Is Reckless Driving A Criminal Offense In Florida?
Traffic violations take many different forms. Some are relatively minor issues, whereas others are serious criminal offenses. A minor speeding ticket may require paying a modest fine. On the other end of the spectrum, a reckless driving charge is a misdemeanor criminal offense that could lead to jail time. Here, our Orlando traffic offense attorney provides a more in depth overview of the most important things motorists should know about reckless driving charges in Florida.
Reckless Driving: Defined
Under Florida law (Florida Statutes § 316.192), reckless driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a manner that demonstrates “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” It is a relatively broad definition. The courts interpret that statute as follows:
- Willful: Driving a vehicle with intentional or purposeful disregard to public safety.
- Wanton: Driving a vehicle with conscious indifference to public safety.
Courts have also ruled that negligence is not sufficient to prove reckless driving in a criminal case. Willful or wanton disregard is something beyond mere negligence. The defendant’s unsafe driving must be purposeful or intentionally indifferent to establish guilt in a reckless driving case.
Note: Under Florida law, any driver who intentionally attempts to evade law enforcement is guilty of a per se reckless driving violation. A per se violation means that prosecutors do not need to prove anything beyond the fact that the defendant was intentionally fleeing the police to get a conviction for reckless driving.
What are the Penalties for a Criminal Reckless Driving Charge in Florida?
As with many other types of traffic issues, the penalties for a reckless driving charge in Florida depend largely on a motorist’s prior history of violations or lack thereof and whether or not a serious crash occurred due to their willful or wanton disregard for public safety. Here is an overview of the potential penalties associated with a reckless driving conviction:
- First-Time Reckless Driving Offense (No Damage): A second degree misdemeanor criminal offense with maximum penalties of a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
- Subsequent Reckless Driving Offense (No Damage): A second degree misdemeanor criminal offense with maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.
- Reckless Driving Leading to Property Damage or Injury: A first degree misdemeanor criminal offense with maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and 365 days in jail.
- Reckless Driving Leading to Serious Bodily Injury: A third degree felony criminal offense with maximum penalties of a $5,000 fine and five years in jail.
Contact Our Orlando Reckless Driving Defense Lawyer for Immediate Help
At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando traffic offense attorney has the professional skills and legal expertise to handle the full range of reckless driving charges. If you were charged with misdemeanor reckless driving, we are more than ready to help. Contact us today to set up your confidential consultation. With a law office in Orlando, our criminal defense team handles reckless driving charges throughout all of Central Florida.