Reckless Driving

Clearwater Attorneys Helping Drivers Charged with Motor Vehicle Violations

Reckless driving is prosecuted aggressively in Florida. Unlike careless driving, which is a civil traffic matter, reckless driving is a criminal traffic crime. If you are charged with reckless driving, you can be charged in criminal court and sentenced to significant penalties, just as you could be if you were charged with driving on a suspended license or another traffic crime. You may also face the stigma of a criminal record. This can make it hard to obtain a job, rent an apartment, obtain a professional license, or get government financial aid for school. If you are charged with reckless driving, call Clearwater reckless driving lawyer Will Hanlon to explore your possible options.

Understanding Reckless Driving Charges

Florida Statutes section 316.192 requires a prosecutor trying to establish reckless driving to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you: 1) drove a vehicle (2) with a willful or wanton disregard for others' safety or the safety of their property. This is distinct from any civil case that could be brought by someone injured as a result of your driving. You can also be charged with reckless driving per se if you are driving in an effort to try to escape a cop.

Actions performed with a willful or wanton disregard are far more serious than actions performed with negligence. If your driving results in bodily injuries or property damage, the penalties are likely to be harsher. On the other hand, sometimes it makes sense to plead guilty to reckless driving in order to avoid a DUI conviction. It is critical to consult an experienced reckless driving attorney in Clearwater about your situation to make sure that a strong defense can be put forward and that the penalties are not as severe as they might be.

A reckless driving conviction for a first offense can result in a maximum sentence of 90 days’ incarceration and a fine of up to $500. Second or subsequent convictions can result in sentences of up to 6 months’ incarceration and a $1,000 fine. When property is damaged as a result of reckless driving, you may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. A third-degree felony will be charged if your reckless driving causes serious physical injuries to another person. Serious physical injuries are those that come with a substantial risk of dying, serious disfigurement, or impairment to a bodily function or organ. Felony charges are very serious and demand prompt representation by a Clearwater criminal defense attorney.

Sometimes a judge believes that alcohol or drug use was a factor in your reckless driving. In that case, you not only may face incarceration and fines but also may need to attend a substance abuse class and get evaluated. That program may refer you to a substance abuse treatment provider, and you may be mandated to attend at your own cost. In these instances, if you fail to complete the class or treatment, the court will be notified, and your driver's license will likely be cancelled.

Generally, reckless driving penalties are less severe than DUI penalties. That means that it may be possible for a Clearwater reckless driving attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor to plead guilty to reckless driving rather than go to trial on a DUI charge. However, there are also situations in which this would not be an optimal outcome.

Like other criminal charges, reckless driving needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and it may be possible to defend against the charge by raising a doubt about whether your actions were willful and wanton. Perhaps they would be better characterized as careless. A jury cannot convict you for reckless driving if your actions were merely negligent. For example, you were more likely negligent than reckless if you were driving 15 miles above the speed limit. However, if there was a minor inside the car with you, and you were driving 90 mph on the highway in a 55-mph zone, this may suggest recklessness.

Consult a Reckless Driving Lawyer in the Clearwater Area

Some people mistakenly assume that a reckless driving charge is a civil or administrative matter. If you are charged with reckless driving, however, you may be sentenced to time in prison and a hefty fine. It is crucial to consult an experienced attorney. Our firm's principal and founder, Will Hanlon, has been dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused since 1994. You can call Hanlon Law at 727-897-5413 or complete our online form.