Reckless Driving Defense in Florida

If you are charged with Reckless Driving in Florida, you need to understand what it takes for the prosecutor to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. When a defendant thinks they know enough about the law to decide how to plead in court, they run the risk of waiving valuable defenses that could prevent them from suffering a conviction. 


Experienced criminal defense lawyers who have represented more Reckless Driving defendants than other lawyers have are the ones you want to contact to help with your case. The Stechschulte Nell Law Firm specializes in representing driving-related criminal offenses, like DUI and Reckless Driving, among others. The criminal defense lawyers at Stechschulte Nell work tirelessly to protect their client’s rights in all criminal prosecutions, whether the case involves a capital felony or a misdemeanor. Here is what you should know about Florida’s Reckless Driving law and how such a charge can be defended. 


What Is Reckless Driving? 


In Florida, Reckless Driving is defined by F.S. § 316.192. Under that statute, there are two theories under which you can be prosecuted and convicted for Reckless Driving: 


  1. Anyone who drives a motor vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving; 
  2. Fleeing from the police in a motor vehicle is Reckless Driver per se (meaning, automatically). 


Reckless Driving is more than just careless driving; it requires a level of conscious indifference to consequences that is far more extreme than either negligence or even gross negligence. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently defined “willful and wanton” by writing  


Conduct is considered “wanton” if performed “with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with the knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons, ” while “willful” conduct is conduct performed “intentionally, knowingly and purposely.”i 


Examples of driving that Florida courts found to be criminally reckless include these: 


  • Driving 82 mph in a 45-mph zone while racing another car in and out of traffic on bike lanes and turn lanes, sideswiping a car without stopping, and turning right from the left lane where a victim’s BMW hit the defendant’s car. The victim died in a fiery collision.
  • Passing a slower-moving vehicle at high speed in the right lane with other traffic.
  • Driving 20 miles over the speed limit in traffic, accelerating through a red light, colliding with a car traveling across the defendant’s path, killing a mother and child.


What Are the Penalties for Reckless Driving in Florida? 


The severity of the Reckless Driving penalty is determined by the circumstances of each case. If a serious injury or death results from the defendant’s driving recklessly, then the charge will be a felony carrying much higher penalties than if the offense were a first offense with no injuries and no damage to anyone.  


Florida law imposes the following penalties for the various levels of Reckless Driving severity: 

  • 1st Offense — up to 90 days in jail and a fine of between $25 and $500, or both. 
  • 2nd or Subsequent Offense — up to 6 months in jail and a fine between $50 and $1,000 or both. 
  • Causing damage to property or injury to person — up to 1 year in jail, up to $1,000 fine, plus  
  • Causing serious bodily injury to another — up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine (3rd Degr.Fel.) 


Florida defines a “serious bodily injury” as a “physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”


If alcohol or another chemical substance is believed to be involved, the defendant will also be required to attend DUI education and be subject to assessment to determine if extended substance use counseling is appropriate. If the defendant is referred to counseling, then they must attend or risk having their driving privileges revoked. All of these additional sanctions are paid for by the defendant. 


Defenses to a Reckless Driving Charge in Florida 


Experienced criminal defense and Reckless Driving defense lawyers know that there are several effective defenses that can be raised to prevent the client from being convicted. The courtroom skills honed by your Reckless Driving lawyer over years of practice make prosecutors’ work very difficult. 


The best Reckless Driving lawyers know how to defend against the charge: 


  • Insufficient evidence to prove the defendant was driving, 
  • Driving alleged by the prosecution is merely negligent, or even grossly negligent, but not “willful and wanton,” 
  • Excessive speed alone does not constitute criminal reckless driving, 
  • Erratic driving described by the prosecutor was not intentional (accidental, mechanical malfunction, the result of a medical episode, etc.) 
  • Location where alleged driving occurred was no reasonably likelihood of any damage or injury to another, 
  • Testimony of the witness is not credible, nor is their testimony reliable (they were not in a position to observe, recall, and report facts accurately due to poor light, long distance, obstructed view, witness intoxication, vision trouble, mental incompetence, etc.) 
  • Prosecution evidence is inadmissible. 


When a Reckless Driving Charge Could Benefit You 


No one ever wants to be judged guilty of a crime in Florida. But suffering a DUI conviction is especially painful because the consequences are so long-lasting and so stigmatizing. In Florida, any finding of guilt in a DUI prosecution cannot be expunged, sealed, or otherwise hidden from the public. The record of your DUI conviction would be easily accessible to your kids, your boss, an employer you hoped to work for, a loan officer, teachers, potential landlords, and your insurance company.  


But a Reckless Driving offense permits a judge to “withhold adjudication” on the charge, even after you admit guilt. A judge is not allowed to withhold adjudication in a DUI case. When a DUI defendant has an effective defense lawyer who can show a prosecution how the state might lose the DUI case, many prosecutors will amend the charge to a Reckless Driving charge instead of risking a total loss at a trial on the DUI.  


After the defendant completes the terms imposed on them by the court on the Reckless Driving charge, they can immediately begin the process of having the charge removed from the public’s access.  


Learn More> How to Get a DUI Reduced to a Reckless Driving Charge 


Tampa Reckless Driving Defense  


If you have been charged with a Reckless Driving charge in Tampa, call our experienced Reckless Driving defense attorneys at Stechschulte Nell. We are on your side, always. Call today for a case review; 813-280-1244. 

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