Reckless Driving in Pinellas County
Reckless driving charges are common in Pinellas County. A person is guilty of reckless driving pursuant to Section 316.192(1), F.S., if the person drives a vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle is reckless driving per se.
Alternatively, you might be interested in learning more about reckless driving if the prosecutor offers to reduce your DUI charge to this less serious offense.
In fact, Pinellas County just created a diversion program that permits most first DUI cases to qualify for such a reduction in exchange for completing enhanced sanctions. Read more about the new DUI DROP diversion program in Pinellas County for a first DUI.
In either of these situations, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you resolve the case under the best possible terms.
Attorney for Reckless Driving in Pinellas County, FL
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients charged with criminal traffic crimes including driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, reckless driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fleeing to elude, and racing on roadways in Pinellas County, FL.
We can help you protect your driver’s license and resolve the case in court. The best result often comes from filing motions to suppress or exclude evidence or dismiss the charges.
The main office of Sammis Law Firm is located in downtown Tampa, FL. We recently opened an office in Clearwater near the CJC Courthouse. Our office is located at 14010 Roosevelt Blvd Suite 701, Clearwater, FL 33762-3820.
Don’t face the judge alone. Contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers for traffic crimes in Pinellas County, FL.
Criminal Penalties for Reckless Driving in Florida
In Florida, the first conviction for reckless driving may be punished by:
- a term of imprisonment not exceeding ninety (90) days; or
- a fine, not less than $25 nor more than $500; or
- both fine and imprisonment.
For a second conviction of reckless driving, the court can impose:
- a term of imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months; or
- a fine, not less than $50 nor more than $1,000; or
- both fine and imprisonment.
The penalties for reckless driving are enhanced under § 316.192(3), Fla. Stat., if the reckless operation of the vehicle caused damage to property or another person, or if it caused serious bodily injury to another person.
If the court has reasonable cause to believe the use of alcohol, chemical substances as set forth in Section 877.111, F.S., or controlled substances, contributed to the violation, the court must direct the person to complete a DUI program substance abuse education course and evaluation as provided in s. 316.193(5), F.S.
At sentencing on the reckless driving charge, the Court can either withhold adjudication or impose an adjudication of guilt. If the Court imposes an adjudication of guilt, then four (4) points will be added to the driving record.
Additionally, an adjudication of guilt will trigger a requirement that the driver completes a four (4) hour Basic Driver Improvement (BDI) course approved by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).
Standard Jury Instructions for Reckless Driving
The standard jury instructions for reckless driving can be found in Chapter 28.5 for both § 316.192(1)(a) and (1)(b), Fla. Stat. The standard jury instruction for reckless driving was first adopted in 1981 and amended in 2013 and 2020.
If § 316.192(1)(a), Fla. Stat., for reckless driving is charged, then the standard jury instructions provide:
To prove the crime of Reckless Driving, the State must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
(Defendant) drove a vehicle in Florida with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
The standard jury instructions for the crime of reckless driving include the following definitions:
- “Willful” means “intentionally, knowingly, and purposely”;
- “Wanton” means “a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with the knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or property”;
- “Vehicle” means “any device in, upon, or by which any person or property is, or might be, transported or drawn upon a highway [except personal delivery devices, mobile carriers, and devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks]”; and
- “Motor vehicle” means “any self-propelled vehicle not operated upon rails or guideway[, but not including any bicycle, electric bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, mobile carrier, personal delivery device, swamp buggy, or moped] as explained in § 316.1935, Fla. Stat.”
Reckless Driving Causing Property Damage
Reckless driving causing property damage or non-serious personal injury to another person is charged under 316.192(3)(a)(b)(c)1. If the charge alleges that property damage or non-serious personal injury to another occurred, then the jury will be instructed as follows:
If you find (defendant) guilty of Reckless Driving, you must also determine whether the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that [he] [she] caused [damage to the [property] [or] [person] of another] as a result of operating the vehicle recklessly.
The crime of reckless driving causing damage to the property or person of another can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to twelve (12) months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
In Pinellas County, FL, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office might agree to reduce a DUI with property damage to a reckless driving with property damage charge. Although both are first degree misdemeanor offenses, the statutory minimum requirements are less for reckless driving with property damage when compared to DUI with property damage.
Reckless Driving Causing Serious Bodily Injury
“Serious bodily injury” means an injury to another person which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
If the charge alleges that property damage, personal injury, or serious bodily injury occurred as listed in § 316.192(3), Fla. Stat., then the jury is told:
If you find (defendant) guilty of Reckless Driving, you must also determine whether the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that [he] [she] caused [serious bodily injury to another] as a result of operating the vehicle recklessly.
The crime of reckless driving causing serious bodily injury to another can be charged as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine.
Reckless Driving by Fleeing a Law Enforcement Officer
If § 316.192(1)(b), Fla. Stat. is charged, then the standard jury instructions provide:
(Defendant), while driving a motor vehicle, fled from a law enforcement officer.
As provided in § 316.1935, Fla. Stat.,” the phrase “fleeing a law enforcement officer” means:
- the defendant was operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway in Florida;
- a duly authorized law enforcement officer ordered the defendant to stop or remain stopped;
- the defendant, knowing [he] [she] had been ordered to stop by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, either willfully refused or failed to stop the vehicle in compliance with the order or having stopped the vehicle, willfully fled in a vehicle in an attempt to elude the officer.
Read more about the crime of fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Difference Between Reckless Driving and Careless Driving?
As discussed above, reckless driving is a criminal offense that comes with criminal penalties. On the other hand, careless driving under Section 316.1925 is a civil infraction punishable only by civil penalties that might include a fine of $166.00.
Section 316.1925 imposes a duty that all drivers must drive in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as to not endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.
If you fail to drive in such a manner, then you might be issued an infraction for careless driving in Pinellas County, FL. Such infractions are often issued during a traffic crash investigation, although the charge itself does not require that any crash or accident occurred.
Because careless driving is classified as a moving violation, a conviction comes with 3 points being added to your Florida driving record. The maximum fine for careless driving is $166.00, but the court might also require the driver to enroll in and successfully complete:
- the Basic Driver Improvement School;
- the Advanced Driver Improvement School; or
- the Aggressive Driving Course.
If careless driving results in serious bodily injury to another, then the court must impose a driver’s license suspension of at least ninety (90) days and a higher fine. If careless driving results in the death of another person, then the court must impose a driver’s license suspension of at least twelve (12) months and a higher fine.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on Reckless Driving – Visit the website of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to learn more about safe driving and how to avoid getting frustrated with other people’s careless or reckless driving.
This article was last updated on Friday, July 7, 2023.