Driving a car can be boring or exhilarating. It can be safe or dangerous. Everything about driving depends on the person behind the wheel. When we get in our car and head onto the roads, we can only hope people intend to keep the roads as safe as we do. But this isn’t always the case. In some situations, people drive in a way they know could hurt someone else. In this case, they’re breaking the law by driving irresponsibly and dangerously.

If you or someone you care about was ticketed for reckless driving, you should contact a San Diego reckless driving lawyer right away.

Reckless Driving in California

According to California Vehicle Code Section 23103, it’s prohibited for a person to drive a vehicle on a public road or parking area with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others and property. It may be hard to wrap your mind around “willful or wanton disregard,” but the best way to think about it is that someone purposefully drives in a way that they know can be violent or dangerous.

The charge of reckless driving is often connected to other offenses, such as a DUI or a car accident. However, just speeding isn’t usually enough to constitute reckless driving.

Examples of reckless driving:

  • A college student drives 70 mph on a 45 mph road and weaves in and out of traffic causing other cars to need to suddenly brake to avoid a collision.
  • A business person is in a hurry to get to a meeting and purposefully runs multiple stop signs in a row.
  • A driver who has been drinking continuously tailgates the vehicles ahead of them on the highway, leaving only a couple feet between their bumpers.

This offense is also unfortunately connected to individuals being hurt, including the driver, passengers, other people in cars and even pedestrians. Because of the harm that often comes from reckless driving, it’s taken incredibly seriously in California. A conviction for this offense can come with serious consequences, particularly if anyone was hurt.

Possible Penalties of Conviction

In many situations, reckless driving will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted, you face 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

If your reckless driving hurt someone other than yourself, the penalty increases to up to 6 months in jail. The other person doesn’t have to be badly hurt. Even if they’re merely scraped and bruised a bit, that’s enough for you to be sentenced to months in jail.

Reckless driving also adds points to your license, which stay on your record for years in California. If you accumulate 4 or more points with a 12 month period, you’re labelled a negligent operator by the state and your license may be revoked or suspended. This can also happen if you accumulate 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months.

Potential Defenses

In order to be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor has to prove that you knew your actions behind the wheel created a serious and unjustifiable risk to others and that you ignored that risk. They don’t have to prove you intended to cause harm, only that you knew you were creating the risk of harm. Your traffic defense attorney can argue that your behavior did not display a willful and wanton disregard for others safety. They may be able to show that you did not know you were creating a risk to others.

Your attorney may also argue you were driving recklessly out of necessity, for instance, if there was an emergency. In this case, your attorney would need to show that you didn’t create the emergency and that the situation was a threat to you or another person.

A Wet or Dry Reckless

Many people have heard of the charge of a “wet reckless,” which is actually a lower plea from a DUI. If you were originally charged with a DUI but the evidence against you wasn’t solid, your attorney may be able to negotiate the charge down to a wet reckless. Instead of the severe consequences of a DUI, a wet reckless may include lower fines, a shorter time in jail or on probation.

While this charge ultimately minimizes the consequences of driving while intoxicated, it still counts as a prior on your record. If you’re charged with a DUI again within 10 years, your wet reckless will count as your first DUI conviction.

A dry reckless is an even lower charge from a DUI. A dry reckless is more similar to a reckless driving conviction and it does not include alcohol in the situation. Your record will look as if you were arrested for reckless driving and not a DUI. This charge will not count as a prior DUI conviction.

If you were arrested for a DUI, it’s best to have an attorney by your side who can negotiate with the prosecutor and try to get your charged with a wet or dry reckless.

Call a San Diego Reckless Driving Attorney

Any traffic ticket should be taken seriously, and reckless driving is no exception. A conviction for this offense could result in more dire consequences than you think, particularly if you already have some points on your license. Call San Diego reckless driving lawyer Jessica McElfresh at (858) 756-7107to learn how you can defend yourself against a reckless driving charge and avoid paying high fines, going to jail, or losing your license.

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