Reckless driving charges often start like routine traffic stops – but they do not end with a simple ticket. A single reckless driving offense can get you jail time, cost you your driver’s license, and haunt your career for years. If you or a loved one are facing a reckless driving charge, you need to talk to a Los Angeles reckless driving lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group has built its reputation on helping those who have been arrested, no matter the circumstances. We have the experience and the knowledge to win cases, and we will defend you like you are a member of our own family. Fill out the form to the right or give us a call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team today.
What Counts As Reckless Driving in Los Angeles?
Reckless driving is defined under a law known as California Vehicle Code §23103. This law states that reckless driving is “[driving] in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This definition is intentionally vague.
There is no firm line between what is and isn’t a wanton disregard of safety. In theory, this law should be applied only when someone drives, almost as if they do not care about safety at all.
In practice, however, it’s used as a catch-all offense for anyone doing anything worse than just speeding or breaking a traffic law. Because of this, it is a favorite offense of prosecutors who can apply it to dozens of different situations.
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Examples of Reckless Driving
Since reckless driving is such a vague term, many different offenses can fall under this charge. Some examples of actions that can be considered reckless driving include:
- Excessive speeding (although this can be covered by other laws)
- Swerving repeatedly across lanes
- Driving on the sidewalk
- Any daredevil behavior, like playing chicken or swerving to threaten a pedestrian
- Driving the wrong way on a road
- Acting out of road rage
- Passing illegally on curves or shoulders
In some cases, even tailgating can be charged as reckless driving. However, the same vagueness that makes reckless driving such a serious charge also works in your favor.
It can be hard for a prosecutor to prove that you had a “wanton disregard” of safety. Many reckless driving cases can be won, dismissed, or bargained down to a less serious violation.
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What If No One Was Hurt?
Reckless driving is often used in cases where a driver causes an accident, but not always. You can be charged and convicted of reckless driving even if no one was hit (or hurt) at all. In fact, many reckless driving cases start when police simply see suspicious or aggressive driving and pull a person over.
Others start with routine traffic stops for behavior that shouldn’t count as reckless driving at all. This is why it’s so important to fight your case. If your offense does involve an accident, be aware that you could face more serious penalties, especially if someone was injured.
What Are the Penalties for Reckless Driving in Los Angeles?
The penalties for reckless driving vary depending on the circumstances. For a first offense, the standard penalties are:
- Two points on your driving record (which can trigger a suspended license)
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Up to 90 days in county jail
- Up to two years of probation
These penalties can increase if you have had prior reckless driving convictions and will be more severe if someone was hurt or killed. If you are convicted, the consequences do not end when you have completed your sentence. Unfortunately, reckless driving is charged as a criminal misdemeanor, rather than a simple infraction.
That means that every time you apply for a job (or for school or many licensing programs), you will have to disclose your conviction. Employers may choose not to hire you based on this criminal history, even if you have moved on and are a safe driver. For many people, a single reckless driving offense can follow them for years.
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Should You Take Reckless Driving as a Plea Deal for Another Offense?
It depends on the specifics of your case. Reckless driving is commonly offered as a plea bargain for more serious driving offenses, especially DUI. In that context, it can be a good choice even though it has serious penalties of its own.
Taking this kind of plea bargain could help you save your driver’s license, avoid mandatory traffic school, and dramatically reduce the sentence you face.
If You Were Charged with a Felony, Taking a Plea Bargain May Be a Good Idea
One instance in which you may want to seriously consider taking a plea bargain is if the original charge was a felony, which could count against you under California’s three-strikes law. Taking a plea would likely be advisable in this situation, especially if you are already sitting on two strikes.
However, accepting a reckless deal still means pleading guilty to a crime. It may not be a good choice in all cases.
Don’t make a deal simply because the prosecutor offered it to you, even if they say it’s your only chance. You should always consult with a reckless driving lawyer in Los Angeles before making a decision with such life-changing consequences.
Defenses You Can Use Against a Reckless Driving Charge
There are many possible defenses that can be used against a charge of reckless driving. The specific tactics your Los Angeles reckless driving lawyer and you decide upon will depend upon the specifics of your case. Some of the defenses most commonly used in these cases include:
- You were not the driver.
- You were not driving recklessly.
- Your reckless driving was necessary.
You Were Not the Driver
It is possible for confusion after an accident to result in the wrong person being charged with reckless driving. If you were a passenger in a vehicle and now face this charge, proving that you were not driving will be a strong defense.
You Were Not Driving Recklessly
Part of a charge under Vehicle Code §23103 requires the driver to have been operating their vehicle with a wanton disregard for safety. If you can provide reasonable doubt about whether you were intentionally acting without regard for the safety of others, the prosecution will have a difficult time proving their case against you.
Your Reckless Driving Was Necessary
Another defense is to admit to driving recklessly but argue that you did so for a good reason. If you can prove a legitimate emergency necessitated your reckless driving, you may be able to beat the charges against you. Contact a reckless driving lawyer in Los Angeles to learn more.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me Fight a Reckless Driving Charge?
There are several ways a lawyer can help if you are facing a charge for reckless driving. Some of the things that a reckless driving lawyer might be able to do for you include:
- Potentially reducing the charge to a traffic ticket or other minor offense
- Negotiating a deal where you don’t serve any jail time
- Helping reduce the penalties you face, especially if people were hurt
- Getting the judge to dismiss your case, especially if there isn’t enough evidence
- In some cases, winning your case outright
Not all of these will work in every case. But a good lawyer understands how reckless driving cases are handled and how to turn them around, even in very tough circumstances. Never face a reckless driving charge without a lawyer.
Talk to a Los Angeles Reckless Driving Lawyer for Free
One traffic stop can change your life for years. Don’t face it alone. Let the professionals at the Simmrin Law Group take up your case. We can help get you the peace of mind you deserve. We’ll give you a free consultation and help you make the best choices possible.
Fill out our online contact form or give us a call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our reckless driving attorneys today.