Reckless Driving

Reckless Driving Section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code is the statutory basis for “Reckless” driving which is defined as any person who drives a motor vehicle in “a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Section 23103(a) applies to those driving in such a manner while on a highway, and Section 23103(b) applies to those driving in an off street parking facility. If there is no injury involved to anyone other than the driver it is a misdemeanor with a jail sentence of 5 to 90 days, a fine of $145 to $1000, or both. If a person drives in violation of 23103 in order to photograph or in some other way record the image of another for commercial purposes, typically paparazzi, they are guilty of a misdemeanor with a sentence of up to 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both1. If the described driving endangers a child then the jail sentence is increased to up to 1 year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both2.

Reckless Driving That Causes Injury

Reckless Driving That Causes Injury If there is an injury to another as the result of a person driving in reckless disregard for the safety of others, the sentence if convicted for the offense is not less than 30 days, nor more than 6 months in jail, a fine of $220 to $1000, or both3.

If a person has previously been convicted of reckless driving, or 23109 (speed contest) of the Vehicle Code, or driving under the influence, and causes an injury accident while driving in violation of 23103, and those injuries are considered serious injuries as defined in section 12022.7 of the California Penal Code, they can receive a felony sentence with a state prison term of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, or can be sentenced as a misdemeanor with a jail sentence of 30 days to 6 months, a fine of $220 to $1000, or both4.

The Elements of Reckless Driving

The Elements of Reckless Driving “Wantonness” means being aware of one’s conduct with an intent to commit or omit the act or acts in question, knowing such conduct would likely injure another, and with a reckless disregard for the consequences of that conduct.

“Willful” means “intentional,” however it means more than just the intent to commit the act or acts which threaten others, it also includes the intent to disregard the safety of others during the commission of the act or acts5. Negligence or even gross negligence is insufficient to constitute reckless driving under the statute6.

“Wet Reckless”

Wet Reckless Sometimes a charge of driving under the influence, where the facts justify it, will be reduced to a violation of reckless driving under the provisions of Section 23103.5. That section requires the prosecution to make a statement of the factual basis for reducing the offense, including whether there had been the consumption of alcohol beverages or drugs in connection with the offense7.

Notwithstanding the reduction of the driving under the influence charge to a “wet reckless,” it still may be used as a prior conviction to enhance the penalties for a future violation of driving under the influence8. The person convicted will also have to enroll in and complete an alcohol program; however its duration is usually shorter than it would be for driving under the influence9.


1Section 40008(a) of the California Vehicle Code
2Section 40008(b) of the California Vehicle Code
3Section 23104(a) of the California Vehicle Code
4Section 23104(b) of the California Vehicle Code
5People v. McNutt (1940) 40 C.A.2d Supp. 835, 837, 105 P.2d 657; People v. Schumacher (1961) 194 C.A.2d 335, 340, 14 C.R. 924.
6People v. Allison (1951) 101 C.A.2d Supp. 932, 934, 226 P.2d 85.
7Section 23103.5(a) of the California Vehicle Code
8Section 23103.5(c) of the California Vehicle Code.
9Section 23105.5(e) of the California Vehicle Code.