Are you facing a reckless driving charge in California? Reckless driving is considered a serious crime in California under Vehicle Code VC 23103 with penalties ranging from steep fines to jail time. As a criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Cherish Om, I understand what you’re dealing with and can help you fight the charges. Contact my office today to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.
Being charged with a crime is always a stressful experience, especially when a conviction means possible jail time. A reckless driving charge can leave you feeling hopeless and worried about your future. Fortunately, there is hope and you can fight this charge to protect your future and avoid the far-reaching implications of the conviction.
You might want to consider hiring a reckless driving defense lawyer, even if you know for a fact that you have not done anything wrong. Your freedom and future are too important to be left to chance. With the assistance of a skilled lawyer, you may be able to get the charge reduced or dismissed altogether.
At the Law Office of Cherish Om, I am committed to providing efficient legal representation to clients facing criminal charges and vigorously defending their rights. I will treat you with the honesty and integrity you deserve and will work toward helping you resolve the situation in the most favorable manner possible.
Do not hesitate to contact my office and discuss your options in fighting a reckless driving charge. I am ready to put my skills and years of experience to work for you.
California Vehicle Code § 23103(a) – Reckless Driving
Reckless driving is a serious traffic violation in California and is defined under Vehicle Code § 23103(a) as driving a motor vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or their property. To convict someone under Vehicle Code VC 23103, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Driving. You were behind the wheel of the vehicle that was allegedly seen as being operated in a reckless manner.
- Highway or parking facility. You were driving on a highway or an off-street parking facility at the time the alleged offense occurred. Under this section of the California Vehicle Code, a highway is defined as a publicly maintained road open for vehicle travel while an off-street parking facility refers to publicly maintained areas where vehicles are parked.
- Wanton disregard. You were driving with wanton disregard for the safety of others or their property. In other words, you were aware that your actions carry an unnecessary and unjustifiable risk of harm.
- Intention. You intentionally ignored the unnecessary and unjustifiable risk of harm and chose to drive in a reckless manner.
The judge or jury will consider all known circumstances and evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defendant (and their lawyer) in deciding whether or not the defendant is guilty of reckless driving.
Behaviors That May Constitute Reckless Driving
In the eyes of the law, reckless driving means operating a vehicle in a way that shows no regard for the safety of others on the road. In other words, it is a driver’s blatant, conscious decision to violate traffic laws and drive in an unsafe manner, putting themselves and others at risk of harm. As you might have guessed, there is a wide range of behavior that could potentially fall under this definition and qualify as reckless driving, including:
- Speeding, racing, and weaving in and out of traffic. Driving above the speed limit, racing with other vehicles, and changing lanes abruptly without signaling may constitute reckless driving.
- Tailgating. Driving too close to another car may be considered reckless driving as doing so may not allow enough time to react to sudden changes in traffic ahead.
- Failing to yield the right of way. If a motorist deliberately fails to stop their car and let vehicles with the right of way pass, they could face charges for reckless driving, even if they do not cause an accident.
- Running red lights or stop signs. Disregarding red traffic lights and stop signs may be a form of reckless driving when done with willful disregard for the safety of others.
- Impaired driving. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be considered reckless and dangerous because it puts everyone’s life on the road at risk. Driving under the influence is also a separate offense under California law found in California Vehicle Code VC 23152.
- Using the brakes incorrectly. Repeatedly slamming on the brakes, especially in heavy traffic or at high speeds, could cause preventable accidents.
- Doing doughnuts in a parking lot. Doing doughnuts or any other stunts in a parking lot or any other area where vehicles are allowed may be considered reckless driving.
- Intentionally cutting other vehicles off. Intentionally cutting another vehicle off is often seen as a deliberate and reckless driving behavior that shows a lack of concern for the safety of other drivers on the road.
While all of these (and other) behaviors may be considered reckless driving, keep in mind that the prosecution must first prove the elements outlined in Vehicle Code VC 23103 to secure a conviction. For example, weaving in and out of lanes is not always a reckless behavior as the driver may change lanes abruptly to avoid a collision with a hazard in their lane.
If the prosecution can demonstrate sufficient evidence to prove that the driver made an illegal lane change with wanton disregard for the safety of others, the driver can be found guilty of reckless driving unless their defense lawyer can prove otherwise by employing an appropriate defense strategy (e.g., necessity).
What Are the Legal Defenses to Reckless Driving?
If you are facing a reckless driving charge under Vehicle Code VC 23103, an experienced attorney can employ several defense strategies to challenge the charge and help you avoid a conviction. Common defenses to reckless driving include:
- You were not the driver. If you were not driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged offense, let your lawyer know immediately. This is not an uncommon situation, especially if the car is registered to your name. If someone else was driving the car (e.g., your spouse, partner, sibling, or friend), you should not be held responsible for their reckless driving behavior. This defense is also known as “mistaken identity.”
