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What Reckless Driving Is

According to the CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 23103, Driving Offenses, reckless driving is “…willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property…” If convicted, not only will you have a misdemeanor crime on your criminal record, but you could spend from five to ninety days in the county jail, receive a base fine of between $145 and $1000 or both.

If there are subsequent convictions or if there was substantial property damage or injuries, you could face harsher penalties and civil suits. Remain silent until you have consulted an attorney.

Contrary to popular belief, excessive speeding is not, by itself, reckless driving. However, the court may take the events of the surrounding incidents (including speeding) to find the defendant guilty of reckless driving.

The arresting officer can cause your vehicle to be towed and impounded for 30 days. You or the owner, if you were driving someone else’s car, must pay the towing and storage fees, which add up very quickly and a 30-day impound could be costly.

A conviction for reckless driving comes with an assessment of two Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) points, which will dramatically raise your insurance premium at renewal. That is, if the insurance does not cancel your policy, which is likely. If they do not cancel you, it will likely double or triple. A reckless driving conviction could cost the average Californian $39,200 to $58,800 in increased premiums over the ten years the conviction will remain on your motor vehicle driving record (MVR). Kind of makes the fine look like peanuts, doesn’t it?

From the very moment, the law enforcement officer (LEO) reads you your Miranda Rights and asks you, “Do you understand those rights as I have read them to you?” You should say, “Yes” and nothing else until you have a lawyer present.

In the People v. Nowell, a CHP officer chased the defendant 4.3 miles at 75 or 85 mph. The defendant weaved in an out of lanes and passed 21 other vehicles. The judge ruled the “surrounding circumstances,” and speed constituted reckless driving.

What Reckless Driving Is Not

Reckless driving is not speeding and vice versa. Nowhere in the traffic code does it relate one to the other. Although the LEO might see driving 105 mph as reckless driving, if that’s all they have, the judge will likely dismiss the charges.

Reckless driving need not be intentional. If by your actions, you put people or property at a safety risk, you could be guilty, regardless if you intended to or not.

Reckless driving is not a DUI. Although some DUI drivers might drive recklessly, and some prosecutors might offer a DUI defendant a reduced charge of reckless driving rather than DUI, the two are not related. It is entirely possible to get charged with both.

In People v. Allison, a pedestrian crossing the highway waved his fishing pole at a driver and as the driver passed, he yelled something at the driver. The driver took a U-turn and came speeding back directly at the pedestrian causing him to jump out of the way. Even though the pedestrian claimed he felt his safety was at risk, the judge ruled that driver might have acted negligently, but it did not establish a “…willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property…”

What to Do If You Are Charged with Reckless Driving

If you get charged with reckless driving, remember it is the burden of the State to prove your actions were a willful or wanton disregard for public safety. Resist answering questions and do not speak with cellmates until you have consulted with an attorney.

Consult a Traffic Defense Attorney About Reckless Driving in Kern County

When you get charged with reckless driving, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300, before making any statement to the LEO or officers of the court. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

Although Bakersfield is a tricky court, we have had extensive success defending drivers charged with speeding 100+ mph, street racing, and other violations. Where other attorneys have folded, we press on to get favorable resolutions for our clients. Give us a call today.

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