Florida's Reckless Driving Laws

Read about Florida’s reckless driving laws and the consequences of a conviction.

“Reckless driving” is a crime in Florida. A person can be convicted for:

  • driving a vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property,” or
  • fleeing in a vehicle from a law enforcement officer (called “per se” reckless driving).

The term “willful” refers to conduct that is intentional or purposeful. And “wanton” means the person understood but disregarded the consequences of the conduct. (Fla. Stat. § 316.192(1) (2016).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

The consequences of a Florida reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances of the case. But the possible penalties relate to whether:

  • there was property damage
  • anyone was injured (and the extent of the injuries), and
  • the convicted motorist has prior reckless driving convictions.

Standard Reckless Driving

For reckless driving offenses that don’t involve property damage or injuries to another person, the penalties are:

  • First-offense: A first reckless driving conviction can result in a fine of $25 to $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail.
  • Second or subsequent offense: A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by a fine of $50 to $1000 and/or up to six months in jail.

(Fla. Stat. Ann. § 316.192(2)(a)-(b) (2016).)

Offenses Involving Property Damage or Injuries

A reckless driving offense involving property damage or minor injuries is a first-degree misdemeanor. Convicted drivers face fines of up to $1000 and/or a maximum one year in jail. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082(4)(a), 775.083(1)(d) (2016).)

Offenses Involving Serious Bodily Injury

A motorist convicted of reckless driving involving “serious bodily injury” is guilty of a third-degree felony. A “serious bodily injury” is one that creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or impairment to any part of the body. Convicted motorists face up to $5,000 in fines and/or a maximum five years in prison. (Fla. Stat. §§ 316.192(3)(c)(2), 775.082(3)(e), 775.083(1)(c) (2016).)

ENHANCED SENTENCES TO REPEAT FELONY OFFENDERS

Offenders with multiple felony prior convictions face the possibility of being sentenced under Florida’s “violent career criminal” and “habitual felony offender” law. The statute allows judges to impose enhanced prison sentences on certain repeat offenders. Because of the intricate nature of the statute, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney to determine whether it applies to your case. (Fla. Stat. § 775.084 (2016).)

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In Florida, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with driving under the influence (DUI) to plea bargain for a reckless driving charge—a less serious offense. A reckless driving offense that involves drugs or alcohol is often called a “wet reckless.” Motorist convicted of a wet reckless—in addition to the normal reckless driving penalties—must complete a DUI substance abuse education course and evaluation. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the person might also have to complete substance abuse treatment. (Fla. Stat. § 316.192(5) (2016).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Generally speaking, sentencing law is complex and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including the severity of the damage at issue, credits for good in-custody behavior, and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Florida are serious, and the facts of every case are different. If you’ve been charged with reckless driving, get in touch with an experienced Florida lawyer. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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