reckless driving, or DUI charges, demonstrate extremely risky behavior. 

California Vehicle Code Section 23103 

A prosecutor must meet the burden of proof with respect to two conditions to prove that the defendant is guilty of reckless driving. The prosecutor must show that the defendant actually drove the vehicle on a highway or off-street parking facility and, secondly, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intentionally drove with wanton disregard for other persons and nearby property. 

The use of the word “intentionally” is very interesting and critical for distinguishing reckless driving from other kinds of dangerous behavior. Contrast someone convicted of reckless driving with another individual who suffers from narcolepsy. The former clearly had an intentional disregard for the rules of the road and the well-being of other drivers whereas the latter, the individual who suffers from narcolepsy, did not show a wanton disregard for the rules and safety of others. 

The distinction is especially salient when prosecutors are considering the more serious offenses associated with reckless driving. California’s felony reckless driving laws and murder charges for reckless driving would only apply to a driver who knowingly broke the rules. Remember, reckless driving necessarily means a wanton disregard for safety. 

Why Do People Drive Recklessly? 

California’s reckless driving laws stipulate that someone convicted of reckless driving must understand that his or her actions could bring about the substantial risk to others and, furthermore, that the driver intentionally ignored those risks. Why would someone drive recklessly in the first place? Reckless driving has been associated with thrill-seeking behaviors and impulse-control issues. Drugs and wet reckless charges under California Section 23103 VC could come into play too.

What’s interesting is that a driver may drive in a way indistinguishable from reckless driving without being convicted of reckless driving. If the driver reasonably believes that an emergency has taken place, the driver did not create the perceived emergency, and the perceived emergency presented a threat, then reckless driving may not apply. Speeding alone is not considered reckless driving.

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