California Reckless Driving Laws 2024 – Vehicle Code 23103

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Every driver has a responsibility to obey the rules of the road, heed posted traffic signs, and drive as safely as possible at all times. Unfortunately, while some drivers fail to uphold these duties of care due to negligence, others violate their responsibilities behind the wheel intentionally. The term “reckless driving” defines any such situation in which a driver knowingly and willfully violates the traffic laws, demonstrating clear disregard for the safety of others. Reckless driving is extremely dangerous not only because it can easily result in devastating car accidents but also because it can startle drivers and cause chain reactions of multiple collisions. Reckless driving is also very hazardous in busy metropolitan areas where pedestrians, bicyclists, and other especially vulnerable individuals could be seriously injured or killed by a reckless driver. The police take reckless driving offenses very seriously and will usually aggressively pursue anyone who intentionally violates the state’s traffic laws and endangers the public in the process.
California Reckless Driving Laws

Resolving Reckless Driving Cases

Ideally, police will apprehend a reckless driver before they are able to hurt anyone. Penalties for reckless driving offenses can include heavy fines, court fees, mandatory driver safety school at the defendant’s own expense, and driver’s license suspension. Jail time is also likely and can extend from five to 90 days at the misdemeanor level. Many defendants are also sentenced to community service. Reckless driving is usually prosecuted at the misdemeanor level but may qualify as a felony when the defendant has injured or killed someone. At the felony level, the defendant faces incarceration in state prison, heavier fines, and the rest of their assigned penalties will increase as well. If they injured or killed anyone with their actions, the judge handling their sentencing may include restitution to the victim as part of their penalty. They also face civil claims from their victims seeking compensation for the damages they caused. If you are injured by a reckless driver, you have the same right to pursue compensation for your damages with an auto insurance claim and/or personal injury claim as you would after any other accident. However, due to the fact that the defendant harmed you through illegal misconduct, the criminal charges filed against them by the state could impact your recovery efforts in various ways. It is essential to find legal representation you can trust when you are struggling in the aftermath of a reckless driving accident. Insurance may only compensate a portion of your total losses, and you will need experienced legal representation to navigate a subsequent personal injury case successfully. Kreeger Law Firm has the professional resources and experience you want on your side in this challenging situation.


Q: Is Reckless Driving a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

A: California law upholds several possible penalties for reckless driving charges based on specific details of a case. It’s possible for this offense to qualify as a misdemeanor or a felony with vastly different penalties for each. Simple reckless driving that does not result in property damage or injury to others is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor. However, if a reckless driver injured or killed someone in an accident or if they caused significant property damage, they can be charged with felony reckless driving.

Q: What Is the Penalty for a Reckless Driving Charge?

A: When prosecuted at the misdemeanor level, reckless driving can lead to penalties, including fines up to $1,000, jail time for up to 90 days, and restitution to anyone injured by the defendant’s actions. They will also have demerit points assigned to their driver’s license, which could result in license suspension or revocation. At the felony level, penalties may escalate to several years in state prison, heavier fines, restitution to victims, and more demerit points on the defendant’s license.

Q: What Are Possible Defenses to a Reckless Driving Charge?

A: If you are charged with reckless driving, the most effective possible defense would be proving that you had no choice but to drive as you did because of an emergency. For example, if you needed to get someone else to the nearest hospital in a life-or-death situation, it may be an effective excuse or at least help reduce your penalties. An experienced defense attorney is your optimal asset for reducing penalties assigned to you for a reckless driving conviction.

Q: What Happens if a Reckless Driver Causes an Accident?

A: If a reckless driver causes an accident, they will likely face a felony reckless driving charge from the state, and they will be liable for the damages they cause to the other driver. The victim would have the right to file a claim against their auto insurance and/or a personal injury claim to seek full compensation for their losses. Additionally, the judge handling the criminal case against the defendant may order them to pay restitution to the victim alongside their other damages.

Q: Can I Sue a Reckless Driver?

A: Under California’s personal injury laws, you have the right to claim full repayment of all damages another party caused with their negligence or illegal misconduct. If you were hurt by a reckless driver, you have the right to file a claim against their auto insurance to seek compensation for your losses. If they do not have insurance or do not have enough coverage to fully compensate your damages, you can file a personal injury claim to recover the rest of your losses. Because they broke the law, they could also face punitive damages or restitution that can enhance your total recovery. Kreeger Law Firm regularly represents car accident victims throughout the state in their recovery efforts. While most of the car accidents reported in the state are the result of negligence, these incidents may also occur because of intentional and illegal misconduct. If another driver is responsible for causing your recent accident, we can help hold them accountable for your losses. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our team and learn how we can empower your recovery efforts.