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Reckless Driving Law & Defense
VC 23103(a)

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 the defendant's reckless driving and VC 23104 is charged where there is injury caused by the defendant's reckless driving.

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. This is a subjective test proved by the circumstances surrounding the crime.

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, and more


VC 23103: 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.

VC 23104 (Reckless driving with injury): Charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Whether or not the district attorney files misdemeanor or felony VC 23104 after reckless driving with injury depends largely on the egregiousness of the defendant's actions, the severity of the injury, and defendant's criminal history. 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 jail sentence.

Wet Reckless: 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, please see wet reckless.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of supervision instead of a jail sentence. Probaion sentence may be available in some reckless driving cases depending on the facts of the case, the defendant's criminal history, and the terms of any pleas agreement. Sometimes, a probation sentence includes an order for work release or house arrest that is intended to serve as an alternative to a jail sentence.

Collateral Punishment: In addition to any possible jail 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, points on the defendant's driving record, and more.

Defense to Reckless Driving

Common defenses to reckless driving charged under 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!


Related Crimes


  • Wet Reckless VC 23103.5

  • Speeding In Excess of Posted Limit VC 22356

  • Driving At Unsafe Speed VC 22350

  • Speeding In Excess of 100 MPH VC 22348(b)

  • Engage in a Speed Contest VC 23109

Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Reckless Driving

Code: VC 23103(a) (CalCrim No. 2200 & 3223)

Wobbler: No. VC 23103(a) is not a wobbler. VC 23103(a) is only charged as a misdemeanor.​


Incarceration: ​VC 23103(a) jail sentence up to 90 days.

Probation: Probation is available in VC 23103(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

Strike: VC 23103(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: VC 23103(a) is not a crime involving moral turpitude.


Bail: $5,000 (San Bernardino County)

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