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undefinedReckless driving isn’t speeding, and it is not “squealing or smoking your tires.” 

According to CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 23103Driving Offenses, “A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

One of the key elements that a traffic attorney with trial experience will pursue for you is the “…willful or wanton disregard for the safety…” Wanton or willful” means your actions were intentional.

Reckless driving is typically considered a misdemeanor. However, if the willful actions of the defendant caused injury or significant damage, it could become a felony or a “wobbler.”   

What Does a “Wobbler” Have to Do with Reckless Driving? 

“A wobbler is a special class of crimes involving conduct that varies widely in its level of seriousness.Wobbler statutes cover a wide range of offenses, including assault with a deadly weapon, vehicular manslaughter, money laundering, and defacements of property with graffiti.” – Cornell Law Schools Legal Information Institute (LII).

The assigned judge has the discretion to elevate the severity level from a misdemeanor to a felony based on the extent of injury or damage estimate. If the injury is more severe than the law enforcement officer (LEO) thought at the scene, or when damages exceed $499, they could raise the charge to a felony.

Likewise, if the driver was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving, the judge could downgrade it to a misdemeanor with the defendant’s permission.

You might wonder why the defendant wouldn’t want the charge reduced. Well, that is something the defendant and attorney would discuss because the felony might be more difficult for the prosecutor to prove “…beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Just as a prosecutor might offer to downgrade the charge through a “plea bargain.” This typically occurs when the DA thinks they might not have enough evidence to get a conviction for felony reckless driving.  

Reckless Driving Versus Speeding

You might have read in an online forum where the writer mistakenly says that “25 mph over the speed limit” is reckless driving. However, if you read CVC 23103, you see that there is no mention of speed, nor is there any verbiage in any of the various speed law sections that point to a particular speed as reckless driving. 

However, the LEO could write the driver two tickets, a speeding ticket and a reckless driving citation. 

Reckless Driving Versus “Squealing or Smoking Your Tires” 

When a driver accidentally squeals their tires pulling away from a light, they could be mistakenly cited for reckless driving.

Once again, CVC 23103 doesn’t point to squealing tires as reckless driving, although it is also a misdemeanor. Still, it could be a “woblette” when it is not severe enough to meet the elements of an exhibition of speed.

Once again, the accused and their attorney can decide to reject the judge’s offer to downgrade the charge.  

The Real Cost of Reckless Driving 

Many drivers consider only the fine. They see online that the fine for a reckless driving conviction “…is punishable by a fine of up to $1000, 90 days in the county jail, or both.”

They discount the county jail because they think the judge will not put them in jail for their first offense.

They could be doubly wrong with this line of thinking. First, the $1000 fine is the base fine, and second, many first-time offenders do go to jail, depending on the circumstances, though they are more likely to get probation if convicted.

So, the difference between the base fine and how much you would pay is that the ten surcharges, penalties, and assessments have not yet been added. In addition to the base fine, there is a 100% state surcharge, a 70% county assessment, and either other penalties or assessments for such things as court construction, night court, DNA testing, EMTs, and more that could make the total as much as five times the base fine.

Likewise, the judge could offer probation or a fine or a combination of jail, probation, and a lesser fine in exchange for a guilty plea for reckless driving instead of another charge.

However, you should consult a traffic attorney with trial experience before deciding on a specific course of action. Traffic attorneys typically have years of experience in court and know how various judges usually rule.   

Ask Bigger & Harman, APC, about Assisting You with a Reckless Driving Charge in Kern County   

When you are charged with reckless driving in Kern County, CA, call (661) 349-9300. Bigger & Harman, APC, are Bakersfield, traffic attorneys who regularly defend reckless driving and other traffic-related misdemeanors and felonies in Kern County Courts.

We have courtroom experience from years of practicing only traffic law. Likewise, we only use a flat fee to help you resolve a reckless driving charge, other traffic issues in court, or when you need representation at a DMV NOTS Hearing.

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.



The 2021 CA Driver Handbook English y Español.

CVC 23103Driving Offenses

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