Reckless driving charges are serious criminal charges in Florida. The state defines one who is guilty of reckless driving in Section 316.192 of the Florida Statutes as “any person who drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Under the statute, fleeing a law enforcement officer is also grounds for a per se reckless driving charge.
In order to be charged with reckless driving, the following elements must be met:
In this sense, the term “willful” means with intent. It can reasonably be assumed that the driver knew his or her actions could have caused serious bodily injury or property damage. “Wanton” describes the act of driving with a conscious and intentional indifference to the consequences along with the knowledge that damage was likely to occur.
Oftentimes, reckless driving is confused with careless driving or negligence; however, mere carelessness or negligence are not enough to constitute a reckless driving charge in Florida. The accused’s behavior must be intentional and his actions executed with awareness and indifference to likely consequences. This elevates the criminal status of a reckless driving charge, as intent must be proved. For this reason it is difficult for the prosecution to prove reckless driving occurred.
Speeding by itself does not meet the two elements that must be proved to charge someone with reckless driving. This is true even in a hypothetical scenario in which a driver passes through a 30 MPH zone at 60 MPH. It must be coupled with other factors that show a willful or wanton disregard.
A first offense reckless driving charge is a second degree misdemeanor when no bodily injury or property damage occurred.
Reckless Driving with Previous Conviction
This is also a second degree misdemeanor, but the penalties one could face include:
Any time that reckless driving results in bodily harm or property damage, penalties escalate. Reckless driving with property damage and non-serious bodily injury escalates to a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of:
Reckless driving that results in serious bodily injury becomes a third degree felony charge with penalties of:
Under certain circumstances, a DUI can be reduced to reckless driving charges or a “wet reckless” charge. If you have been arrested for DUI or reckless driving in Florida, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. With over 25 years of trial law experience, Brian Gabriel serves as Palm Beach County’s top defense attorney for serious traffic offenses. Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation.
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Attorney Brian Gabriel of Gabriel & Gabriel focuses in criminal defense. We handle all criminal defense matters including DUI, narcotics offenses, violent offenses, sexual offenses, domestic violence offenses, juvenile offenses, serious traffic offenses, as well as appeals, drivers license suspension and violation of parole/probation issues.
Serving all counties in the State of Florida including Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Broward Counties.
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