Reckless Driving Charge – General Information

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.

2 thoughts on “Reckless Driving Charge – General Information

  1. 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

  2. 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

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