Have you or a loved one been arrested for, or charged with, reckless driving in Florida? This isn’t the kind of situation you can get out of by paying a traffic ticket. That’s because reckless driving isn’t a minor traffic violation in the Sunshine State—it is a serious criminal offense.
Charged as a felony or misdemeanor, a conviction for reckless driving can result in fines, imprisonment, or both. It can also negatively affect your auto insurance rates and driving privileges. And if you’re convicted of a felony reckless driving charge, the consequences—and stigma—can follow you for the rest of your life, limiting your employment, education, and housing opportunities.
Don’t let a mistake or misunderstanding threaten to define who you are or dictate your future. Knowledgeable and experienced defense representation is absolutely essential. Here’s what you should know about Florida reckless driving cases, including how the skilled defense team at George Reres Law can help you protect your rights and fight to avoid harsh penalties.
Defining Reckless Driving
Florida law defines reckless driving as operating a motor vehicle in a way that demonstrates a “willful or wanton” disregard for safety. When the state charges someone with reckless driving, it alleges that the accused drove a vehicle with conscious and purposeful indifference to the consequences that people or property would likely suffer as a result of their actions.
Reckless driving endangers everyone on the road. What makes it so dangerous? Research shows that engaging in reckless driving reduces reaction time by half, making it difficult to avoid hazards that could lead to crashes.
Reckless Driving Examples
Florida law doesn’t specifically spell out what is—and isn’t—reckless driving. Instead, reckless driving is more of an umbrella term that covers a wide range of hazardous behind-the-wheel behaviors. Examples of reckless driving include:
- Fleeing a law enforcement officer
- Drag racing
- Excessive speeding (when combined with other factors)
While speeding plays a significant role in many reckless driving incidents, convictions for these offenses can’t be based solely on evidence of excessive speeding. However, speed, coupled with any of the following factors may support a reckless driving charge or conviction:
- Consuming intoxicating substances
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Driving the wrong way or in the middle of the road
- Failing to watch for pedestrians or bicyclists
- Driving through crowded residential neighborhoods
- Putting children at risk
- Tailgating the preceding vehicle
- Passing improperly
- Failing to slow down before impact
- Disregarding traffic control devices
The penalties for a reckless driving conviction depend heavily on the number of previous offenses, as well as whether the incident resulted in bodily injury or property damages. Here’s what you need to know.
As a second-degree misdemeanor, a conviction for reckless driving can result in a combination of any of the following penalties:
- An up to $500 fine
- Up to 90 days in jail
- Up to six months of probation
Second or Subsequent Offense
Reckless driving is also charged as a second-degree misdemeanor if you have a prior conviction. However, the potential penalties increase. Upon conviction, you could face a combination of these consequences:
- Fines between $50 and $500
- Up to six months in jail
- Up to six months of probation
Property Damage or Injury
The severity of the charge and possible penalties increase significantly when the reckless driving incident in question involves injuries to property or people. As a second-degree misdemeanor, if convicted of these offenses you could potentially receive a combination of the following penalties:
- Up to $1,000 fine
- Up to 12 months in jail
- Up to one year of probation
Serious Bodily Injury
Reckless driving charges and penalties increase even further when the offense results in serious bodily injury. Unlike other reckless driving charges, which are misdemeanors, reckless driving causing serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by any combination of these consequences:
- An up to $5,000
- Up to five years in prison
- Five years of probation
Conviction Can Affect Your Driving Privileges
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles uses a point system to keep track of traffic violations. These points can come from traffic-related offenses big and small, from minor moving violations to reckless driving—and “collecting” too many of them can result in the suspension of your drivers license or cause your car insurance rates to skyrocket.
As a criminal traffic violation, reckless driving can add four points to your drivers license. That may not sound like much, but these points can add up quickly—and if your license is suspended, the length of the suspension is based on how many points you’ve accrued in a given period of time. For example:
- Earning 12 points in 12 months – 30 day suspension
- Earning 18 points in 18 months – 3 month suspension
- Earning 24 points in 36 months – 1 year suspension
Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Strong Criminal Defense
Reckless driving charges aren’t something you can handle on your own. If you or someone you love are facing prosecution for misdemeanor or felony reckless driving, you need a tenacious defense attorney by your side—and the sooner you reach out for assistance, the better. In addition to helping you understand and protect your legal rights, hiring an attorney early in the process may even allow you to resolve a precarious situation before it spirals out of control.
Ready to find out how George Reres Law can come to your defense? Take action to protect your future.
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