If you’ve picked up a reckless driving ticket in Florida, you might be wondering what kind of trouble you’re facing. A reckless driving conviction can lead to major legal difficulties, and you could suffer terrible consequences in your personal life as well.
Fighting your reckless driving charge with the help of an experienced traffic defense lawyer can help you achieve the best result possible for your case. Central Florida criminal defense lawyers Moses and Rooth have over 30 years of trial experience as prosecutors and defense lawyers. Their extensive trial experience can give you the edge you need to defeat your charges.
What Is Reckless Driving in Florida?
Florida Statutes Section 316.192 is the state’s reckless driving statute. Section 316.192 says that a person who drives any vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for another’s safety is driving recklessly. The law also states that a person is per se driving recklessly if they are fleeing from the police.
What Is the Difference Between Driving Recklessly and Driving Negligently?
Driving negligently is also a crime in Florida. According to Section 316.1925 of the Florida Statutes, every motorist has an obligation to drive in a “careful and prudent manner” under the circumstances. Moreover, driving carefully and prudently means driving so that you do not endanger the “life, limb, or property of another person.”
Willful and wanton behavior exceeds simple negligence. Essentially willful and wanton means that the manner in which the person drove was not accidental or involuntary. Instead, a reckless driving charge signifies that the accused drove in such a way that totally disregarded the safety of other people on the road.
The distinction is sometimes difficult to see, so let’s look at a couple of examples. Driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit during a rush hour downpour on Interstate 4 is careless. Conversely, driving 20 miles per hour over the speed limit during a rush hour downpour on Interstate 4 while negotiating a construction zone is reckless.
What Are the Penalties for Reckless Driving in Florida?
A reckless driving first offense charge can send you to jail for up to 90 days and cost you a fine of between $25 and $500. However, the penalty significantly increases if you have a previous reckless driving conviction. In that case, you could spend up to six months in jail and have to pay a fine between $500 and $1,000.
Reckless driving in Florida would become a first-degree misdemeanor if your driving caused damage to another’s property. You could go to jail for up to one year and have to pay a $1,000 fine.
Many people ask, Is reckless driving a misdemeanor in Florida? The penalties above seem to suggest that reckless driving is always a misdemeanor, but the truth is that it depends on the facts of your case. Reckless driving can be a third-degree felony if it causes serious bodily injuries to another person. If convicted of a third-degree felony, you could spend up to five years in state prison and have to pay a $5,000 fine. The term “serious bodily injury” means the injury was so severe that there is a substantial risk that the person could die, become disfigured, or suffer a long-term loss of bodily function.
Additional Penalties for Reckless Driving in Florida?
Florida’s reckless driving law contains additional penalties. The DMV will add at least four points to your license, and the judge will add $5 to your fine as a contribution to the state’s Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund.
Furthermore, if your case involved alcohol or drugs, the judge could send you to a DUI or substance abuse program. If you refuse to complete the program as ordered by the judge, you could lose your license for an additional period of time.
Will I Go to Jail For Reckless Driving?
The ultimate penalty you pay for reckless driving in Florida depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. A sentencing judge will look at several factors closely to determine the appropriate sentence for you. The court will consider:
- How you drove;
- Whether anyone was hurt because of your driving;
- Your previous criminal history, if any;
- Your driving history; and
- Your personal situation.
Having a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help make the difference for you at sentencing. An experienced criminal lawyer knows how to emphasize your admirable qualities and give you the best chance of getting the lightest possible penalty.
What Defenses to Reckless Driving Do I Have?
You should not automatically assume that you will be found guilty simply because you got a reckless driving charge. The state has to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your defenses depend on what happened in your case. For example, if the police do not find you behind the wheel of a car, then the prosecutor might have a tough time proving that you were driving. Additionally, the police could misidentify you or the car you were driving. The police could also exaggerate the recklessness of your driving pattern.
Contesting the evidence at trial is one avenue for your defense to take. But it isn’t the only defense available to you. Your lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence and ask the judge to throw out evidence obtained against you in violation of your rights. Your lawyer can also try to negotiate with the prosecutor to get a reduced penalty.
And if you have a DUI pending, a plea to reckless driving could be a more favorable way to resolve that case. DUI convictions are generally seen as more harmful to your life and reputation than convictions for reckless driving. So if your lawyer can convince the prosecutor to downgrade your DUI to a reckless driving plea, this can be quite beneficial in the long run.
Reckless Driving Defense from Highly-Experienced Trial Attorneys
The criminal defense lawyers with Moses and Rooth are highly-skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyers. As former prosecutors, they became intimately familiar with all the inner workings of the Central Florida criminal court system. Now, they use that experience and knowledge to fight for people facing criminal charges. Contact Moses and Rooth for a free case review today by calling 407-531-8694.