Are Careless Driving and Reckless Driving the Same in Florida?

By December 9, 2015Traffic Tickets

By: Miami Traffic Violation Lawyer Albert Quirantes

You are driving down the road into town when your mobile phone rings. You know you shouldn’t use it but you are expecting your child to ring up and you are worried about where they are. You pick up the phone and answer the call, then wham! You hit the car in front, which must have stopped suddenly without you noticing.

You’ve done quite a bit of damage to the car’s trunk and the passenger seems to be injured at first sight. A cop appears and after quite a bit of discussion with you, the other driver, the passenger in the other car who seems to be ok, gives you a citation for careless driving. Is this fair? What kind of offense is this and what could the penalties be? Should you contact a Miami defense lawyer? What is careless driving anyway and how is it different from reckless driving?

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In many states, there may be more than one way of classifying driving behavior which is considered unsatisfactory. In some states there is no statute that specifically refers to “careless driving” but there may be a “reckless driving” statute. In others, it’s the other way round and in some states there are separate statutes that refer to careless and reckless driving separately. That’s the way it is in Florida. It’s a bit confusing but basically what is classified as “careless driving”, a civil traffic infraction, is considered less serious than “reckless driving”, a criminal traffic offense in Florida and the penalties that apply to careless driving are obviously less severe than for reckless driving.

A driver that is driving “recklessly” must be proven to have been driving with “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety or live of other road users or pedestrians or property. A reckless driver, in other words, knows that they are driving dangerously and that if they continue they could cause damage to somebody’s property or cause an accident which injures o kills someone.

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Careless driving is any sort of driving which stops short of “willful or wanton disregard”. In other words, the careless driver doesn’t set out deliberately to drive in such a way that they could endanger life or limb or property.  This is more like the “negligence” standard in civil law, except that it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in traffic court.  That’s where your traffic lawyer comes in to play.

Obviously, there is a grey area between careless driving and reckless driving and it may be open to the interpretation of the police officer or officers which offense you may be charged with, if at all. But both allegations are vague and without setting forth with particularity what constitutes the careless or reckless conduct, a person does not know what exactly is to be defended.  This is where your ticket lawyer can cause the case to be dismissed early on.

If you are charged with reckless driving, the consequences of a conviction being sustained could be severe. Reckless driving is about the most serious traffic offenses apart from DUI and in fact, a drunk driving arrest may be accompanied by a reckless driving charge if you are considered to be driving dangerously because you were drinking or affected by drugs.

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A reckless driving charge is considered a misdemeanor, so is actually a criminal charge and you could end up with a criminal record if you are convicted. If you seriously injure someone or even kill them because of the way you were driving, then the reckless diving may become a felony.

First time misdemeanor reckless driving charges can result in up to 90 days in prison and a fine of between $25 and $500 plus court costs in the hundreds of dollars. Your license may also be suspended and you will incur four points on your license. The most expensive effect will be the insurance hike for the next three to five years and the effect on your job if you end up in jail or are a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder. A conviction may cause you to be disqualified.

Because of the fine line between careless driving and reckless driving, it is always sensible to use the services of an experienced Florida traffic ticket lawyer. There are usually ways in which the lawyer can help to mount a credible defense and perhaps avoid you getting a criminal conviction which could affect your life for a very long time.

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My best advice to you right now is never to go to court without having hired a traffic violation lawyer. The money you invest now in trying to get your case reduced, withheld from your record or dismissed will pale in comparison with the cost of being convicted of reckless driving or careless driving.

Increase your knowledge! If you want to know more about how to resolve the problems you face when charged with a DUI, criminal offense, or traffic ticket in Florida, then you can follow Albert M. Quirantes – Ticket Law Center, A Criminal & DUI Defense Law Firm on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

If you have any questions about this or any other Traffic Ticket, DUI or Criminal accusation, call Miami TicketLawyer Albert Quirantes at: 305-644-1800 or visit our homepage at for a direct link to the office or a text message or a map and directions.

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