In Florida, reckless driving is a criminal offense, not merely a traffic violation. Unlike speeding tickets or other moving violations, this offense carries serious criminal penalties upon conviction. State reckless driving law is also broad, meaning that it can be applied in many situations.
For local drivers, this means they could face a reckless driving charge based on a police officer’s subjective judgment. If you are facing this type of offense, call a West Palm Beach reckless driving lawyer. Fighting such a charge is substantially different from protesting other traffic offenses. You need a defense lawyer who understands how to handle your case in the Palm Beach County criminal court. To discuss your case in more detail, call a distinguished criminal attorney.
Defining Reckless Driving Law
As noted above, Florida law broadly defines what reckless driving is. Anyone who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Basically, this means that any motorist who drives a way that increases the risk of injury or death for others on the road could face a reckless driving charge.
However, negligent driving that causes such risks does not qualify as reckless driving. In order to be charged with this offense, a driver must have acted willfully or wantonly. Willfully means the driver intentionally, purposefully, or knowingly endangered others on the road. Wantonly means that the driver intentionally ignored the consequences of their dangerous driving. Some examples of this offense include:
- Excessive speeding
- Road rage
- Driving the wrong way down a one-way road
- Weaving among other cars
- Racing on public roads
- Fleeing law enforcement in a vehicle
Depending on the exact reckless driving charges someone is facing, an attorney in West Palm Beach could prepare a legal defense.
What Penalties Can Someone Face?
Penalties for reckless driving vary depending on whether someone else was actually hurt (or their property was damaged) due to the defendant’s conduct. No injury or property damage is a second-degree misdemeanor that is punishable to up to 90 days in jail, and a $500 fine. Property damage or non-serious injury occurred means facing a first-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in jail, and a $1,000 fine.
If a serious bodily injury occurred, an individual can face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison, and a $5,000 fine. In cases where the convicted driver was intoxicated or impaired by drugs, penalties can also include a mandatory DUI education and evaluation program. A West Palm Beach attorney could help someone avoid or minimize any of the penalties associated with a reckless driving charge.
Potential Defenses to Reckless Driving in West Palm Beach
There are various ways in which a lawyer in West Palm Beach could fight a reckless driving charge. One of our attorneys could begin to determine what the most effective defense strategy is based on the facts of the case. For instance, in situations involving excessive speed there typically must be other factors in play, such as ignoring traffic signals or illegally passing, for a reckless driving charge to stick. If the Prosecution cannot provide evidence of these other factors, a defense attorney may be able to use this weakness in their case as possible defense strategy. In other situations, potential defenses may involve:
- Mistaken identity
- The accused was not actually driving
- Lack of intent (in situations involving a defense part)
- Failing to meet the legal standard of reckless driving
- Insufficient evidence
Speak with a West Palm Beach Reckless Driving Attorney
Because reckless driving is so broadly defined under state law, it can be difficult for prosecutors to prove someone willfully or wantonly disregard others’ safety. A West Palm Beach reckless driving lawyer could defend an accused driver in court. Prosecutors must prove what the driver’s mindset was at the time of the alleged crime. Our team at Leifert & Leifert could help show the driver did not act willfully or wantonly, helping them avoid conviction or face reduced charges where possible.
If you are facing a reckless driving or related criminal charge, call our office today and we could fight to help you avoid the high cost of a conviction, incarceration or driver’s license suspension.