If you’ve been charged with reckless driving in Florida, you could face severe consequences that can have a life-long impact. Thankfully, there are routes to reduce or dismiss your charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney.
Whether you’ve been unfairly charged or simply made a mistake, here’s what you need to do if you’ve been charged with reckless driving in Florida:
What Is a Reckless Driving Charge in Florida?
Florida Statute 316.192 defines reckless driving as “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” or some who is “fleeing a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle.”
Like a Driving Under Influence (DUI) case, this is a serious driving crime with severe punishments. It is considered by many to be one of the worst violations you can be charged with. This is not a charge to take lightly.
Although similar to a DUI charge, the main difference is that you have a chance to get a reckless driving charge expunged or sealed. A reckless driving charge also carries less severe penalties than DUI charges.
Penalties for a Reckless Driving Charge in Florida?
Reckless driving in Florida may be a costly mistake. Categorized as a misdemeanor, it can potentially result in jail time. According to Florida law, the penalties are:
- Up to 90 days in the Pinellas County Jail.
- A $25-$500 fine.
- Or both a fine and imprisonment,
Second or More Convictions:
- Up to 6 months in the Pinellas County Jail.
- A $50-$1,000 fine.
- Or both a fine and imprisonment.
If You Cause Property Damage or Bodily Harm to Another Person
- In this scenario, you are facing a first-degree misdemeanor offense.
- Punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
- Up to 1 year in jail.
If You Caused a Serious Bodily Injury
- Third-degree felony.
- Up to $5,000 fine.
- Up to 5 years in jail.
Reckless vs. Careless Driving
In Florida, there is a similar violation called ‘careless driving.’ While reckless driving covers those ‘wanton disregard for everyone’s safety, careless driving is for lesser conduct such as causing an accident, speeding, weaving through traffic or following too closely.
Those charged with careless driving may be driving dangerously, but it might just be an unintentional slip-up or failure to pay attention. Careless driving charges usually provide the option to be dismissed by completing a DHSMV-approved Florida traffic school course.
A reckless driving charge is much more severe, harder to fight and results in serious penalties.
What to Do if Charged With Reckless Driving in Florida?
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a reckless driving charge, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Their expert guidance can help you dismiss your charges, minimize penalties, protect your future and help you avoid getting stuck in the system.
Can a Reckless Driving Charge in Florida Be Dismissed?
Florida’s courts hear reckless driving cases every day. Despite their severity, they can be dismissed.
Most cases that are dismissed are due to being overcharged. Police officers sometimes even seen confused about what exactly is a reckless driving charge. But they still issue reckless charges, especially to younger people.
If it’s not possible to get your case completely dropped, your reckless driving attorney may be able to get your charge reduced to a ‘careless driving’ charge – which carries far less severe penalties.
Letter from DHSMV
Florida Statute 322.026 states that after a reckless driving conviction, DHSMV will send you a letter informing you that you are required to complete a four-hour Basic Driver’s Improvement class.
You must complete this class within 90 days to avoid having your driving privileges suspended.
If the court withholds adjudications (thus drops the conviction), you are not required to take the class.
Understanding Points on License
A reckless driving conviction will put 4 points on your driver’s license. If you have a bad driving record, you may have too many points and have your license suspended.
If you have no idea how many points are on your record, contact a criminal defense attorney to avoid making a costly mistake by going to court alone.
- 18 points in 18 months = a 90-day license suspension.
- 24 points in 24 months = a year license suspension.
How Long Does a Reckless Driving Charge Stay on Your Record
A Florida reckless driving charge will stay on your record for 75 years. So, it is best to get a lawyer to help avoid this.
Expunging Your Reckless Driving Charge
Even if the case is dismissed or adjudication is withheld, the reckless driving charge will remain on your record – until it’s expunged or sealed.
Getting your reckless driving charge expunged is another complicated process, but one that should be taken full advantage of if possible. To do so, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the county courts are required to be involved.
If you wish to expunge or seal your reckless driving charge, you should contact a criminal defense attorney for expert guidance.
Reducing Your DUI Charge to a Reckless Driving
In Florida, a driver charged with a DUI offense can make a plea bargain to a reckless driving charge.
A reckless driving charge involving alcohol is often called a ‘wet reckless.’ Although the penalties and consequences are far less severe than with a DUI, you will likely be required to complete a DUI substance abuse education course and evaluation.
How to Get a Reckless Charge Instead of a DUI?
The stigma and penalties of a DUI will haunt you for many, many years. Your criminal defense attorney will most likely work with you to reduce your DUI to a reckless driving charge.
As of June 2021, Florida has a program that makes this a relatively quick process – the D.R.O.P Program (Pinellas County DUI Rehabilitation of Offenders Program).
The D.R.O.P program diverts DUI offenders away from the busy court system, giving them a chance for a quick resolution – which includes reducing your offense to a Reckless Driving offense. To see if you’re eligible, read our DROP guide here.
Regardless, you should contact a criminal defense attorney who will walk you through the process, fighting to minimize your penalties.
Reckless Driving Attorney in Pinellas County, FL
If you want to fight a reckless charge in Florida, you must contact a reckless driving attorney as soon as possible. I have had very good success over the years in getting the misdemeanor charge dropped to a civil infraction.
Sean McQuaid is a top-rated criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County. He is the President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association, a group of 1,100 lawyers and judges in the area. He is the managing partner at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms with the reputation and connections to make things happen.
With decades of experience helping people like you, we believe there is no better place to help you fight or reduce a reckless driving charge or DUI charge in Florida.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300