Reckless driving charges (Vehicle Code section 23103(a))may be filed when the driver is alleged to have driven in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of others or property. Such “disregard” can be established if the prosecutor can demonstrate that the defendant drove in a manner exhibiting a substantial and unreasonable risk of harm and ignored those risks, for example, the driver was doing “fishtails” in a crowded high school parking lot, weaving in and out of freeway traffic at a high rate of speed, or allowing his/her friends to hold onto the bed of his truck while pulling them on their skateboards.
The penalties for reckless driving will include informal probation, up to 90 days in county jail, fines/fees, and two points on the defendant’s driving record. Often, reckless driving violations are committed by young (male) drivers “showing off” or drivers who are in a hurry. While there are many forms of dangerous driving patterns, “speed” alone cannot be used to form the basis of a reckless driving charge, however, it may be considered with any other factors involved.
In the event the driver’s reckless driving causes an injury to his/her passengers, or to others, then the case may be filed as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If a misdemeanor, the penalties may include informal probation, 30 – 180 days of county jail, fines/fees, and restitution to the victim. If filed as a felony (Vehicle Code sections 23104 or 23105), the defendant may receive either formal probation and up to one year in county jail, or a denial of probation and up to 3 years of state prison. In cases of death, the charges will likely increase to vehicular manslaughter or gross vehicular manslaughter (see discussion in Driving Under The Influence).
Practical note: For minors who commit a first-time reckless driving offense in the City of Santa Clarita, speaking to a local, experienced attorney may help the matter to be referred to SCV Teen Court or SCV Community Court (see Alternative Sentencing discussion).