Written by attorney Scott Ryan Ball

Vehicle Code Section 23103 - Reckless Driving in CA Explained

Reckless driving, defined at Section 23103, is one of the most vaguely worded statutes in the California Vehicle Code. It states that “[a]ny person who drives any vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving." A person found guilty for a first offense of reckless driving can face fines of several thousand dollars, a jail sentence of up to 90 days, their car impounded for up to 30 days, and have their license suspended for a month. A second or third violation of reckless driving, or if someone was injured as a result of a person’s reckless driving, can result in a mandatory license suspension for a year and up to 6 months in jail. A reckless driving is also considered a “discretionary arrest" misdemeanor, meaning the citing officer can merely give you a ticket or arrest you and take you to jail. A charge of reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense, which, if convicted, will result in a criminal record and two points on your driving record. Generally, two points in any eighteen month period will result in a rise in your car insurance rates. If you have previous points on your record, it could also result in an even longer suspension of your license. However, if you have been charged with reckless driving, with a skilled attorney, it is very possible to fight and win your case. The vague nature of the phrase “willful and wanton disregard for safety" leaves a great deal of room for a skilled attorney to argue your case either does not merit a misdemeanor charge or should be dismissed entirely. California courts have held that negligence, and even gross negligence, is not enough alone to establish reckless driving. This means that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver intentionally did something he knew, or should have known, could result in killing or injuring someone. Generally, a rule of thumb by police officers is that three moving violations, committed in rapid succession by a driver, constitute reckless driving. However, the courts have not adopted this rule, and follow the statutory definition of “willful and wanton disregard for safety." This means that it is possible to be cited for reckless driving for committing a single “unsafe" maneuver, as defined by the officer, such as cutting sharply across traffic to make an abrupt turn. If you have been charged with reckless driving, you should contact a criminal defense attorney today. A skilled attorney may be able to have unfair reckless driving charges completely dismissed, keeping you out of jail and saving your license. Further, it is often possible to have the misdemeanor charge reduced to a mere traffic infraction, which will result in greatly reduced fines and, when combined with traffic school, no points on your record.

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