- You were not acting recklessly. As per Vehicle Code VC 23103, reckless driving is defined as operating a vehicle in a manner that shows a wanton disregard for the safety of others or property. However, if you were driving with caution and care – and you can prove it – you were not being reckless. The term “wanton disregard” is rather ambiguous and is not easily proven in the absence of irrefutably concrete evidence.
- You were acting out of necessity to avoid a greater evil. If you had to swerve or take other evasive maneuvers to avoid hitting a hazard, person, or animal in your path, you might be able to claim the so-called “necessity” defense. This defense asserts that you had no other choice but to take a certain action to avoid harm. For example, if you changed a lane abruptly to avoid hitting an animal or debris on the road, you were not acting recklessly. However, this defense might not be effective if you created the danger in the first place.
- You lost control of your vehicle. If your reckless driving action was due to a vehicle malfunction, such as a tire blowout, brake failure, or transmission issue, you might be able to argue that you did not intentionally drive recklessly. Your lawyer might need to bring in an expert witness such as a mechanic to testify on your behalf.
- Improper radar or lidar calibration (if the charge is based on speed). If you face a reckless driving charge for speeding, your lawyer can check whether the radar or lidar device used by the police officer was properly calibrated. If the device was not working correctly, your speed reading could be inaccurate, and the charges against you might need to be dismissed.
To review the details of your reckless driving case and identify the most effective defense strategy, reach out to the Law Office of Cherish Om. I can devise a solid defense for you to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and help you avoid a devastating reckless driving conviction.
What Is the Penalty for 23103 VC?
The crime of reckless driving under Vehicle Code VC 23103 is charged as a misdemeanor unless the defendant’s actions led to severe physical injuries or loss of life. If no one got hurt, a reckless driving conviction carries the following penalties:
- From 5 to 90 days in county jail; and/or
- A fine of between $145 and $1,000, excluding court costs and other assessments and surcharges; and/or
- Two points on the DMV driving record.
Jail time is rarely imposed for reckless driving, especially if this is the defendant’s first offense on the record. As an alternative, the judge may place the person convicted of reckless driving on probation, allowing them to stay out of jail. However, enhanced penalties may apply if any of the following is true:
- Your actions caused minor injuries. If other persons suffered minor injuries, your maximum jail sentence penalty could be increased to one year instead of 90 days. The offense is still a misdemeanor.
- Your actions caused severe injuries. If anyone suffered a severe bodily injury, reckless driving becomes a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. If your act of reckless driving is considered a felony, the punishment will be enhanced to up to $10,000 in fines and a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.
The reckless driving offense in California is broken down into two types: wet reckless and dry reckless. The main difference between the two is that dry reckless involves driving without any alcohol involved, while wet reckless involves alcohol as per Vehicle Code VC 23103.5. A DUI charge is often reduced to either one when the defendant accepts a plea bargain to avoid more serious drunk driving penalties.
Reckless Driving Vehicle Code VC 23103 Frequently Asked Questions
If you have been charged with reckless driving, you may have more questions than answers. This FAQ section contains some of the answers to your questions and is for general informational purposes only.
- Are there immigration consequences?
Unlike many other criminal offenses, reckless driving does not negatively impact your immigration status after a conviction. In California, reckless driving is not considered a deportable offense, which means immigrants will not face deportation nor will they be deemed inadmissible when reckless driving appears on their criminal record.
- Can I get a conviction expunged?
According to the official website of the Judicial Branch of California, a person may be eligible for an expungement if they are no longer serving a sentence, no longer on probatio
- Does a conviction affect gun rights?
As long as a reckless driving offense is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a conviction will not affect your gun rights. However, if your reckless driving conviction is a felony because your actions caused severe physical injuries to others, you will lose your right to possess and own a firearm.
- What are the penalties for a 2nd and 3rd reckless driving offense?
If this is not your first time being convicted of reckless driving, a second, third, or any subsequent conviction may result in harsher penalties, including more than $1,000 in fines, up to six months in jail, and possible suspension of the driver’s license for up to six months. The punishment is even more severe if anyone suffers serious injuries as a result of the defendant’s wanton disregard for the safety of others.
The Law Office of Cherish Om: Trusted Reckless Driving Defense Lawyer in Watsonville, California
No traffic ticket should be taken lightly, and reckless driving is no exception. A conviction for reckless driving under Vehicle Code VC 23103 can result in dire and far-reaching consequences. If you are facing a reckless driving charge, contact the Law Office of Cherish Om right away to learn how I can help you. I am dedicated to providing my clients with vigorous advocacy and exceptional legal representation. Reach out to my law firm today to schedule a case evaluation or arrange a meeting so we can start working on your defense.