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Can a Reckless Driver Be Criminally Charged with a Felony?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Nov 30, 2022

A new law is coming out because of all of the street racing and dangerous driving in Los Angeles County that says that if you drive recklessly and kill somebody, not only can you be charged with a felony, but you can also be charged with California Penal Code 187 PC murder.  It makes sense when you think about some of the laws that are in place now.

Can a Reckless Driver Be Criminally Charged with a Felony?

Suppose you're driving under the influence of alcohol and kill somebody. In that case, the legislature says you can be charged with second-degree murder because you should know that drinking alcohol would cause you to drive unsafely, and it is foreseeable you might kill somebody. 

It's the same premise as reckless driving.  These people are whipping around the street, raising and driving crazily – that is wanton, dangerous conduct, and it is foreseeable that you could kill somebody – you could kill your passenger, a pedestrian, or even someone in another vehicle.

So, the bottom line is, if you or a loved one has driven recklessly and the prosecutors are either looking at or charging you with murder or a felony, you need one of the best criminal defense attorneys you can find.

This is because judges and prosecutors rarely show sympathy in cases like these, especially when someone has passed away and the family is putting pressure on them to do something about it and to punish the offender that caused injuries or the death of their loved one. Let's review this topic in more detail below.

What is VC 23103 Reckless Driving?

California Vehicle Code 23103 VC defines reckless driving as operating a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.

VC 23103 VC says, “anyone who drives a vehicle upon a highway or off-street parking facility in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Anyone convicted shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days or more than 90 days, up to a $1,000 fine, or both fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 23104 or 23105.”

Under California law, someone acts with a wanton disregard for safety when they are aware their actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm and intentionally ignore that risk.

Speeding does not prove that someone was reckless; instead, speed is just one factor determining whether a defendant drove recklessly.

What Are the Penalties for VC 23103?

A fundamental violation of Vehicle Code 23103 VC is a misdemeanor that carries five to 90 days in county jail and a fine between $145 and $1,000.However, the penalties are more severe if there are minor or serious injuries to another person.

Of note is that VC 23103 is frequently used as a dry reckless plea bargain to avoid a conviction under California DUI laws.

If violating VC 23103 causes a minor bodily injury to someone, it's also a misdemeanor, but it carries 30 days to one year in jail and a fine between $220 and $1,000.

A VC 23103 violation is a wobbler if somebody is seriously injured. A conviction for felony reckless driving carries up to three years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

What is VC 23105 Reckless Driving with Serious Injury?

California Vehicle Code 23105 VC makes it a crime for someone to drive recklessly and cause an accident where another person is seriously injured, including a loss of consciousness, a concussion, or a broken bone.

VC 23105 says, “anyone convicted of reckless driving in violation of Section 23103 that causes injuries to a person shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 30 days nor more than six months, or by a fine up to $1,000. This applies to injuries such as loss of consciousness, concussion, bone fracture, loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ, wound requiring extensive suturing, serious disfigurement, brain injury, or paralysis.”

If convicted of a felony violation of VC 23105, the penalties include up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

What are the Related Crimes?

A related crime is reckless driving causing injury, defined under Vehicle Code 23104 VC. This statute does not define “injury,” but someone can be guilty of causing any injury while driving recklessly.

California Vehicle Code 23109 VC makes it a crime to participate in a speed contest willfully, which is when someone races their vehicle against another or a timing device. A perpetrator does not have to cause any injury to be guilty under this law.

Review of the Case Details

What I have you do is come into the office.  We sit down, and we go over your case, and we see what the positives are and what the negatives are.

Reckless Driving Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

The type of stuff the prosecutors are going to be looking at in reckless driving and felony murder cases are:

  • What does your past driving record look like?
  • Do you have a bunch of speeding tickets?
  • Do you have accidents?
  • Do you have dangerous driving?

The more they can get that type of information, the more likely they are to try to be as harsh as possible against you, and that information may well be relevant in a potential trial against you.

If, on the flip side, this was an aberration – you have no bad driving record, you have no criminal record, and you made just a simple mistake, and it was an accident, then you shouldn't be charged with a felony or murder.

So, if you're charged with one of these reckless driving felonies or murders, or it's one of your loved ones, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.

I've worked for a superior court judge, for the district attorney's office in LA County, and been a criminal defense attorney defending people just like you and your loved one for 30 years. 

I started in the early 1990s and have been doing it ever since.  The Hedding Law Firm provides a free case evaluation by phone or fill out the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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