Reckless driving in California

If you have been arrested for reckless driving in California, Lluis Law auto accident lawyers can help you. We have been defending people accused of this crime for over 40 years with favorable results for our clients.

Call any of our attorneys now and request a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case. We will help you navigate state traffic laws and find the best defense strategy for you. 

In this article we explain in detail the reckless driving laws and the charges for this crime. We also answer some frequently asked questions. 

Reckless driving crime in California in 2020 

Reckless driving involves putting people’s safety or property at risk. It is a behavior characterized by the “deliberate or senseless contempt” of the driver for the lives of others.

This is defined by California Vehicle Code 23103 VC, which establishes fines and prison terms for this crime. 

For the offense of reckless driving to be constituted, it must be proven that: 

  • The defendant was driving a motor vehicle on a highway or a parking lot, public or private, off the public highway.
  • While driving, the defendant did so with evident disregard for the safety of persons or property. 

The statute exempts private parking lots not open to the public. For example, employee parking lots at a company. 

four ways to drive safely

What is “deliberate or meaningless contempt”?

Driving with contempt or nonsense under California law is: 

  • Do so knowingly even though such actions pose an unwarranted risk of causing harm to others, and
  • Intentionally ignoring such risk. 

Although, according to the statute, it is not necessary to prove the intention to cause damage to the driver to establish the crime. A driver can be found guilty of reckless driving by items such as speeding. 

Of course, speeding by itself is not enough. It will depend on the place, the weather conditions, the visibility and the road. 

For example, exceeding the speed limit in a neighborhood or sector heavily populated by passersby is unwise. But doing it on a highway with clear traffic lanes would not be. 

There is a basic speed contained in California law (CVC 22350). According to this statute, no one must drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed higher than the prudent or reasonable one. Nor should it jeopardize the safety of people and their property. 

Most common reckless driving examples

Every day in Los Angeles we see examples of reckless driving in open violation of California traffic laws. These are some:  

  • Going over a red light or violating speed reduction signs.
  • Drive through pedestrian restricted areas or on sidewalks.
  • Zig zag through the traffic lanes.
  • Ingesting alcohol or drugs while driving.
  • Increase speed in the middle of a crowd. 

Possible defenses for reckless driving

woman putting on makeup while driving

Each case is different, but there are certain frequent defense strategies in judicial processes for this crime. These are some of them:  

  • The defendant was not the driver of the vehicle involved but only a passenger or similar driver. 
  • There is not enough evidence to involve the defendant in the crime of reckless driving.
  • The client did not drive recklessly. That means that the defense must demonstrate that there was no intention to ignore the driving rules.
  • There was a need to break the law because the defendant was attending an emergency or his life was at risk.

Penalties according to vehicle code 23103 VC

As a misdemeanor it is penalized with:  

  • Prison from 5 to 90 days in a county jail and / or
  • Fine of $ 145 to $ 1,000, including garnishment of the incriminated vehicle.

The punishment increases if it causes minor injury, serious injury or death to other drivers / pedestrians. The court may also order the suspension of the driver’s license for up to 30 days. If it is the first conviction for reckless driving. 

The second time is punishable by up to 60 days of license suspension. For three or more times you could suspend the license for up to six months.  

Aside from criminal penalties, the DMV can also add two points to the driver’s license. 

Points for violating the California Vehicle Code 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 12810.5, the DMV may impose additional penalties on reckless drivers. This includes suspending or revoking the driving privilege and imposing probation.

A negligent driver with a Class C license can be suspended by law when he accumulates:  

  • 4 or more points in 12 months.
  • 6 points in 24 months.
  • 8 points in 36 months.

Reckless driving accidents with minor injuries

When the driver is accused of causing a minor injury to another person, it is also a misdemeanor. Although the punishment increases. 

  • From 30 days to one year in prison and / or;
  • Fine from $ 220 to $ 1,000. 

Reckless driving accidents with serious injuries

As a wobbler crime, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. When another driver is injured in a traffic accident and charged with a felony the punishment is: 

  • Up to three years in prison and / or
  • Fine of up to $ 10,000. 

To avoid a DUI conviction , a guilty plea called “reckless dry” is sometimes used. The defense attorney agrees with the prosecutor that his client plead guilty to a misdemeanor. 

The benefits of this legal settlement is that the defendant avoids being prosecuted for the crime of DUI which would increase penalties. Instead, the accused:

  • Will receive a lesser prison sentence and a trial period.
  • Will be fined for a lower amount.
  • His/her driver’s license will not be suspended.
  • In case of being charged again for DUI, he/she will not accumulate a previous charge for this crime. Therefore there are no improvements.

Does it have immigration consequences?

Fortunately for foreigners, the crime of reckless driving does not carry negative immigration consequences. It means that an immigrant will not be deported or declared inadmissible.

Other than if you commit other criminal offenses such as theft , attempted murder, or drug offenses.

Erasing a reckless driving conviction

As long as you complete the following conditions, a convicted of reckless driving may remove his conviction:  

  • Probation, or
  • Period in jail (whichever is more relevant).

Cancellation favors the person because it frees them from most of the penalties imposed in a sentence. 

How does it affect gun rights?

If the conviction for reckless driving is prosecuted as a misdemeanor it will not affect the law of arms. But instead if you are convicted of a felony for causing injury to another person yes. Consequently, you will not be able to buy, possess or carry a weapon.

Is it possible to get a reckless driving charge reduction?

You cannot reduce your misdemeanor reckless driving charge to a violation. 

Can the reckless driving charge lead to other related crimes? 

Depending on the circumstances of the fact, the prosecutor may establish additional charges against a defendant of this crime. 

Offenses related to reckless driving

Fundamentally, the crimes that are most related to negligence while driving are:

  • Speed ​​contests or street car races – VC 23109.
  • Reckless driving in accidents with specific serious injuries – VC 23105. For example, causing concussion, loss of consciousness, or severe disfigurement.
  • Reckless “wet” or “dry”. If it is wet include a note that alcohol or drugs were involved. Remember that it is not a crime but a nickname for the plea agreement.
  • Driving with a suspended license in California.
  • Driving without insurance and causing an accident.

During a reckless driving arrest, can the police confiscate my car?

distracted man while driving

Yes. As stated in the California Vehicle Code, Section 23109.2, a police officer can do it. The vehicle confiscation time can be extended up to 30 days and you must pay the fees derived from the embargo.

Can the Court suspend my license if the DMV did not? 

After being convicted of a charge of reckless driving, the court has this power. As explained above, the California Vehicle Code, Section 13200, so provides. 

Does reckless driving on private property also carry penalties?

Reckless driving can be sanctioned in a public or private parking lot off public roads. For example, supermarkets, shopping malls, parks and others. As long as it is open to the public.   

The best lawyers for reckless driving cases in California 

The criminal lawyers at Lluis Law are also expert car crash lawyers in Los Angeles . We have a combined experience of over 50 years of legal practice in the California courts.

If you want to be advised or represented by any of our lawyers, please contact us. We will gladly analyze your case and protect your rights if you decide to contract our services.

We are certified trial lawyers based in Los Angeles. Our offices are located very close to the courts. If you have been charged with the crime of reckless driving in California, we can help you defend against the charges you face.