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Q: Reckless Driving Charge - General Information ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Reckless Driving Charge - General Information
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: skeefy1-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 03 Oct 2002 12:10 PDT
Expires: 02 Nov 2002 11:10 PST
Question ID: 72125
I was recently cited for "Reckless Driving" on a California road and I
would like some general information about this charge and how it might
be handled.  Clearly, the person who answers this question should
understand the traffic/civil laws pertaining to this offense and will
preferably have direct experience with this type of offense.

Details:  The paperwork that the officer gave me notes the violation
as "23101/A/VC" (the A/VC parts are unclear, but that's what I think
it says), has the Speed Approx. as "90+", P.F./Max Spd. as "65". 
Basically, the officer told me that I made a "multitude" of violations
that included an unsafe lane change, driving over a shoulder and
speed.  The court date is set for 12/5 in Superior Court.

I just moved to Chicago about 4 days before the incident, but I still
had my CA drivers license.  I was driving a rental car and had all the
insurance/registration information.

Direct Questions:
* I understand that Reckless Driving is a "misdemeanor".  How likely
is it that I can have this reduced to a lesser offense?  I have only a
red-light violation on my record, about 18 mo ago (taken care of in
traffic school).
* Should I hire an attorney to represent me, even if I plead guilty?
* I disagree with some of the information, such as the 90+
speed...should I attempt to contest or will this make the situation
* If convicted of this misdemeanor, what are the implications.  I read
that it will be on my record for 7 years, but will this pass on to
Illiois?  Are there fees I'll be responsible for?
* I'm a travelling consultant and don't need a car in Chicago, so I
don't have personal insurance...but when I do need insurance, will
these be a big problem?

Thanks a ton for helping me out on this!  Good background information
will help me make the right decisions as I move forward with this.
Subject: Re: Reckless Driving Charge - General Information
Answered By: expertlaw-ga on 11 Oct 2002 23:02 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear skeefy1,

Before I go into detail, I'll provide an abbreviated answer. You are
charged with a criminal offense, and there is a good chance you can
get the charge reduced to a civil infraction, particularly if you use
a lawyer. Using a lawyer may also enable you to resolve the matter
without the necessity of returning to California  for court hearings.
Also, obtaining a conviction to a lesser offense should reduce the
fines, court costs, and increased insurance premiums associated with
the offense (should you need to obtain a car), while eliminating the
possibility of probation or jail time. (As noted herein, most courts
would suspend any jail time associated with this type of charge.)

I. Background Information

The vehicle offense code you describe, 23101, is a code for a drunk
driving offense. It seems likely that the officer either noted the
incorrect offense code, or that your copy isnt' clear. The proper code
for reckless driving is 23103(a). This would appear on the ticket as
23103/A/VC, standing for Section 23103(a) of the California Vehicle
Code. (Please note that a clerical error by the officer, if he did
enter the wrong code, will not invalidate the ticket.)

For a summary of common offense codes, see Section V of the following
document, a Driving School Instructor Lesson Plan from the California
Department of Motor Vehicles:

Pursuant to the California Code,

38316.   (a) It is unlawful for any person to drive any off-highway
motor vehicle with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of
other persons or property.

(b) Any person who violates this section shall, upon conviction
thereof, be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less
than five days nor more than 90 days or by fine of not less than fifty
dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500) or by both
such fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 38317.

This code section may be found online, on the California Department of
Motor Vehicles website,

II. With regard to your questions:

1. Can you get this misdemeanor offense reduced to a lesser charge?

The short answer to this question is "probably yes". The long answer
is that your ability to get a reduction in the charge depends in part
upon the policies of the police agency that issued the ticket, your
driving record, and the prosecutor's office handling the prosecution.
I have typically had good luck getting misdemeanor charges of
"reckless driving" reduced to civil infractions. However, some
prosecutors will defer to the police officer or operate under office
policies which restrict their ability to offer deals.

2. Should you hire an attorney even if you plead guilty?

You are charged with a criminal offense. If possible, you should hire
an attorney before you make the choice to plead guilty. With this type
of offense, the lawyer's greatest potential value is in negotiating a
more favorable charge prior to the entry of a guilty plea. In this
case, your attorney could attempt to negotiate a plea bargain, and may
also be able to manage your case so that you do not have to return
from Chicago to California for any court appearances.

