Reckless Driving Ticket Defense Attorney
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Reckless driving tickets in California are a misdemeanor. It is driving in such a manner as to demonstrate a flagrant disregard for the safety of people or property. This can include such conduct as excessive speed, racing on the highway, weaving in and out of congested traffic lanes, distracted driving, and driving with a blood alcohol content below 0.08% but doing so while running a red light. There are two types of reckless driving. One involves driving while under the influence of alcohol while the other does not. There are major differences in how these two affect your driver’s license, sentencing and collateral consequences.
There is no mandatory minimum jail sentence for a normal or “dry” reckless driving conviction, though you could face incarceration of up to 90 days under certain aggravating circumstances or if you have another offense combined with your reckless driving charge. Though there is no mandatory license suspension associated with reckless driving, you could still face a suspension if your point total is at least 4 accumulated within 12-months, 6 points in 24-months, or 8 points within 36-months. Also, if you are HTO, or a habitual traffic offender, a conviction will result in loss of your driving privileges for a number of years or even for life.
A dry reckless will enhance your insurance premiums but not to the extent of a DUI conviction, which can result in cancellation and requirement that you obtain an SR-22 or proof of financial responsibility and possible installation of an ignition interlock device before you are granted any driving privileges.
A reckless driving conviction alone is not considered a prior offense if you are subsequently convicted of a DUI. It does result in 2 points on your driving record, however. A sentence will typically include a stayed sentence and unsupervised probation for 1 to 2 years.
Reckless driving while DUI is a serious offense that carries up to 90 days in jail and a fine of about $145, though these are generally higher since court and county fees are added.
Many DUI charges are “reduced” to a wet reckless offense, though this is considered the same as a DUI conviction and is a “priorable” offense, or one that is counted as a prior DUI if you are charged with a subsequent DUI.
A wet reckless can subject you to up to one year in jail. Should your offense take place while you were on probation, the judge can sentence you up to a year in jail for the violation. If you had committed a dry reckless, the judge could only sentence you for 90 days for the probation violation.
For a wet reckless conviction, a judge will also impose a suspended sentence and informal probation for 3 to 5 years, unlike the 1 to 2 years for a dry reckless.
You are also subject to loss of your license if your blood alcohol content (BAC) was at least 0.08%.
Defending or Reducing a DUI to Dry Reckless
You could defend a reckless driving charge by showing that no individuals or property was endangered by your driving. For example, driving 100 miles per hour on an empty highway with few or no building around is excessive but does not show a disregard for the safety of people or property.
There are occasions when a DUI can be reduced to a dry reckless. Once you are charged with a DUI, you should challenge your license suspension at an APS, or administrative per se hearing, where your attorney can question the validity of your stop and arrest, if your refusal to submit to chemical testing was reasonable, and contest the validity of any chemical or breath test results. Having a BAC that is on the cusp of legality, such as a 0.08% result, is more easily challenged if your lawyer can convince the administrative judge that there were errors or other conditions that could plausibly have resulted in a false high reading. The standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence.
If you are successful, then the prosecutor at your criminal DUI proceeding will generally agree to reduce your charge accordingly.
If you lost at the APS hearing, did not challenge your license suspension, or the prosecutor still wishes to prosecute you for DUI despite being successful at the APS hearing, you can still move the criminal court to dismiss evidence of your blood alcohol test results or of a refusal that the administrative hearing judge ruled to be reasonable.
Reckless driving is a serious moving violation. Having an experienced traffic ticket lawyer on your side could mean the difference between receiving a harsh sentence and significant consequences to your life or getting off relatively lightly and treating this as a lesson to be learned.