Whether it’s texting and driving, or breaking up a brawl between the kids in the backseat while trying to navigate our way onto I-95, it is very rare that our focus is solely on the business of driving. When we notice this behavior in others, we can often get a bit rankled when we think they are taking the well-being of others into their hands. Yet, there are few, if any, of us who are not guilty of multitasking. According to one source, to multitask is defined as follows: “(of one person) to perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” We may all think that we know what we are doing, but to others, our multitasking may appear to be careless…or is it reckless? Often, those words are used interchangeably, and the average driver may not understand the differences. The state of Florida, however, is very clear in defining the meaning of “reckless driving” in statute 316.192. It states that reckless driving occurs when anyone drives a vehicle in a manner that willfully disregards the safety of others or property. The statute uses fleeing from law enforcement as an example of reckless driving.
RECKLESS DRIVNG CAN LAND YOU IN JAIL
A reckless driving traffic citation can result in both a fine and time in jail, depending upon the seriousness of the infraction. If the reckless driving results in property damage, the driver can be charged with a misdemeanor reckless driving offense. If, however, the reckless driving results in in serious injury to another person, the driver can be charged with a third degree felony. Even for a first offense, reckless driving can be punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail because reckless driving is determined by your state of mind at the time it occurred. If your actions are construed as having knowingly put others in dangers, it could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to six months in jail for a second offense. Driving under the influence is considered reckless driving because the driver knowingly endangered others by drinking or taking drugs before getting behind the wheel.
Careless driving, on the other hand, is a much less serious offense, and the statute is written a bit more broadly. It states that any driver “shall operate a vehicle…in a careful and prudent manner”, however a careful and prudent manner can be open to broad interpretation. It is still considered a moving violation, although it is a non-criminal misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine. Offenses such as speeding are usually classified as careless driving and often result in a fine and points on your driver’s license, if you just pay the traffic ticket. Unlike reckless driving, careless driving tends to be a matter of making poor decisions, not having wanton disregard for the well-being of others.
Often, how you behave when the cop pulls you over will affect whether you are issued a reckless driving or a careless driving traffic ticket. If the police officer sees you weaving in and out of traffic or trying to cut someone else off, your aggressive driving tactics are likely to be construed as reckless driving. Under Florida law, aggressive driving is not, in itself, a punishable offense and is defined by committing two unsafe driving actions at a time. If a police officer sees you speed up to keep someone from getting in front of you and then gleefully extend your middle finger, you can bet that this will result in a reckless driving ticket.
Another matter to consider is how you treat the cop once he stops you. Don’t lose sight of the fact that he has a choice in how he charges you. Keep that in mind no matter how annoyed you may be at the time of being stopped or how unjust you may feel the cop and the system are. If you are angry, aggressive, or insulting to him, in all likelihood, he is going to hit you with the most stringent charges that are available under the law. I can assure you that the officer will be making notations on the ticket regarding your “aggressive” behavior which will not bode well for you when you are standing before a hearing officer or judge in court.
Charles Swindoll stated, “Attitude is everything,” so, when it comes to fighting your traffic ticket, which you should almost always do, you may want to keep a positive disposition with both the police officer and the judge. Don’t try to justify why you were behaving recklessly as it is seldom considered a defensible position. The courtroom in front of a judge is the place to defend yourself and your actions, so remain polite and never admit to violating ANY traffic laws.
Broward County alone has over 6,000 police officers who are on the prowl for those of us who may be distracted. It only takes one cop to find you multitasking before you end up with a careless driving or reckless driving traffic ticket. Don’t forget that you can help determine which it will be for you by your behavior. Granted, some police officers will automatically level the heaviest charges against drivers that they can, but the majority of officers are just doing the job and not necessarily out there on a power trip. When it comes to fighting traffic citations, the odds are against you having a successful outcome, so you need to do all that you can to assure this happens. Adjusting your attitude is just one way to achieve a positive result in traffic court, and hiring a good traffic ticket attorney is another. The experienced traffic ticket attorneys at the Traffic Ticket Team can offer not only good, sound advice regarding your traffic ticket, but also an outstanding defense. Our understanding of Florida traffic laws and presenting defenses such as the interpretation of a “careful and prudent manner” can usually result in a dismissal of the ticket or the reduction in fines and penalties. We will be happy to help you determine what the best course of action is for your set of circumstances, so call us for a free consultation at 954-967-9888.
Jason Diamond, Esq. is the Founding Lawyer Partner of the Traffic Ticket Team. His Attorneys have over 50 years of combined experience and have handled over 1,000,000 Florida traffic tickets. As Traffic Ticket Lawyers we have given traffic ticket legal clinic seminars throughout Florida. To find Attorney locations, click HERE. Our traffic tickets are defended in Miami-Dade, Broward & Palm Beach counties and we also fight traffic tickets statewide.