West Palm Beach Reckless Driving Lawyer
In Florida reckless driving is a serious crime that is punishable by up to five years in prison, although the consequences of conviction can be much more far-reaching. For instance, a conviction for this offense will be recorded on an offender’s permanent record, which could make acquiring future employment or housing much more difficult. For this reason, it is extremely important that if you have been accused of reckless driving, you retain an experienced defense attorney who can help defend your rights.
In Florida, a person commits the crime of reckless driving when he or she:
- Drives a motor vehicle; and
- Drives with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
Willful or Wanton Conduct
Conduct is considered willful when it is done knowingly and purposely. Wanton, on the other hand, means conduct that is undertaken with intentional indifference to the consequences, even though the person knows that damage to persons or property is likely to result. For instance, fleeing a law enforcement officer is automatically considered reckless driving. However, evidence of mere negligence or carelessness is not enough to support a charge of reckless driving.
In determining recklessness, a court will conduct a fact-intensive inquiry that includes an analysis of the accused’s actions, the particular circumstances of the situation, and the foreseeability that death or harm to a person or property could occur as a result of the defendant’s actions.
A charge of reckless driving cannot be sustained if the defendant was merely speeding. However, if driving at an excessive speed is combined with other factors that indicate wanton or willful disregard for the safety of other people or their property, then a conviction will be upheld. Such factors include:
- Driving through a busy residential area;
- Disregarding the presence of children;
- Ignoring traffic signals;
- Improper passing;
- Failing to look for pedestrians;
- Failing to reduce speed prior to impact; and
- Consuming intoxicants.
At least two Florida Courts of Appeal have posited that grossly excessive speeds may be sufficient evidence to support a conviction of reckless driving.
The penalty for reckless driving depends largely on whether or not the defendant has any other prior offenses as well as the type and severity of the damage. Penalties range from 90 days in jail, six months of probation, and a $500 fine, to a five year prison sentence, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Some of the most common defenses to a charge of reckless driving include:
- That the conduct was not willful or wanton;
- The lack of persons or property nearby;
- Unreliable witnesses; and
- Extenuating circumstances.
Reckless driving is a serious offense, and the advice of an experienced attorney is vital to help you present the best defense possible. A qualified defense attorney may even be able to help you reduce your charge or sentence. If you have been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.