Is reckless driving a felony or misdemeanor in California?

Posted on November 16, 2021 by John

Given the number of cars on the road in California, authorities take reckless driving very seriously. The cause of the reckless driving can be a factor in determining the severity of the charge. If you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, the offense is viewed as more serious when coupled with a DUI charge. As a general rule, reckless driving in California is charged as a misdemeanor.  If your reckless driving causes serious bodily harm, the charge is upgraded to a felony assault with a deadly weapon, coupled with the reckless driving charge as a secondary offense. 

What is considered reckless driving?

  • Speeding. Obviously, the guy driving 80 miles per hour through a school zone is engaging in reckless driving.  
  • Weaving in-and-out of traffic.  
  • Tailgating.  
  • Racing.  
  • Operating a dangerous vehicle.  
  • Ignoring stop signs and signals.  
  • Driving impaired.  
  • Road rage.

Dry Reckless Driving Charge v Wet Reckless Driving Charge

A dry reckless driving charge means the reckless driving incident does not involve alcohol. A wet reckless driving charge indicates the consumption of alcohol. Under California Vehicle Code 23103 VC, a defendant charged with a DUI can plea bargain the charges down to reckless driving only. No indication of alcohol or drugs will appear on your driving record; however, fines, probation and jail time may still apply.

When does a reckless driving charge involve jail time?

This depends on the degree of recklessness. Offenses more serious than carelessness, ignoring certain rules or not paying due attention can result in high fines, imprisonment and/or license suspension or revocation. Even if you are the only one injured in a resulting accident, you could still face 5-90 days in jail and fines from $145 to $1000.

Beyond Fines and Jail Time

Reckless driving charges can stay on your California driving record for up to 10 years. Charges remain on your insurance records from 3-6 years. 

Don’t make the mistake of interpreting reckless driving charges as simple offenses.  It should be clear by now that they can be serious and carry with them some pretty drastic consequences. If you are facing reckless driving charges in Barstow, San Bernardino County, or Mojave, call David Leicht, Esq now @ (760) 256-3104 for a free case evaluation.

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