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Understanding reckless driving charges in Florida

Reckless driving is a crime under Florida law. If you face charges, a conviction can bring on legal penalties and affect your driver's license.

The relevant statute describes reckless driving as operating a motor vehicle with a "willful or wanton disregard" for safety. This means prosecutors must show unsafe driving and also prove the driver acted either purposely or with an indifference to consequences he or she knew would ensue.

Negligence is not reckless

Florida courts generally maintain that simple carelessness or negligence does not rise to the level required here. In each case, one must intensely scrutinize the specific facts in order to draw the line between acting carelessly and acting recklessly.

Speeding alone is usually not enough for conviction

Speeding numbers among the common transgressions that may precipitate reckless driving charges. In most cases, courts rule that simply exceeding the posted limit does not suffice. However, speeding can combine with other circumstances to become a reckless action. For example, traveling at 60 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone, on an empty roadway, will probably not rise to the level of recklessness. The same speed in a school zone at dismissal time, on the other hand, is more likely to support recklessness charges. Some courts do suggest extreme speeds may possibly count reckless on their own.

Recklessness often depends on circumstances

Some examples of reckless driving may include driving a dangerously damaged vehicle, ignoring traffic lights, driving at high speed in bad weather and while intoxicated, and purposely failing to avoid an accident. On the other hand, courts are less likely to find recklessness in cases where a driver loses control of the vehicle. Actual harm does not need to happen in order to support charges; prosecutors can show the driver's conduct was highly likely to lead to harm.

Most reckless driving cases depend on an assessment of the totality of circumstances. One notable exception is when a driver flees law enforcement in the vehicle. Florida law considers this act, in itself, reckless driving, regardless of whether damage occurred or if the driver broke traffic rules.

Penalties

Penalties can vary, depending on the number of prior offenses, resulting harm and other circumstances. Consequences may include jail time, probation and fines.

 

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