If you were pulled over and charged with reckless driving in California, you have been charged with a crime. Reckless driving may seem like a minor charge, however, it’s important to take any criminal charge seriously. Being convicted on a reckless driving charge can result in a criminal record you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. The situation is worse if bodily injury is involved. Here’s what you need to know about reckless driving in California.
The definition of reckless driving, per California law, is driving with “a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”. In other words, you’re driving without any consideration for the fact that your conduct could harm others or damage their property. In California, reckless driving is a misdemeanor that can result in jail time if convicted. If guilty, you can face up to 90 days in jail, fines up to $1,000, and two points on your driving record. What’s more, your insurance rates will go up because you’ve been convicted of a driving-related crime.
No “road rage” laws exist in California in that the term “road rage” doesn’t appear in any of the legislation. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be charged with a road rage-related crime. If your reckless driving is deemed to be “extremely aggressive”, which is the California equivalent of road rage, your charge can be raised from a misdemeanor to a felony. The reason for this is that extremely aggressive driving, or road rage, usually results in two charges. You’ll get a misdemeanor for reckless driving, but because of the aggravated nature of your driving you’ll also be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, that being your vehicle. Driving aggressively increases your risk of hurting or killing others. Because of that, once you’re charged with extremely aggressive driving your car is considered a weapon. Your resulting charge will likely be felony assault with a deadly weapon, which is punishable by two to four years in jail. If you’re charged with misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon you’re looking at one year in jail.
California law does allow for alcohol-related reckless driving, which is typically referred to as a “wet reckless” charge. However, you’ll rarely be charged with reckless driving involving alcohol as a standalone charge. Typically, this charge is a reduction of a DUI sentence that you choose to take when you’re offered a plea deal. If you’ve engaged in reckless driving while intoxicated, you’ll likely be charged with a DUI and will only be able to consider a “reckless driving involving alcohol” charge if you’re allowed a plea deal. Alternatively, if the prosecutors feel that they won’t be able to win if they charge you with a DUI, they may opt to charge you with reckless driving involving alcohol. However, that’s a rare occurrence.
Finally, you could be involved in an accident that results in injury or death if you’re driving recklessly. If this occurs, you’ll most likely be looking at criminal charges at the felony level. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, your past driving record, your behavior at the time, and other factors, you could be looking at vehicular manslaughter charges. However, if the courts determine that you meant to go after the person with a car, you could even be facing murder or attempted murder charges.
Clearly, it’s always a serious situation when you’re charged with a crime, and it’s important to act quickly in order to protect yourself. Be sure to consult with an attorney to see what your options are. Only a qualified attorney will be able to help you navigate the legal system and prepare a defense that can provide you with the best possible outcome given your specific situation.