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Reckless Driving in California

Although most traffic violations in California lead to citations punishable by a fine and points on your driving record, some offenses can result in criminal penalties that carry a jail sentence. One of those traffic offenses is “reckless driving.” 

According to California Vehicle Code 23103, reckless driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a willful or wanton manner that places other people and property in danger. A wanton disregard for safety means a driver is aware that his/her actions create a significant and unjustifiable risk of harm, and he/she intentionally ignores that risk.  

Common examples of reckless driving include: 

  • Street racing 

  • Ignoring stop signs and traffic lights 

  • Driving the wrong way down a road 

  • Swerving across lanes 

  • Driving on a sidewalk or through a crowd 

In order to prove a defendant is guilty of reckless driving, the prosecution must show that the defendant drove a vehicle, and he/she intentionally operated the vehicle in a wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property. The consequences of getting convicted of reckless driving depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. 

The following are the potential criminal penalties for a reckless driving conviction in California: 

  • Standard reckless driving – Reckless driving is generally a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 90 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 

  • Reckless driving involving a minor injury – This offense is also a misdemeanor but carries a jail term of up to one (1) year and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. 

  • Reckless driving involving a serious injury – This offense is a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. A felony conviction carries a prison term of up to three (3) years and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. 

Additionally, a conviction can result in two points added to your driving record and a driver’s license suspension for up to six (6) months. 

When it comes to individuals who are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs in California, it is possible to have a DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving charge through a plea bargain, which is known as “wet reckless.” The main advantage of this type of plea deal is avoiding harsh DUI penalties and a DUI conviction on your record. 

If you have been arrested for a DUI or reckless driving in Newport Beach or within Orange County, contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC today at (949) 251-0330 for experienced legal help from former prosecutors. Available 24/7!