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Reckless Driving Law & Defense

Vehicle Code Section 23103 & 23104

Information on the crime of reckless driving is found at California vehicle code section 23103 and 23104. VC 23103 is charged where there is no injury caused by reckless driving and VC 23104 is charged where there is injury caused by the reckless driving.

VC 23103 Law

VC 23103 is charged as a misdemeanor. To prove that the defendant drove his or her vehicle recklessly the district attorney will need to prove that the defendant drove a vehicle on a highway, street, or parking lot, with wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or property.

Wanton disregard for the safety of others means that the defendant was aware that the manner in which he or she was driving presented a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to others, and that the defendant intentionally ignored that risk of harm.

Reckless driving is not charged for simply exceeding the speed limit unless the driver's speed is so much over the posted speed limit that it amounts to wanton disregard to the safety of others or property.

According to VC 23103, a vehicle may be just about any type of device that is used to move things on a road or highway, such as a tractor, motor home, golf cart, etc.

Examples of reckless driving might include: weaving in-and-out of lanes without signaling or at extreme close proximity to other vehicles, driving at a very high rate of speed considering the terrain or posted speed limit, racing another vehicle, exhibiting speed in a dangerous way, driving at a normal speed considering the terrain but in a way that is dangerous, such as driving while intoxicated, or driving with a view-obstructing mask.

VC 23104 (Reckless driving with injury): is charged where the defendant is accused of reckless driving that caused severe injury. VC 23104 may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Whether or not the district attorney files misdemeanor or felony VC 23104 charges depends largely on the egregiousness of the defendant's actions, the severity of the injury cause, and the defendant's criminal history. 

Wet Reckless VC 23105.5

Reckless driving while intoxicated, also known as a wet reckless, may be charged as a reduced plea in a DUI case. This charge is filed as VC 23103.5. This charge is not filed as a criminal charge in a criminal complaint for DUI. Instead, wet reckless is charged only after the filing of DUI charges that are later reduced as part of a plea bargain to wet reckless charges. For information on DUI and wet reckless, please visit our DUI page.

Punishment & Sentence

Reckless driving filed under VC 23013 is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty the defendant may face up to ninety (90) days in the county jail. Reckless driving that results in injury is filed under VC 23104 and may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor VC 23104 charges carry up to a hundred eighty day (180) jail sentence; felony VC 23104 charges carry up to a three (3) year prison sentence.

Collateral Punishment: In addition to any possible jail or prison sentence the defendant could be punished with any of the following: loss of driver's license (revocation or suspension), restitution to any victim for injury or property loss, fines, civil lawsuits, firearm ownership or possession for any felony conviction, professional licensing consequences, and immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens.

Defenses to Reckless Driving

Common defenses to reckless driving charged as VC 23103 or 23104 include: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was driving a vehicle, insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant's conduct was reckless under the circumstance, or insufficient evidence to prove injury exists or was caused by reckless driving, statute of limitations, necessity (emergency that included a risk of harm greater than the risk of harm created by the reckless driving), police misconduct that leads to suppression of evidence, such as coerced confessions or questioning a defendant after arrest and without a waiver of the defendant's Miranda rights, and more.

If you or a loved one is charged with reckless driving, or vehicle code 23103, 23104, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our attorneys have successfully handled hundreds of driving offenses, including reckless driving charges and our attorneys are available seven days a week to answer all of your questions. Call today! 


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VC 23103 & 23104: Reckless Driving


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Crimes Related to Reckless Driving VC 23103

  • Wet Reckless VC 23103.5
  • Reckless Driving With Bodily Injury VC 23014
  • Speeding In Excess of Posted Limit VC 22356
  • Driving At Unsafe Speed VC 22350
  • Evading Police VC 2800
  • Speeding In Excess of 100 MPH VC 22348(b)
  • Engage in a Speed Contest VC 23109

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VC 23103: Reckless Driving

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California Reckless Driving Law & Defense / VC 23103, 23104, & 23105


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