A conviction for reckless driving in the state of California in considered a misdemeanor traffic violation. This infraction has serious consequences and can lead to a base sentence of:
- 5 – 90 days in county jail
- $145 – $1,000 in fines
You may face higher charges if you have previous convictions for reckless driving, or if someone is injured due to your actions. These charges may also be increased if you are charged with driving recklessly in a way that will likely lead to bodily injury. This may lead to an assault with a deadly weapon charge, which can carry 2-4 years of time spent in a state prison.
Additionally, if you are charged with alcohol-related reckless driving or reckless driving involving alcohol you could face an additional 1-2 years of probation and mandatory completion of a substance abuse or alcohol education program.
What Constitutes Reckless Driving in California?
According to California Vehicle Code 23103, reckless driving in California occurs when someone drives a vehicle either on a highway or in parking facilities off the street with intentional wanton disregard for the well-being of:
- Other people
California considers the highway to be any publicly maintained area where the public can travel in vehicles. This includes streets of varying sizes and private property. Parking facilities off the street include any area for parking that is open to public use.
Drivers demonstrate wanton disregard when they know that their actions come with a risk of harm that is substantial and not justifiable AND they ignore that risk.
Be aware that getting a speeding ticket in California does not necessarily equal reckless driving. The court will look at your circumstances at the time you were charged when deciding if you drove recklessly or not. Some common examples of actions seen as reckless driving include using your car to:
- Pass illegally
- Drive on the sidewalk
- Swerve across lanes repeatedly
- Engage in daredevil behaviors
- Drive on a road going the wrong way
Can You Lose Your License?
In addition to the actions of the court, you may have to face a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if charged with reckless driving. Reckless driving carries a base penalty of two points on your license. The DMV can also revoke your driving privileges completely for some cases of unsafe driving.
Additionally, the DMV automatically takes away the driving privileges of negligent Class C drivers who reach certain point levels of their license. For example, your privileges may be revoked if you get:
- 4 points in a period of 12 months.
- 6 points in a period of 24 months.
- 8 points in a period of 36 months.
Your license may be suspended even if the DMV chooses not to take such a step. The court system in California can suspend your license for the following lengths of time:
- 1streckless driving conviction – up to 30 days
- 2ndreckless driving conviction – up to 60 days
- 3rdreckless driving conviction – up to 6 months
Driving on a suspended license is illegal in California and can lead to additional repercussions. If your license is suspended for reckless driving and you drive anyway, you may spend up to 6 months in jail. You could also be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000.
These penalties depend on the judgment of the court and can vary based on your sentence. Getting an experienced lawyer to assist your case may help minimize these consequences.
Can The Court Impound Your Car?
Your car may be impounded by the police if they arrest you for reckless driving. Your vehicle may be held for no more than 30 days in this situation. In addition to losing your method of transportation, you will also have to pay any fees related to your vehicle being impounded.
How Should You Handle A Reckless Driving Charge?
You may defend yourself against reckless driving charges in court by proving your actions were necessary in your circumstances. This requires you to show that you believed there was an emergency that you did not cause. You must also show that this emergency was a threat to you or another individual.
Some individuals also use the defense that they were not driving at the time of the charge. This requires the prosecutor to prove that you were in the driver’s seat, something that may be difficult if you have an experienced attorney on your side.
Getting in touch with a skilled Los Angeles criminal attorney as soon as possible may help improve your chances in court. The attorneys at Simmrin Law Group understand the legal system in California and may be able to help you defend yourself against reckless driving charges. You can set up a FREE consultation to discuss your situation by filling out our online form or calling us at 310-997-4688.