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What is the difference between reckless driving and careless driving?

by | Apr 19, 2012 | Traffic

In Florida criminal and traffic law there is an enormous difference between reckless driving and careless driving. While some people use the terms “reckless driving” and “careless driving” interchangeably, a traffic attorney or criminal defense lawyer should never do so. The terms do not mean the same thing and are separate and distinct criminal or civil traffic offenses.

Reckless driving is a criminal traffic offense while careless driving is a civil traffic infraction, commonly referred to as a traffic ticket. A person convicted of reckless driving the first time is subject to a maximum sentence of 90 days or by fine of not less than $25 nor more than $500, or by both. For a second conviction of reckless driving, a person can receive up to 6 months jail time or a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $1,000, or by both.

A person accused of a crash resulting in property damage when driving recklessly can be punished up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. A crash resulting in serious bodily injury is a felony offense punishable by up to 5 years prison and a $5,000 fine. If there is a death resulting from a crash due to reckless driving, then a person may be charged with vehicular homicide.

Reckless driving is a component which must be proved when a person is accused of vehicular homicide. Vehicular homicide can be either a second degree felony punishable by 15 years and a $10,000 fine or if a person is also accused of leaving the scene, then a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years and a $10,000 fine. In addition, if racing is alleged and proven, then that will qualify as the reckless component of vehicular homicide

Sometimes a person charged with driving under the influence or DUI will be looking for or offered what is referred to as a “wet reckless”. If alcohol or drugs are suspected, then the court will order a DUI program substance abuse education course and evaluation in addition to other penalties. When alcohol is involved, the term of probation may be up to one year even if nobody is hurt and it is a first time reckless driving.

In addition to the penalties above, a conviction for reckless driving will add four points to your driving history. Careless driving is either 3 or 4 points and the maximum fines are either $500 to $1,000. Careless driving with serious bodily injury or death will result in a suspension of driving privileges. (more on careless)

With penalties so vastly different, be sure of whether the charge is the civil traffic infraction of careless driving or the criminal violation of reckless driving.  The firm handles all traffic matters.  Click, call or fill out the form to hire a criminal and traffic lawyer for the case.

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