Many movie scene stunts and road rage retributions make reckless driving seem like a suitable or appropriate response, but law enforcement officers (LEO) likely won’t agree.
While Hollywood blockbusters might glorify wild car chases and hair-raising stunts, the real-life consequences of reckless driving in CA are severe and far from glamorous. Reckless driving is not merely a traffic infraction; it's a misdemeanor crime.
“A misdemeanor is a type of offense punishable under criminal law. A misdemeanor is typically a crime punishable by less than 12 months in jail.”— Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute (LII) WEX Definition: Misdemeanor.
We have handled numerous cases and can testify to the drastic implications of such accusations on a driver’s personal and professional life.
Reckless Driving Is Not Always a Misdemeanor Crime
Just because a LEO charges you with reckless driving and circles the “M” for a misdemeanor on the citation does not make you guilty. That determination can only be made by a judge or jury.
CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23103, Driving Offenses, Paragraph (a) states, “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.”
Therefore, what the LEO believes is “willful or wanton disregard” might not be the same as what a judge sees as reckless driving. What’s more, they might see it as reckless driving but believe it doesn’t meet what is defined as a “misdemeanor offense.”
The difference between an infraction and a misdemeanor could be the defendant’s intent. The judge has the discretion to downgrade the LEO’s charge to an infraction in some circumstances.
However, a misdemeanor conviction leaves a mark on a driver’s criminal record. Not only could one face probation, but there's also the risk of actual jail time.
Financially, there's a substantial “base fine” of up to $1,000. But, when we account for state and county surcharges and assessments, the total payment could escalate to five times the base fine. Moreover, if law enforcement impounds your vehicle, the expenses continue to pile up. Retrieving your car from impound can easily cost upwards of $1,500 for towing and storage fees.
Retribution for Road Rage
Many of us have witnessed or experienced road rage at some point. While it's natural to feel frustrated on the road occasionally, it's crucial to leave law enforcement to the authorities. Engaging in acts of violence or using your vehicle to intimidate or harm others puts lives at risk and can lead to a charge of reckless driving.
The severity of consequences escalates if the reckless driving results in injury or, worse, death. In such cases, the misdemeanor charge can upgrade to a felony, carrying even more severe penalties.
When Charged with Reckless Driving, Do Not Make a Statement Without Consulting an Attorney
After a reckless driving charge, it's essential to stay calm, silent, and prudent. Quite often clients have attempted to explain or defend their actions to the police on the scene. Such attempts rarely work in the driver's favor. Given that many officers wear body cameras, “…everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Invoking your right to remain silent until you can consult an attorney is always advisable. While it might seem frustrating, remember that we are here to help. Consulting a traffic attorney with trial experience is crucial. By understanding your specific case's legal nuances and intricacies, a seasoned attorney can help navigate the complex legal landscape of reckless driving charges.
In summary, reckless driving is a grave offense with lasting implications, both legally and financially. As traffic attorneys, we can't stress enough the importance of safe, responsible driving. However, should you face such charges, it’s paramount to protect your rights and seek experienced legal counsel.
Consult with Bigger & Harman About a Reckless Driving Charge
When you are charged with reckless driving and have a court date in Bakersfield Courthouse, contact Bigger & Harman, APC, at (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
Alternatively, use our clear-cut contact form or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send a copy/picture of your citation and a summary of the stop. At Bigger & Harman, we prioritize representing and supporting our clients every step of the way.
CVC Section 23103, Driving Offenses.