Definition of Reckless Driving
The crime of reckless driving is defined under Section 316.192, Florida Statutes. Under the Florida statute, reckless driving consists of two elements: (1) the defendant drove a motor vehicle, and (2) the defendant did so with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
The term willful means intentionally, knowingly, and purposely. Wanton means that the accused drove the vehicle with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage was likely to be done to persons or property. Fleeing a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle is reckless driving per se.
Penalties for Reckless Driving
The penalties for reckless driving in Florida can be severe. A first offense in Florida (no bodily injury or property damage) is second degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 90 days in jail or 6 months probation, and a $500 fine. A second or subsequent offense for reckless driving is also a second degree misdemeanor, but carries a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
The penalties for reckless driving in Florida increase substantially where there is property damage or bodily injury. If the incident causes property damage or non-serious injury, the offense is defined as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in jail or 12 months probation, and a $1,000 fine. If there is serious bodily injury, Florida law upgrades the offense to a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Defenses to Reckless Driving
There are many defenses available to contest a Florida Reckless Driving charge. Some of the more common defenses include the following:
- Was the accused actually a driving a qualifying motor vehicle?
- Was the accused the actual driver?
- Did the accused drive the vehicle with the requisite degree of culpability (willful or wanton disregard), or did the accused merely act in a careless or negligent manner? Was the driving pattern exhibited by the accused intentional, knowing, and purposeful, or were there extenuating circumstances at play?
- Were there persons or property nearby to endanger?
- Are the witnesses relied upon by the prosecution reliable? If a police officer is making the allegations, are the allegations supported by the in-car video (if one is available)?
- Are there other witnesses to contradict the accusations made by the prosecution?
Reckless driving is a serious criminal charge that can result in imprisonment, fines, higher insurance premiums, and negative effects on your driving record. If you have been accused of this offense in Jacksonville, Florida, you may have defenses to fight the charge or to minimize potential penalties. Contact our Criminal Attorney in Jacksonville Florida for a free consultation.