Speeding is a civil infraction that carries a financial penalty and adds points to your license. Receiving too many speeding tickets could increase your insurance costs or even prevent you from maintaining a commercial driver’s license.
Reckless driving, on the other hand, is a criminal offense. It is usually a misdemeanor, which means that the penalties it carries include jail time, probation and fines. Repeat offenses, property damage or injury to others can increase the charges and consequences. In cases where reckless driving leads to serious bodily injury, it becomes a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
Police officers who conduct traffic stops may decide to cite someone for speeding, or they may arrest them and charge them with reckless driving in certain cases. What is the difference between reckless driving and speeding in Florida?
There is no specific rule for speeding as reckless driving
Florida state law has a clear definition of reckless driving. Anyone who operates a motor vehicle with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others it’s a reckless driver. Willful means that someone recognizes how dangerous their actions, like driving at 70 miles an hour in a residential neighborhood, might be. Wanton essentially means they chose to disregard the risk and continue the behavior.
For someone to face allegations of reckless driving, they usually need to do something that seems obviously unsafe to police officers or other people. In some states, there are reckless driving rules that established a specific number of miles per hour at which speeding becomes reckless driving. Florida does not have such a rule.
Prosecutors have to show that the speed alone was dangerous enough to put others at unnecessary risk. There have been many court cases related to reckless driving and speeding. The standard currently accepted by the Florida courts is that the speed must be grossly excessive to qualify as reckless driving.
Given the relatively strict attitude of the Florida courts about speeding as a form of reckless driving, you may be able to defend yourself against pending charges. Understanding how the state defines the offense and how it has handled previous cases like your own can help inform your response to reckless driving charges.