3. If convicted of this misdemeanor, what are the implications?

The implications are as follows:

* You will have a criminal record.
* You will be subject to a fine of $50 to $500.
* You will be assessed court costs, typically in an amount comparable
to the fine.
* You will be subject to a sentence of five to ninety days in jail.
(It is likely that any jail time would be suspended.)
* You may be placed on a term of probation.
* The conviction will be reflected on your driving record.
* Your insurance rates will go up.
* Your ability to get a commercial driver's license (CDL), or other
specialized driver's licenses, will be impaired.

4. Will this affact your ability to obtain insurance in the future?

Yes, but only for a limited time. Any traffic offense that is
reflected on your driving record is likely to affect your insurance
rates. California will relay the information about the ticket to
Illinois, and thus, absent a mistake in processing the information,
any points from the offense will be reflected on your Illinois

According to the Illinois Secretary of State website, most driving
offenses will be reflected on your record for four to five years from
the date of conviction. If your license is suspended as a result of
the offense, this increases to a period of not less than seven years.

Please note that an insurance company may maintain its record of a
traffic offense for a different period of time than a state. By the
same token, states often restrict the amount of time a driving offense
may be held against you by an insurance company. There is a simple
overview of Illinois motor vehicle insurance law (drafted for teen
drivers) on the Illinois Department of Insurance website:

Research Strategy:

Google Search for "California Department of Motor Vehicles"

Browsing the California DMV website for statutory provisions.

Google Search for "23101(a) reckless"

Google Search for "Illinois 'drivers license'"

Google Search for "Illinois 'drivers license' points years"

Good luck with your ticket,

- expertlaw

Clarification of Answer by expertlaw-ga on 11 Oct 2002 23:12 PDT
Dear skeefy1,

I must add the following:

5. Should you contest the ticket "in part".

It is not clear from your description if the factors you would contest
(such as your speed) will affect the viability of the charge. That is,
if the court finds that you were driving at a lesser speed, all other
factors being equal, the odds of conviction or acquittal probably will
not change.

If you plead guilty to the offense, it may be possible to convince the
prosecutor to amend the factual basis of the charge, or to state that
you admit your guilt to the offense while clarifying what you believe
the facts to have been. However, this is not likely to change the
ultimate disposition of your case.

If you plea bargain to a civil infraction, you may be able to take
responsibility for the offense without making any statement either
accepting or denying the officer's allegations.

Ultimately, the strategy you choose in defending against the ticket or
in negotiating the plea bargain is best determined in association with
legal counsel. Given the nature of this offense, I do urge you to
consult with an attorney who handles traffic offenses in the court
where this charge has been filed.

Again, good luck.

- expertlaw
skeefy1-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Sorry about the delay in rating this answer/providing feedback.  At
any rate, I wanted to share with you that my court date was today
(12/5), and I did end up hiring an attorney (for about $1700 flat
fee).  Well, it paid off afterall as the charge is going to be reduced
to an infraction.  I'm not privy to any more details, since the new
court date will be in 2-3 weeks, but it's exactly what I wanted!

My only suggestion on your answer would have specific information
(other than an FAQ link) about how long this type of charge persists
on a driver's record in CA/IL.  Great info other than that!  Thanks
again and best of luck to anyone else who finds themselves in this
predicament.  I would recommend finding an attorney very close to
where the trial is set and one who has experience working with the's all about the DA just making the call.

Subject: Re: Reckless Driving Charge - General Information
From: mvguy-ga on 03 Oct 2002 15:01 PDT
Regardless of what the research tells you, I strongly suggest you get
an attorney. You'll spend less on attorney fees in the long run than a
reckless-driving conviction will cost you in fines and insurance
expenses (and you risk a jail term as well).  Good luck!
Subject: Re: Reckless Driving Charge - General Information
From: rtarar-ga on 20 Sep 2004 12:53 PDT
I was over charged with Reckless driving in the sate of virginia in July.
It was my first traffic offense in my life and I really didnot know
what reckless driving meant. How ever the information on this page was
very useful to me.

I ended yup paying an attorney $1600 plus the fine.all in all I got
what I wanted , my charge was reduced to a infraction and it was
finally settled for a normal speeding ticket.

This thing works and it makes you less worryied about the worst that
could have happened (like being proved guilty for RD).

This is a very serious offence and in some states prudent police
officers charge people of these offences quite often. The definition
of RD is very open ended in most of the state laws and hence its abuse
by the police officers.

How ever I also recommend any one in this situation to hire a lawyer.
The money spent will be worth it in the long run.
Subject: Re: Reckless Driving Charge - General Information
From: totll-ga on 16 Nov 2004 23:49 PST
does the attorney fees always cost around $1600??

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