Reckless Driving

What is a reckless driving charge in California?

Reckless driving involves driving a vehicle in a manner that is unsafe and puts the public and/or driver himself in danger. Although most people misspell it by writing “wreckless driving,” it is reckless. Examples of reckless driving are:

      • Driving much faster than the speed limit through residential areas or school zones.
      • “Burning rubber” or “doing donuts.”
      • Using shoulders to pass vehicles at a fast rate.
      • Driving in the wrong direction to beat traffic or take a shortcut.
      • Excessive lane changes, especially at higher speeds.
      • Driving through a red light with knowledge that it is red.

Reckless Driving in California is defined under the driving offense of vehicle code section 23103 as:

“(a) A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

(b) A person who drives a vehicle in an off-street parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

(c) Except as otherwise provided in Section 40008, persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one hundred forty-five dollars ($145) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 23104 or 23105.”

Is reckless driving a misdemeanor in California? Yes, but it can also be a felony.

VC 23103(a):

      • A misdemeanor charge for those with zero priors.
      • Carries 5-90 days in jail.
      • Fine of $145 to 1,000.

VC 23103 (a) or VC 23103 (b), Misdemeanor:

      • Misdemeanor with 1 or 2 priors
      • Carries 5-90 days in jail
      • Fine of $145 to 1,000

23104(a), Reckless driving with injury:

      • Misdemeanor charge
      • Carries 30-180 days in jail
      • $220 to 1,000 fines

Is reckless driving a felony in California? Under these circumstances, yes.  

VC 23104 (b), Reckless Driving with Great Bodily Injury:

      • Felony charge
      • Carries 1year, or 2 years or 3 years in prison
      • Fine of $220 to 1,000

23105(a), Reckless Driving Causing Specific Bodily Injuries:

      • Felony charge
      • Carries 1year, or 2 years or 3 years in prison
      • Fine of $220 to 1,000

What are the consequences of being convicted of a reckless driving charge?

      • A misdemeanor or felony charge can carry jail time.
      • The vehicles may get impounded.
      • DMV will add points to your record which will affect insurance rates.
      • Fines are very expensive.
      • Driver’s license may be suspended.

What are the defenses for a reckless driving charge?

      1. You were not the driver.
      2. You did not commit the reckless act.
      3. You committed the reckless act but for a reason to avert a bigger catastrophe. For example, you were a victim of a carjacking. You slammed on your gas to getaway. That caused “burning rubber” of your tires as you sped off. It goes without saying but you cannot lie to create a defense.

Exhibition of Speed – VC 23109

California define Exhibition of Speed as follows:

“Vehicle Code (VC) 23109   

(a) A person shall not engage in a motor vehicle speed contest on a highway. As used in this section, a motor vehicle speed contest includes a motor vehicle race against another vehicle, a clock, or another timing device. For purposes of this section, an event in which the time to cover a prescribed route of more than 20 miles is measured, but where the vehicle does not exceed the speed limits, is not a speed contest.

(b) A person shall not aid or abet in any motor vehicle speed contest on any highway.

(c) A person shall not engage in a motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway, and a person shall not aid or abet in a motor vehicle exhibition of speed on any highway.

(d) A person shall not, for the purpose of facilitating or aiding or as an incident to any motor vehicle speed contest or exhibition upon a highway, in any manner obstruct or place a barricade or obstruction or assist or participate in placing a barricade or obstruction upon any highway.”

Can I be charged with exhibition of speed (VC 23109) if I was not driving? 

Yes! Vehicle Code 23109 says anyone who facilitates, aids or abets an exhibition of speed is also guilty of the same crime. This means anyone who blocks the police, acts as a lookout, acts as a judge, monitors the finish line, monitors speed or timing, or works on the vehicles to prepare them for the race. These examples are not exhaustive.  There are other acts that could also fall under “aiding and abetting” or “facilitating” a speed contest, Vehicle Code 23109 Exhibition of Speed.

Can I be charged with VC 23109 or exhibition of speed if I wasn’t racing another car? 

Yes! You do not have to be the driver to be charged with Vehicle Code 23109, Exhibition of Speed. If you facilitated, aided, or abetted a speed contest, you are just as guilty under California Vehicle Code 23109. See the response to the question above.

Are there any defenses to Vehicle Code 23109, Exhibition of Speed?

The defenses for Exhibition of Speed, Vehicle Code 23109, are:

      • You did not participate in the contest.
      • You did not facilitate the speed contest in any way.
      • You did not aid or abet a speed contest in any way.
      • You did not willfully participate in or facilitate or aid and abet a speed contest.

What are the penalties for Vehicle Code 23109, Speed Contest?

The penalties for a Speed Contest charge in California or Vehicle Code 23109 depends on if it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony. It also matters if the charge is a first-time offense or if priors exist. The list below is primarily for first-time offenders.

Misdemeanor Vehicle Code 23109 no injuries:

      • Zero-90 days in County Jail
      • $145-1,000 in fines.
      • License suspension.

Misdemeanor Vehicle Code 23109 with injuries or priors:

      • 30-180 days in County Jail
      • $220-1,000 fine
      • License Suspension

Felony Vehicle Code 23109, injuries with great bodily harm:

      • One year and four months, two years, 3 years.
      • $220-1,000 fine.
      • License suspension.

The information within this website is NOT LEGAL ADVICE but merely meant to be general information. Nothing in this website, nor filling out any forms on this website, shall constitute an attorney-client relationship.

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