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Careless Driving vs. Reckless Driving in Florida: What’s the Difference?


While people frequently use the terms “reckless driving” and “careless driving” interchangeably, there is actually a huge difference between these two offenses in Florida.

Careless driving is governed by Florida Statute §316.1925 which states that, “Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section.” Careless driving is a moving violation, punishable by steep fines and the assessment of points on your driver’s license, which can lead to increased insurance rates and the suspension of your driver’s license. Careless driving citations are commonly referred to as the catch-all citation since they are often issued when the police officer can’t find any other specific traffic law violation that seems to fit the charge. In Florida, police officers commonly give a careless driving citation to the driver they believe to be at fault in a car accident. Careless driving citations are particularly common in rear-end accidents where the police officer did not witness the accident and the person who was rear-ended didn’t see what happened or know why the accident happened.

Unlike a careless driving charge which is a civil traffic offense in Florida, reckless driving is a criminal traffic offense in Florida.

According to Florida Statute §316.192, “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” As used in the reckless driving statute, “willful” means intentional, knowing, and purposeful, and “wanton” means with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or property. Some examples of reckless driving in Florida include, but are not limited to, drag racing on the highway, weaving in and out of traffic at an extremely high rate of speed, and fleeing law enforcement in a vehicle.

A first-time reckless driving conviction is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

However, if you have previously been convicted with reckless driving, you can face enhanced penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1000. If you are driving recklessly and are in an accident that causes damage to property or another person, you can be convicted of a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $1000 fine. If you are driving recklessly and are in an accident that causes serious bodily injury or death, you can be convicted of a first degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5000 fine. Also, a reckless driving conviction will result in the assessment of four points on your driver’s license.

If you have been charged with careless driving or reckless driving in South Florida, it is in your best interests to hire an experienced Miami traffic defense lawyer or Fort Lauderdale traffic defense lawyer to represent you. Here at the South Florida law firm of Galanter Law, our skilled Miami traffic lawyers and Fort Lauderdale traffic lawyers have substantial experience defending clients with careless driving or reckless driving charges as well as all other civil and criminal traffic offenses. Our lawyers will do everything in their power to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether and prevent you from getting points on your driver’s license. Time is of the essence—if you’ve received a civil or criminal traffic violation, contact us immediately.

Commentary by Fort Lauderdale Traffic Ticket Attorney Yale Galanter:

Yale Galanter, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer, has over 30 years of experience providing discreet and aggressive legal counseling to both public figures and clients looking for precise and excellent legal defense. Yale Galanter is known for his personal representation and attention to your criminal matter.

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