In many cases, a law enforcement officer will cite a driver with the criminal offense of “reckless driving,” when a civil infraction for “careless driving” or “speeding” is the more appropriate charge.
The criminal offense of reckless driving is governed by section 316.192, Florida Statutes (2011). This charge alleges that one drove his vehicle with a “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others or property. Willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others requires more proof than merely driving too fast or an improper passing violation. Oftentimes, reckless driving is difficult for prosecutors to prove. Therefore, we strongly advise hiring an attorney if charged with this offense.
In most instances, reckless driving is not a serious offense for a first time offender. However, one may face jail time in incidents which involve repeat offenders, drugs or alcohol, or property damage/bodily injuries. In the event of serious bodily injury as a result of a reckless driving pattern, the charge will become a third degree felony.
There are situations where a reckless driving plea may be beneficial. In Florida, many individuals enter a plea of reckless driving to avoid a possible Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction. Reducing a DUI to “reckless driving” is a method to avoid trial. This plea benefits a defendant since one can avoid the mandatory penalties which accompany a DUI conviction.
Not every fatality that occurs on the roadway, as tragic as it may be, should result in an arrest or prosecution for vehicular manslaughter. In many of these cases, conduct that would normally warrant only a traffic infraction suddenly results in vehicular manslaughter arrest only because a death resulted from the accident.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you on these charges as soon after the accident as possible is critical. Never make a statement to law enforcement once a criminal investigation begins until after you have spoken with an attorney.
Leaving the Scene (Hit and Run)
Leaving the Scene of an Accident or Crash, also called “Hit and Run” is a serious criminal offense in Florida with serious criminal punishments. In addition to large fines and possible jail time, a court may order the revocation or suspension of your driver’s license. Even if you are able to avoid a suspension or revocation, the charge of “leaving the scene” or “hit and run” may cause your auto insurance premiums to increase substantially if you are convicted of this criminal offense.
Different statutes in Florida address this criminal offense, depending on whether another vehicle was involved, the extent of the property damage, and whether any injury was reported.
No Valid Driver License
Driving without a valid driver’s license is a second degree criminal misdemeanor in the State of Florida. It may be punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail and a $500 fine. The statute that governs this criminal offense is Florida Statutes Section 322.02.
Under Section 322.02 of the Florida Statues, this offense is not considered a serious driving offense for the purpose of a habitual traffic offender revocation. The offense of “no valid license” is nevertheless a criminal offense and you may be subject to criminalpenalties.
Driving with a Revoked or Suspended License (DWLS)
In “with knowledge” allegations, the State must prove their case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. In “without knowledge” allegations the prosecution is not required to prove that a motorist had a mens rea, or “guilty mind,” with respect to any element of the crime.
There are two elements that the State must prove:
- That the defendant was driving a motor vehicle on a public highway, and
- That the accused’s driver’s license was suspended or revoked at the time he or she was driving
In Florida the prosecution must also prove that the motorist had actual or constructive knowledge that his or her license was suspended or revoked at the time he or she was driving. If the state does not have to prove this additional element, then the defendant is NOT facing criminal charges rather they should be facing civil charges.
Defenses for DWSL
There are several defenses that an accused motorist can raise when facing these allegations.
1. License Status
Sometimes, a motorist’s name is mistakenly on the list of revoked or suspended licenses at the time he or she is stopped by the police for a traffic violation.
2. Lack of Proper Notice
The notice requirement is usually satisfied by the state if the license was suspended or revoked in court by a judge with the defendant present. However, if the license was suspended or revoked by the department of motor vehicles for points, not paying a traffic or parking ticket, or some other reason, the State must prove notice to the defendant.
3. Identity of the Driver
One defense to the offense of driving with a suspended or revoked license is that the defendant was not operating the vehicle. The act of operating, or driving, is a fact issue that must be proven by the State beyond a reasonable doubt. The term “operation” can have a broader definition under a driving while revoked or suspended statute than under a statute dealing only with a licensing requirement.
Points assigned for each Traffic Offense
- 6 points — Unlawful speed resulting in an accident
- 6 points — Leaving the scene of a crash with property damage greater than $50
- 4 points — Any moving violation resulting in an accident
- 4 points — Reckless driving
- 4 points — Running a red light
- 4 points — Driving during restricted hours
- 4 points — Passing a stopped school bus
- 4 points — Unlawful speed more than 16 MPH over lawful or posted speed
- 3 points — Driver in possession of open container of alcohol
- 3 points — Child restraint violation
- 3 points — Parking on a highway outside the city limits
- 3 points — Unlawful speed less than 15 MPH over lawful or posted speed
- 3 points — Toll Violations
- 3 points — All other moving violations (including parking on highway outside the limits of municipalities)
- 2 points — Improper equipment or vehicles in an unsafe condition