In many cases, a law enforcement officer will “overcharge” the driver with the criminal offense of “reckless driving” when a civil infraction for “careless driving” or “speeding” is more appropriate.
If you were charged with reckless driving, speak with an experienced attorney before you go to court. The criminal offense will have serious consequences to your driving record, criminal record and insurance premiums for years to come.
Attorney for Reckless Driving Crimes in Tampa, FL
If you were arrested or received a “notice to appear” for charges of reckless driving then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Our main office is located in downtown Tampa. We also have a second office in New Port Richey, across from the West Pasco Judicial Center.
We defend clients on charges that they drove recklessly throughout the Tampa Bay area including Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County and all surrounding counties including Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County and Polk County, FL.
Call (813) 250-0500 to speak with a criminal defense attorney about the particular facts of your case.
Florida’s Reckless Driving Statute – F.S. 316.192
The criminal offense of reckless driving is governed by Florida Statute Section 316.192. Reckless driving can be alleged even if no traffic accident occurred (a.k.a. the so-called “wreckless” driving case).
Regardless of whether a crash occurred, the officer might allege that you drove your vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of another person or property.
- The term vehicle is defined as “every device in, upon, or by while any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway.
- The term willful means intentionally, knowingly, and purposely.
- The term wanton means conscious and intentional indifference to the consequences and with the knowledge that damage is likely to occur.
The offense of reckless driving is not focused on any particular action of the driver. Instead, the crime focuses on the driver’s state of mind. In many of these cases, the prosecutor has a difficult time proving the driver’s “state of mind,” especially when the defendant did not make any statements admitting guilt and no accident occurred.
Willful and wanton disregard for the safety of other requires more than merely driving too fast or improper passing.
Protecting Your Driver’s License from a Conviction for Reckless Driving
If you are convicted of reckless driving, you will receive four (4) points on your Florida driving record which can cause a serious increase in your insurance premiums, not to mention a criminal record.
If the court agrees to “withhold adjudication” then you will not receive any points on your Florida driving record. The withhold of adjudication also means that you might be eligible to seal the record if you have no other criminal convictions.
- First Offense of Reckless Driving:
- Second Offense of Reckless Driving:
For a second or subsequent conviction for reckless driving, the court can impose a jail sentence of up to six (6) months and a fine of $1,000.00.
Reckless Driving Involving Drugs or Alcohol
If the court has reasonable cause to believe that alcohol or a controlled substance contributed to the reckless driving, the court order the defendant to complete a DUI program substance abuse education course and evaluation.
In addition, if the driver enters a plea or is convicted of “reckless driving,” then the Florida DHSMV will automatically send the driver to driver improvement school, even if it was not ordered by the court.
If the driver fails to successfully complete the course within 90 days after receiving notice from the Florida DHSMV, the driver’s license SHALL BE CANCELED by the DHSMV until the course is successfully completed. See F.S. 322.0261(4).
Failure to complete the court or DHSMV will result in a suspension or cancellation of your driver’s license.
In many cases, criminal charges for driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”) are reduced to lesser charges of “reckless driving.”
Reckless Driving While Fleeing a Law Enforcement Officer
The act of fleeing a law enforcement officer is reckless driving “per se.” Reckless driving “per se” means that if you are found to have fled a law enforcement officer then the judge or jury is allowed to presume that you drove in a reckless manner with the “willful or wanton” disregard for the safety of property or other people.
Reckless Driving Causing Property Damage or Non-serious Personal Injury
If while driving in a reckless manner, the driver actually caused property damage or non-serious personal injury to another, then the offense can be charged as a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000.00 fine and up to 12 months in jail.
Felony Reckless Driving
If while driving in a reckless manner, the driver actually caused serious bodily injury to another person, then the offense is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine.
“Serious bodily injury” is defined under Florida law as an injury that causes some permanent harm such as brain damage, damage to a mental faculty, damage to an organ, noticeable scarring, loss of range of motion, physical disfigurement, extreme pain, damage to an organ, broken bone, or loss of consciousness.
The Reduced Charge of “Reckless Driving” to Avoid a DUI Conviction
Many individuals who enter a plea to reckless driving do so to avoid a DUI conviction under Florida law. Reducing a DUI to “reckless driving” is a way that prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense attorneys can compromise on a case that may not be successfully prosecuted at trial.
For the prosecutor, reducing the DUI to reckless driving is a way to resolve the case without risking a “not guilty” verdict that allows the driver to escape all consequences. For the individual charged with DUI entering a plea to the reduced charge of reckless driving is a way to resolve the case without the minimum mandatory punishments that accompany a DUI conviction and the other consequences that attach to the driver’s license including a required DUI suspension. Find out more about avoiding a DUI conviction in Florida.
Points for Reckless Driving Charges in Florida
Points can be assessed for a conviction of reckless driving. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has several different ways of coding the offense on the driving record depending on which way the offense was originally charged including:
- 316.192(1)(a) – RECKLESS DRIVING – 4 points
- 316.192(1)(a) – Reckless Driving – When reduced from D.U.I. – 4 points
- 316.192(3)(a)(b)(c)(1) – Reckless Driving – Property damage/personal injury – 4 points
- 316.192(3)(a)(b)(c)(2) – Reckless Driving – Serious Bodily Injury [See 322.(3)](previously violation 252 use if offense prior to 10/1/2010) – 0 points
- 316.192(3)(c)(1) – Reckless Driving – Property damage/personal injury – 4 points
- 316.192(3)(c)(2) – Reckless Driving – Serious Bodily Injury [See 322.2(3)](Previously violation 252 use if offense prior to 10/1/2010) – 0 points
- 316.1925 – CARELESS DRIVING – 3 points
- 316.1925(1) = Careless Driving – 3 points
Finding a Reckless Driving Lawyer in Hillsborough County, FL
If you have been arrested or cited for “Reckless Driving” (often called “wreckless driving”) or any other serious driving offense then contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle your reckless driving case in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, New Port Richey, Dade City, Bartow, Brooksville, or Bradenton, Florida.
We represent clients charged with reckless driving throughout central Florida including Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County, Hillsborough County, or Hernando County.
Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case today.
This article was last updated by Leslie M. Sammis on Monday, April 30, 2018.