Law Office of David P. Shapiro - San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney




2550 Fifth Ave Suite 1050, San Diego, CA 92103

San Diego Reckless Driving Lawyer

When driving in San Diego County, a lapse in judgment or a moment of aggressive behavior behind the wheel can escalate into serious criminal charges. Reckless driving, as outlined in California Vehicle Code Section 23103, is no mere traffic infraction. It’s a misdemeanor offense that can result in serious consequences if you’re convicted.

As experienced San Diego defense lawyers, we understand how allegations of willful or wanton disregard for safety can arise from various situations – excessive speeding, street racing, road rage incidents, and more. But we also recognize the potential life-altering impacts a conviction can bring. Contact our reckless driving lawyers today to discuss your case.

Reckless Driving Penalties Under Vehicle Code Section 23103

A reckless driving violation under Vehicle Code Section 23103 is punishable by up to 90 days in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. But this is just the starting point. Depending on the circumstances, police may even temporarily seize your vehicle, leaving you without transportation for weeks after a conviction.

Not to mention, if the alleged reckless conduct causes injury to others, the charges increase in severity:

  • Reckless driving causing minor injury: Up to 6 months jail, $1,000 fine
  • Reckless driving causing great bodily injury: Potential felony charges with up to 3 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines

Felony reckless driving cases resulting in fatalities can lead to vehicular manslaughter or second-degree murder prosecutions – with sentences extending into decades behind bars.

Additionally, illegally engaging in speed contests–either racing against another vehicle or against the clock–is a crime under Vehicle Code Section 23109. Frequently charged alongside reckless driving allegations, these violations can result in misdemeanor convictions and further escalate penalties.

Defining “Willful or Wanton Disregard” in San Diego Criminal Courts

The core issue in any California reckless driving case is establishing whether the accused’s driving conduct meets the specific legal definition of “willful or wanton disregard for safety.” This key distinction separates reckless driving from other moving violations:

Willful or Wanton

As defined by California case law, “willful or wanton” requires more than just negligent or imprudent driving. Prosecutors must prove the accused was objectively aware their actions presented an unjustifiable, substantial risk of harm – and they made the conscious choice to disregard and ignore that risk.

Disregard for Safety

Simply operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner is not enough for reckless driving charges. There must be evidence the driving put the safety of people or property actively at risk through the driver’s willful indifference and conscious violation of their duty to drive safely.

It’s a nuanced distinction. An isolated instance of excessive speeding, for example, would not necessarily rise to this level without accompanying evidence of a blatant disregard for others’ safety.

Common Examples of Reckless Driving

A few examples where San Diego prosecutors actively pursue reckless driving charges include:

  • Street racing or illegal vehicle “sideshows”
  • Excessive speeding through residential areas or school zones
  • Aggressive driving behaviors like unsafe passing, failure to yield, weaving through traffic
  • Road rage incidents involving chasing, harassing, or forcing other drivers off the road

Skilled Defense for San Diego Reckless Driving Cases

Given the serious nature of reckless driving charges and their potential disruptions to your life, securing qualified legal counsel needs to be a top priority.

At the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, we deploy a comprehensive strategy to leverage the strongest possible defense. This includes exploring potential challenges to the evidence, negotiating with any potential mitigation, and preparing a robust defense for trial if necessary.

Some of the most effective defense avenues we pursue in appropriate cases include:

Mistaken Identity or No Evidence of Accused Driving

In some cases, the evidence tying the accused to operating the vehicle may be circumstantial or unconvincing. We’ll scrutinize the prosecution’s assertions to show any reasonable doubt.

Lack of “Willful or Wanton Disregard”

We’ll analyze whether the specific conduct genuinely establishes the legal threshold for a reckless driving offense versus a lesser infraction.

Justifiable Necessity or Emergency Circumstances

There are valid situations where perceived reckless driving may have been a justifiable course of action, such as evading immediate danger or responding to an emergency situation.

Potential Suppression of Illegally Obtained Evidence

If any part of the stop, investigation, or evidence collection violated your constitutional rights, we’ll fight to exclude that information from the prosecution’s case.

No matter how straightforward a reckless driving case may initially seem, our firm explores every option to craft the most effective defense strategy for your situation.

Trusted Advocates for Your Reckless Driving Charges

Reckless driving charges not only risk jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record, but convictions can destabilize your employment, driving privileges, and future opportunities.

At the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, our team has the skill, experience, and deep familiarity with San Diego’s judicial system to provide the highest caliber defense representation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the penalty for reckless driving in California?

The base penalty for misdemeanor reckless driving under Vehicle Code Section 23103 is up to 90 days in county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. If reckless driving causes injury, it can be charged as a felony with higher penalties.

Can police seize your vehicle for reckless driving in California?

Yes, the police can seize and impound your vehicle if you are arrested for reckless driving in California. According to the California Vehicle Code Section 23109.2, a peace officer has the authority to immediately remove and seize the motor vehicle used in certain reckless driving offenses, such as:

  • Engaging in a motor vehicle speed contest (street racing)
  • Reckless driving on a highway or public road
  • Reckless driving in an off-street parking facility
  • Exhibition of speed on a highway

The seized vehicle can be impounded for up to 30 days. Having your vehicle seized can create significant inconvenience and financial burden, in addition to the penalties associated with a reckless driving conviction. An experienced defense lawyer can help protect your rights and potentially prevent or minimize these consequences based on the specific circumstances of your case.

How long does reckless driving stay on your record in California?

A reckless driving conviction will remain on your California criminal record permanently unless you take legal action to get it expunged or dismissed.

What happens if you go over 100 mph in CA?

Driving over 100 mph on a California freeway or highway can lead to charges under Vehicle Code Section 22348. This carries penalties of up to $1,000 in fines, points on your license, and license suspension by the DMV, in addition to reckless driving charges.

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges in California, swift action is imperative. The penalties can be life altering and long lasting. Give us a call today to set up a case evaluation with one of our attorneys and learn how to best protect your freedom and future. Too often, we see clients who “wait and see,” unsure of the legal landscape ahead, only for charges to escalate. They then find themselves backpedaling into a bad defense and an even worse lawyer. Don’t let that happen to you. Protect your freedom. Protect your future. Know your rights.

The contents of this article are meant for informational and marketing purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Viewing and/or use of the blog does not form an attorney-client relationship. No statements in this post are a guarantee, warranty, or prediction of a particular result in your case.


Client Reviews

Real Clients Share Their Experience

“David and his staff did an excellent job managing all aspects of my case. He and his staff are professional, courteous, and do their best to take care of their client’s needs. When I had initially called for a consultation they were prompt with a response. They answered my questions regarding my case, explained what my options were, and had developed a game plan during our first phone call. He has a very reasonable pricing. When dealing with either David or his support staff I felt that they always had my best interests in mind. I would definitely use their services in the future if the need arises. I would definitely recommend his legal services to any friends and family in the San Diego area.”

—Chris S.  —  Google Review