The term “reckless driving” conjures up images of speeding and weaving through lanes of traffic. However, speeding and weaving (failure to maintain a single lane) are both infractions, or non-criminal citations.
So what constitutes the misdemeanor offense of reckless driving?
Florida Statute section 316.192 specifies the offense of reckless driving as driving a vehicle in the State of Florida with a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Seems pretty vague and very likely depends upon the mood of the officer. I have seen situations in which similar driving patterns have resulted in different offenses. If the cop’s in a good mood, you might get a non-criminal infraction, such as careless driving, speeding, or failure to maintain a single lane. If the cop is upset, you may find yourself physically arrested or issued a written arrest (promise to appear or notice to appear).
In order to best understand what is reckless driving, it’s best to begin with what’s not reckless driving.
Typically speeding alone (without weaving in and out of traffic) is not enough to constitute reckless driving. However, under certain conditions, excessive speed may be considered “reckless” if the excessive speed puts the safety of other motorists at risk.
If you are doing 25 miles over the speed limit on an open highway with no other cars in sight, that is not reckless driving. If you are doing 25 miles over the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic, that could constitute reckless driving.
Whether conduct is willful or wanton is usually a question reserved for the jury.
Reckless driving is a serious offense. It can put points on your driver’s license and could result in jail time.
Most of the time, you will be issued a reckless driving citation instead of being physically arrested. Make no mistake about it - this is an arrest. You have been charged with a crime. Don’t assume that because you weren’t handcuffed and taken to jail that you weren’t arrested. Reckless driving is a criminal offense that can leave you with a permanent criminal record if you are convicted.
Many of my reckless driving clients are young people. Safe driving by teenagers is a critical way to avoid criminal consequences that can follow you around for the rest of your life.
Cops make mistakes. Your driving pattern may not rise to the level of reckless driving. Speak to an attorney before you make any decisions.
Eric Matheny is a Miami reckless driving attorney and Broward reckless driving attorney. Attorney Eric Matheny is a former Miami-Dade prosecutor assisting clients with all criminal traffic offenses.