People commonly use the terms “reckless driving” and “careless driving” as if they were the same thing. However, there is a big difference between the two.
Careless driving is an infraction. It is not a crime. It is not punishable by criminal conviction, jail, or probation. You can only be assessed a monetary fine.
Florida Statute sec. 316.1925 basically states that careless driving occurs when a person fails to drive in a manner that endangers “life, limb, or property of any person.”
This is a moving violation but it is not a criminal offense.
Reckless driving, enumerated in Florida Statute sec. 316.192 makes it a misdemeanor to drive with “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others.
Reckless driving is normally a second-degree misdemeanor. However, if a person is seriously injured as a result of your reckless driving, you can be charged with a third-degree felony. If someone dies, you can be charged with vehicular homicide.
If somebody dies due to your careless driving, you will only face a traffic fatality, not a serious felony charge.
When you compare the definitions, they seem almost identical. Now imagine that the person who will initially make the decision as to whether you are charged with careless driving or reckless driving is the police officer who pulls you over.
As a Miami reckless driving attorney, one of the first things I do in any reckless driving case is see if the charge can be amended to the charge of careless driving. Obviously this is a tremendous victory for the accused as you will no longer be saddled with criminal charges and penalties.
Speeding alone is not reckless driving or even careless driving. However, speeding in conjunction with weaving in an out of traffic, running red lights or stop signs, or following too closely can result in either charge.
Most cops will opt to charge you with reckless driving if they have to make the judgment call between reckless driving and careless driving. If charged with reckless, don’t plead guilty because you could be convicted of a crime and could face stiff penalties and mandatory traffic school.
Speak to a criminal defense attorney in the Miami area who represents clients charged with reckless driving.