Reckless Driving in California - Vehicle Code 23103 VC
California Vehicle Code 23103 VC prohibits reckless driving, defined as operating a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for other people's or property's safety. If convicted of reckless driving, it's a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000.00, and two points on your DMV driver's license record.
To convict you of violating VC 23103 reckless driving law, a prosecutor must prove that you drove a vehicle on a highway or in an off-street parking facility and that you drove with wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
VC 23103 says, "(a) A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
(b) A person who drives a vehicle in an off-street parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in Section 40008, persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one hundred forty-five dollars ($145) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 23104 or 23105."
The law defines "reckless driving" as driving a vehicle on a highway or an off-street parking facility with “wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
This law is often called “dry reckless” driving, as opposed to “wet reckless” per Vehicle Code 21303.5 VC because defense attorneys frequently use it as a plea-bargaining tool in DUI cases to try to downgrade the charges.
Reckless Driving – Quick Facts
There are some essential facts you should know about California Vehicle Code 23103 reckless driving law, such as the following:
- A “highway” means any publicly maintained road open for vehicle travel, such as public roads and freeways, but does not include private roads.
- An “off-street parking facility” is any area where vehicles are parked open to the public, including parking lots or garages.
- “Wanton disregard for safety” means someone is aware their actions present an unnecessary risk of harm but chooses to do so anyway.
- “Wantonness” is a high degree of negligence and indifference to safety, including excessive speed, weaving in and out of traffic lanes, running stop signs or lights, and any other dangerous maneuvers.
- Speeding alone does not prove that you were driving recklessly, but it is only one factor to consider.
- You do not have to cause damage to be charged with this crime; instead, only drive in a manner that endangers others and their property.
- It does not have to be proven that you intended to cause damage to be convicted, only that you were showing wanton disregard for safety, not that you wanted to cause damage or injury.
What are Related Crimes?
Several California laws are related to Vehicle Code 23103 reckless driving, such as the following:
- Vehicle Code 23103.5 VC – wet reckless is a standard DUI charge reduction. It typically results from a DUI plea bargain and includes a note that there is alcohol or drug use involved.
- Vehicle Code 23104 VC – reckless driving causing injury can be charged if you commit reckless driving and cause an injury to another person.
- Vehicle Code 23105 VC – reckless driving resulting in serious injuries is a wobbler if it causes specific serious injuries to another person, such as a concussion, loss of consciousness, or a disfigurement.
- Vehicle Code 23109 VC – an exhibition of speed means to willfully participate in a speed contest described as racing your car against another vehicle or a clock. It's possible to be charged with reckless driving and a speed contest.
- Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC – driving under the influence (DUI).
- Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC – driving with BAC .08% or higher.
- Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC – DUI of drugs (DUID).
- Vehicle Code 23153 VC – DUI causing injury.
What are the VC 23103 Penalties?
A standard basic violation of VC 23103 is a misdemeanor. If convicted, you will be facing the following penalties:
- Between five and 90 days in a county jail,
- A fine ranging from $145 to $1000,
- Two points on your DMV driving record. Accumulating too many driving record points during a specific period could result in a driver's license suspension for being a negligent operator. Also, in most cases, your car insurance premium will increase.
Judges often impose probation for one to five years as an alternative to jail time. If your “dry reckless” conviction is part of a plea bargain with the prosecutor to avoid more serious DUI penalties, you might be required to attend DUI classes as part of your sentence.
What Are the Enhanced Penalties for Injuries?
Suppose your reckless driving causes injury to someone. In that case, the penalties are typically more severe, such as the following:
- A minor bodily injury to another person is still a misdemeanor, but the penalties will be increased to 30 days to one year in county jail and a fine ranging from $220 to $1,000.
- A serious bodily injury to another person is a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony based on the case details and your criminal history. A felony carries up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and vehicle impoundment.
What is a “Dry Reckless” as a DUI Plea Bargain?
California Vehicle Code 23103 VC reckless driving is frequently used as a plea bargain to avoid a conviction under the DUI laws. This form of a plea bargain with the prosecution is called a “dry reckless” plea deal.
It means you can avoid the most severe DUI penalties. For example, you could receive a shorter jail sentence and time on probation, smaller fines, no driver's license suspension, or face any mandatory sentencing enhancements if you were charged with a subsequent DUI later.
What Are the Legal Defenses to VC 23103?
Suppose you were charged with reckless driving under VC 23103. In that case, our California criminal defense attorneys can use several strategies to obtain the best possible outcomes, such as the following:
- You were not driving recklessly,
- You were not the driver,
- There was an emergency.
Maybe we can argue there was no wanton disregard. Recall from above that VC 23103 violations require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving a car with a wanton disregard for safety.
Perhaps we can argue that you were not intentionally ignoring the risk of harm to others when driving. This term must be clarified and could be difficult for the prosecution to prove. Maybe we can show that your actions don't meet the standards of wanton disregard for safety, and the charges may be dismissed.
Maybe we can argue that you are the victim of mistaken identity or were not the driver. Perhaps you were incorrectly identified as the driver in a reckless driving case. Perhaps we can argue that aggressive driving was necessary. Maybe you had an emergency or needed to avoid a hazard.
Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. Cron, Israels, and Stark are based in Los Angeles, CA.
- DUI Speed Enhancement
- Running a Stop Sign
- Driving Over 100 MPH on a Freeway
- California Vehicle Code 23103 VC
- California Vehicle Code 23104 VC
- California Vehicle Code 23105 VC
- CALCRIM No. 2200. Reckless Driving
- CALCRIM No. 3223. Reckless Driving With Injury
- People v. Barber, 55 Cal.App.5th 787 (2020)