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Reckless Driving

When property is damaged as a result of someone driving a vehicle recklessly, the driver who inflicted damage is not only held responsible, but that person can also be charged with a crime. In some cases, the criminal offense of reckless driving can be charged even though no crash occurred.

The very definition of “reckless driving” is open to subjective interpretation. Section 316.192 of the Florida Statutes defines “reckless driving” as occurring when “any person drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” or when a driver flees from a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle (emphasis added).

In West Palm Beach and throughout Palm Beach County, the police will often assert that a driver acted with “willful or wanton disregard” and file a reckless driving charge when they cannot prove a driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol. 

A traffic ticket or lesser “careless driving” may have been more appropriate, if any charge is justified at all. But unlike a traffic ticket, a charge of reckless driving should not be shrugged off as a minor problem.

A charge of Reckless Driving is a criminal offense. The charge of Reckless Driving with Property Damage raises the stakes to a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 month in jail and a $1,000 fine. The court can also order the driver to pay restitution as a condition of probation.

Attorney for Reckless Driving in Palm Beach County, FL

If you were arrested or issued a Notice to Appear for a charge of Reckless Driving or Reckless Driving with Property Damage in West Palm Beach, Florida, or anywhere in Palm Beach County, FL, then you should contact an experienced local criminal defense attorney today.

In addition to the criminal penalties you might face after a conviction, you could be sued for property damage and your driver’s license could also be suspended. One unfortunate incident may have long-term consequences if you do not act quickly to protect your rights. 

A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can act on your behalf to defend your rights. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. is focused on defending drivers from all sorts of criminal charges, including reckless driving, DUI, and other criminal traffic offenses. We attack the prosecutor’s case at every stage of the case. Our attorneys fight to obtain a reduction or an outright dismissal of charges.

Meltzer & Bell, P.A. has a main office in West Palm Beach, but we also serve clients throughout Palm Beach County, including Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Wellington, Lake Worth, Jupiter, and Palm Beach Gardens. Call Meltzer & Bell, P.A. at (561) 557-8686 today to schedule a free consultation about your Reckless Driving with Property Damage charge.


Reckless Driving Crimes in Florida

Anybody can file a complaint alleging property damage, including allegations of the infliction of non-serious personal injury. A dented car, a torn-up lawn, or a broken mailbox all have diminished value after being damaged by a vehicle in a crash. A responsible driver will admit an accident and pay up, within reason. Many neighborhood fender-benders and minor parking lot incidents are handled without police intervention every day.

When reckless driving is allegedly the cause of property damage, a criminal prosecution can occur. Under F.S. § 316.192(3)(c)(1), a person is guilty of Reckless Driving with Property Damage if the driver:

  • Drives any vehicle in willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or
  • Flees a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle

and 

  • Operates a vehicle and by such operation causes damage to the property or person of another

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What is “Willful and Wonton” Disregard?

The Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases (No. 28.5) issued by the Florida Supreme Court define some of the key terms related to a reckless driving prosecution.

“Willful” means intentionally, knowingly and purposely. “Wanton” means with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or property. (See W.E.B. v. State, 553 So. 2d 323 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989).)

Determining the intentions of a person by briefly witnessing an action — or the aftermath of an action — is fraught with speculation. A skilled criminal defense attorney can exploit these incongruities while exposing weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.


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Penalties for Reckless Driving with Property Damage

Reckless Driving with Property Damage is penalized more severely under Florida law than reckless driving without property damage, which is criminally punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a fine of between $25 and $500.

According to §§ 775.082 and 775.083 of the Florida Statutes, a first-degree misdemeanor, including Reckless Driving with Property Damage, is punishable upon conviction by a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The court may also order restitution for damaged property or a separate civil suit may demand compensation for property damage or non-serious personal injury.

In addition, if the court has reasonable cause to believe that the use of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances contributed to a reckless driving violation, the court shall direct a convicted person to complete a DUI program substance abuse education course and evaluation, as well as substance abuse treatment, if indicated (F.S. § 316.192(5)), even if evidence of alcohol use is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Furthermore, a person’s driver’s license may be suspended after a conviction for reckless driving if the new conviction adds too many “points” to a driver’s record.


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Additional Resources

Florida Statutes, Title XXIII, Chapter 316, § 316.192 — Reckless Driving — Read the Florida law that defines reckless driving and enumerates the penalties for reckless driving offenses, including reckless driving with property damage.


Find a Lawyer for Reckless Driving in West Palm Beach, FL

Reckless Driving or Reckless Driving with Property Damage is a criminal charge that could result in severe and expensive penalties. If you were charged with any type of Reckless Driving offense, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case as soon as possible.

The experienced criminal traffic attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. understand how the system works and we are well-prepared to represent clients throughput Palm Beach County in Reckless Driving cases, including reckless driving with property damage and other misdemeanor offenses.

We vigorously fight to defend the legal and property rights of our clients, whether they come from West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Wellington, Boynton Beach, Jupiter or Bell Glade.

Call Meltzer & Bell, P.A. today at (561) 557-8686 to schedule a meeting with one of our dedicated Palm Beach County criminal defense lawyers.


This article was last updated on Friday, May 19, 2017.

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