While it may not always seem like it, traffic violations can be very serious matters. Traffic violations can have a negative impact on your ability to drive. They can add points to your license, increase your insurance costs, and even put you in danger of losing your license. Reckless driving is an offense that can cost you. California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23103 defines reckless driving as driving a vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This definition establishes two standards for determining whether your conduct was reckless. A Fresno reckless driving lawyer will be able to explain how the law relates to your specific case.
If you’re facing a reckless driving charge in the Fresno area, contact Mike McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer to learn about your options. We are aware of the legal defenses to reckless driving charges and we are prepared to fight for you. Contact us today at (559) 443-7442 to schedule a free case consultation with a skilled Fresno traffic lawyer.
What Actions Qualify as Reckless Driving?
You can be charged with reckless driving in California if your actions display willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Willful disregard means you willfully intended to put people or property in danger. For example, spinning your wheels in someone’s yard shows a willful disregard for safety.
You do not have to intend to be unsafe to be liable for a reckless driving charge. For your disregard to be considered wanton, you must be aware that your actions created a substantial unjustifiable risk of harm and you intentionally ignored that risk.
Tailgating and speeding excessively are both examples of wanton actions. You know that driving too close to another car or driving faster than the speed limit can create a dangerous situation, but you do them anyway.
This is considered wanton behavior. It is important to note, however, that not all instances of speeding are considered reckless driving under California law. Under California Vehicle Code Section 22350, you are not permitted to drive your vehicle at speeds greater than is reasonable for the area, weather situation, and traffic conditions on the highway on which you’re traveling. The state’s maximum speed law indicates that it is considered reckless to drive 15 mph over the posted speed limit on different highways and roads. 70 mph is a common speed limit for California highways, particularly in Fresno. If you are caught driving on State Route 99 at 85 (or even 100 or more) mph, you will likely receive a ticket for reckless driving.
If you’re facing charges for reckless driving and you believe your actions were neither willful or wanton, contact a Fresno reckless driving lawyer at our firm for help today.
Is Reckless Driving Charged As a Felony in California?
In California, a basic reckless driving charge is a misdemeanor. Reckless driving causing injury, however, is more serious and complicated. If you’re charged with reckless driving causing injury to a person other than the driver, you could be charged with a felony. CVC Section 23105 makes it possible for you to be charged with a felony if your reckless driving accident causes the following harm to another person:
- Loss of consciousness
- A broken or fractured bone
- Loss or impaired function of an organ
- Wounds requiring an excessive amount of suturing
- Serious bodily disfigurement
- Brain injury
If your recklessness caused one or more of these injuries to another driver or passenger, the prosecutor has the ability to choose whether you should be charged with a felony or misdemeanor.
Penalties for Reckless Driving in California
A misdemeanor reckless driving offense can include up to 90 days in county jail and fines reaching $1,000. The penalties increase based on the amount of damage your accident caused.
If you allegedly caused injuries with your reckless driving, then you can face up to six months in county jail as well as $1,000 in fines. If the injuries are severe enough to constitute a felony charge, your punishment increases significantly. A conviction of felony-level reckless driving can cost you up to three years in prison and a penalty of fines reaching $10,000.
For help avoiding these harsh statutory consequences, contact a Fresno reckless driving lawyer at Mike McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction
Beyond possible prison time and fines, a reckless driving conviction can have far-reaching effects on every aspect of your life. Being convicted of a reckless driving offense adds two points to your driver’s license and most likely increase your insurance costs. Depending on your particular offense, the judge or DMV can suspend your license for up to six months taking away your ability to legally drive.
Increased Punishments Due to Prior Reckless Offenses
Regardless of the charges you’re facing, your potential punishment will increase if there are any of the following on your record:
- Reckless driving
- Reckless driving causing injury
- Reckless driving causing injury to someone other than the driver
- Exhibition of speed
- Exhibition of speed causing injury
- DUI causing injury
“Wet” Reckless Driving
Under some circumstances, you may be able to have your DUI reduced to a reckless driving charge. This charge reduction is known as a “wet reckless” driving conviction. A conviction of this nature allows for your record to reflect a reckless driving misdemeanor rather than a DUI. This may seem like good news however there are still collateral consequences. For example, the court can order you to attend a mandatory alcohol and drug counseling program. Furthermore, if you are charged with a subsequent DUI, a “wet reckless” driving conviction will count as a prior DUI. If you want to know whether accepting a “wet reckless” driving charge is the right decision, it is important to talk to a Fresno reckless driving lawyer as soon as possible.
Possible Reckless Driving Defenses
There are several possible defenses to a reckless driving charge. Your lawyer will be able to tell you whether any of the following could apply to your situation:
- You were not driving. The prosecution must have definitive proof that you were driving the vehicle.
- You did not have intent. Reckless driving requires willful or wanton disregard of the safety of others. You may have been driving erratically due to an emergency. Or you may have been unaware of the rules of the road. Both examples may be an indication that you didn’t have the intent required for a reckless driving charge.
- Your risk was not wanton. A reckless driving charge requires a wanton disregard for safety, if you don’t possess a willful disregard for safety this charge wouldn’t be applicable. Similarly, if you were not ignoring a substantial risk, or if your ignoring of those risks were justified, you may be able to avoid a conviction for reckless driving.
- Your speed was measured inaccurately. If your charges stem from excessive speed, you could raise a question regarding the way your speed was measured. Was the device working properly? Were there other cars nearby? Questions such as these can poke holes in a prosecutor’s case.
Call a Fresno Reckless Driving Attorney for Help
If you’re facing charges for reckless driving in California, a skilled Fresno reckless driving lawyer will be able to assess your situation and tell you what defenses apply to your case. Contact Mike McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today for help with your case. Call (559) 443-7442, or reach out online to schedule a case consultation.