Reckless driving in California is covered by Vehicle Code 23103 VC in the state law. Everything concerning reckless driving, including how it is defined and the respective punishments if guilty of reckless driving, are all contained in that chapter of the law.
This article will discuss what Vehicle Code 23103 VC considers as “reckless driving” as well as the penalties, legal defenses, and other possible outcomes and consequences when charged with reckless driving.
If you have questions regarding traffic laws and reckless driving laws in California, don’t hesitate to talk to our Upland California criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Marc Grossman.
Reckless Driving Defined
According to the vehicle code, reckless driving is the act of intentionally or deliberately driving on a highway while having no disregard for the safety of other people or their property. Examples of this include street or drag racing, doing fast donuts in a parking lot, or speeding through a school zone.
To prove that you are guilty of reckless driving, the prosecution must be able to prove that you:
- Were driving a vehicle on a highway or off-street parking facility, and
- >Were driving with wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
“Highways” include publicly maintained roads that are accessible for use by the public while “off-street parking facility” includes both public parking facilities and private parking facilities accessible to customers for free like those found in malls. This excludes private parking facilities not accessible by the public, including employee parking facilities.
On the other hand “wanton disregard for safety” is defined as being aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risks brought about by one’s action, but also intentionally ignoring these risks. This also means that a driver does not have to intend to cause harm to be reckless.
This also means that simply speeding does not make you guilty of reckless driving. A person speeding on an empty road will be guilty of speeding and get a speeding ticket, but not reckless driving because he is not putting anyone at risk for his actions. This is in contrast to speeding through heavy traffic where many people will be put at significant risk.
Reckless Driving Penalties
Violation of 23103 VC is a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by a fine ranging from $145 and $1,000, imprisonment from anywhere between 5 days and 90 in county jail, or both. Being guilty of reckless driving also results in two points being put on your driver’s license by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) which will remain on your record for 13 years.
If a driver accumulates 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months, he will be considered a “negligent driver” and may face probation or license suspension.
A driver does not have to cause injury to be guilty of reckless driving, but if he does, the severity of the injury will contribute to the degree of the punishment the driver will face.
Reckless driving causing minor injuries is still considered a misdemeanor, but with penalties increased to 30 days to one year in jail, a $220-$1,000 fine, or both. If serious injuries are caused, the offense will be a wobbler offense which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Felonious reckless driving is punishable by fines of up to $10,000, three years in state prison, or both.
Legal Defenses to Reckless Driving Charges
When faced with a reckless driving charge, it is the job of your criminal defense attorney to build a defense to protect you and have your charge either reduced or dismissed entirely.
Common defenses include:
- Non-recklessness of the driver
- The defendant was not the driver.
A defendant may try to defend his actions using the necessity defense, which is sometimes also referred to as “guilty with an explanation”. This means that the defendant will try to justify his reckless driving with reasons that may include emergencies.
Pleading guilty with an explanation involves being able to prove that the necessity was real and valid. This includes presenting accident reconstruction, CCTV footage, and witness statements to the prosecutor and the court. Your Upland criminal defense lawyer should be able to determine which evidence to use best in your specific scenario.
Non-Recklessness of the Driver
For you to be guilty of being reckless, the prosecution must be able to prove without a reasonable doubt that you were driving with deliberate disregard for the safety of others. This can be opposed by showing that you weren’t intentionally ignoring the risks of harm to others when you were driving.
The Defendant Was Not the Driver
Only a driver can be guilty of reckless driving, so if your criminal lawyer can prove that you weren’t driving, you are automatically not charged with reckless driving.
If you are currently facing reckless driving charges, be sure to get in touch with our criminal defense lawyers immediately at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman, a Upland, California criminal defense law firm We will help you build the best defense right away.