Reckless Driving is defined under Florida law as driving a motor vehicle with a “willful and wanton” disregard for the safety of persons or property. Unlike careless driving, reckless driving is a criminal offense.

Possible Penalties for Reckless Driving

The penalties for a Reckless Driving offense vary depending on whether there was a traffic crash, whether the subject has previously been convicted of reckless driving, whether there were injuries, and whether alcohol or controlled substances were involved.

  • Reckless Driving – Without any of the aggravating factors listed above, Reckless Driving is punishable by up to 90 days in the county jail and up to $500 in fines.
  • Reckless Driving (2nd or Subsequent Offense) – If a subject has previously been convicted of 
  • Reckless Driving, the offense is punishable by up to 6 months in the county jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Reckless Driving (with property damage) – If the alleged Reckless Driving involved a crash that resulted in property damage, the offense is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. As a result, the offense is punishable by up to 1-year in the county jail, 12 months of probation, and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Reckless Driving (with serious injury) – If serious bodily injury resulted from the alleged 
  • Reckless Driving, the offense is classified as a third-degree felony. As such, the crime is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation and up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Reckless Driving (Involving alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances) – In addition to the foregoing, if the Court has “reasonable cause” to believe that alcohol, chemical substances or controlled substances contributed to the violation, the Court may order the defendant to complete a DUI education course, substance abuse evaluation and any course of counseling recommended.

Is Speeding Reckless Driving?

To constitute “Reckless” driving, the conduct of the defendant must be more aggravated than mere carelessness. There are a number of appellate courts which have analyzed whether driving was truly “reckless” or whether it was merely careless. Likewise, courts have found that speed, by itself, is insufficient to support a finding of recklessness.

Appellate Courts Have Found that the Circumstances Other than or in addition to Speeding are the Key to Carelessness vs. Recklessness

There are a number of Florida appellate court cases that have analyzed whether the conduct of a driver amounted to “reckless” behavior as contemplated by Florida law. In each case, other factors aside from, or in addition to, speed served as the “tipping point” to a finding of recklessness. In that regard, consider the following:

  • Santisteban v. State, 72 So.3d 187 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (finding reckless driving when defendant drove a gasoline truck, filled with 9,000 gallons of fuel, at excessive speeds around a curving highway ramp, while weaving around other drivers);
  • State v. Lebron, 954 So.2d 52 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007) (finding reckless driving where defendant, while speeding, attempted to pass a slower vehicle from the right lane, in the middle of traffic);
  • E. v. State, 904 So.2d 558 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005) (finding sufficient evidence to support reckless driving, when a juvenile knowingly drove the car without adult supervision in violation of the law, far in excess of the speed limit, around a dangerous curve, near a school, in the dark, and in an area likely to become congested);
  • Martinez v. State, 692 So.2d 199 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997) (finding sufficient evidence to support a conviction for vehicular homicide where defendant drove 70 mph in a 30-mph zone, on a curving section of road, while passing another vehicle in a no-passing zone);
  • Lewek v. State, 702 So.2d 527 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) (finding evidence was sufficient to establish reckless driving where defendant drove a car with shallow tire treads, a missing lug nut, and window tinting that was too dark at 60 mph in a 45–mph zone and failed to reduce speed for a yellow light, subsequently running a red light);
  • State v. Knight, 622 So.2d 188 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993) (finding a prima facie case for recklessness where defendant did not possess a valid driver’s license, was driving 65–70 mph in a 35–mph residential area, and was operating a damaged vehicle without the consent of the owner);
  • Wright v. State, 573 So.2d 998 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) (evidence was sufficient to sustain a finding of recklessness where defendant had consumed both a full quart of hard alcohol and half six-pack of malt liquor, was travelling approximately 20 mph over the speed limit, was driving in the oncoming lane of traffic to pass another vehicle, and did not attempt to slow down or maneuver to avoid striking the victim);
  • Byrd v. State, 531 So.2d 1004 (Fla. 5th DCA 1988) (finding sufficient evidence to constitute recklessness where defendant drove at twice the posted speed limit in heavy traffic, was warned to slow down, and only tried to stop about six feet from another stopped vehicle); and
  • Savoia v. State, 389 So.2d 294 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (finding recklessness where defendant, driving on a wet road, drove at 90 mph while intoxicated and crashed into a parked truck without attempting to apply brakes).

How Can a Top-Rated Traffic Ticket Defense Lawyer Help?

If you have been charged with Reckless Driving in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and surrounding cities, call our highly-experienced traffic defense attorneys for a free consultation to discuss the options that exist in your case. During your free consultation, we will discuss:

  • The facts of your case to evaluate whether an argument exists that your driving was not truly “reckless” as defined by Florida law;
  • Whether there are any witnesses to the incident that led to your citation or arrest;
  • Whether a “reduction” could be sought from the prosecutor to a less-serious or non-criminal offense.