Driving Offenses

With the alarming rates of vehicle-related accidents, the State of California has strict laws regarding driving offenses. Having The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney to work on your case can help you find justice when charged with a driving offense. We are experienced in defending clients who are charged with driving offenses such as reckless driving, speed contest, vehicular manslaughter, hit and run, among others.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving involves driving in an off-street parking space or on the highway, disregarding the safety of property or people. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor or felony under Vehicle Code 23103. The term “highway” refers to an area (particularly a street) that is publicly open and maintained to the public to facilitate vehicular travel. Consequently, off-street parking spaces may include privately-owned or publicly-owned facilities used to park vehicles.

Prosecutors need to prove that you disregarded the safety of property and other people when proving a reckless driving charge. The can show that you intentionally ignored this risk, and you were aware of the unjustifiable and substantial risk of harm your actions could cause. Intent to cause damage and speeding do not qualify as elements of the VC 23103 offense. However, the prosecution team may use speeding to prove you disregarded the safety of others.

What are the Penalties for Reckless Driving?

The penalties for a crime of reckless driving are set based on whether the offense led to injuries. If the driver was the only injured person, the crime will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. However, if a third party (a passenger or pedestrian) sustains an injury, the offense counts as a felony.

You may pay a fine (ranging from $145 to $1,000) or serve five to ninety days in county jail if no one other than you were injured. A misdemeanor reckless driving incident (one resulting in minor injury) attracts a fine of $200 to $1,000) or a county jail sentence of 30 days to 6 months. If charged with a felony (the incident results in serious injuries), you may pay a fine of not more than $10,000 or serve sixteen months to two or three years in the local county jail. You may face either a felony or misdemeanor penalties for committing a VC 23103 offense with priors.

Speed Contest

Willfully participating in a speed contest in California is a crime under Vehicle Code 23109(a). A speed contest (also referred to an exhibition of speed) may be a race against a timing device, clock or another vehicle. Aiding and abetting someone else in a car speed contest on a highway is also a crime under VC 23109(b). You can be charged with a speed contest offense for placing or assisting to place an obstruction on the highway to facilitate a motor vehicle speed contest.

If no one sustains an injury, a speed contest counts as a misdemeanor with penalties including jail time (24 hours to 90 days) and fine ($355 to $1,000). The misdemeanor may also attract forty hours of supervised community service or a restriction on your driver's’ license for ninety days to six months. With a restriction on your driver's' license, you will only be allowed to drive between your home and workplace.

If the speed contest results in bodily injury to a third party, the fine will range from $500 to $1,000 while the jail sentence will range from four days to six months. A California court will also order your driving privilege to be suspended or restricted for six months. You may also be entitled to probation if the court grants you one.

Vehicular Manslaughter

The crime of vehicular manslaughter is usually charged on a driver whose criminal negligence leads to the death of someone else (a third party). A third party victim, in this context, can be a passenger on the driver's car or another car or a pedestrian. The prosecution team may accuse you of vehicular manslaughter initiated by gross negligence in a case involving a reckless driving crime. Penal Code 192 defines the term manslaughter as an act of unlawfully killing someone else without malice.

Gross negligence is one of the elements of a crime of vehicular manslaughter. California prosecutors refer to this element when proving that your actions were as a result of gross negligence to the life of others. They will conclude that you were reckless if your actions put someone at high risk of bodily injury or death. They may also imply that you knew about the potential harm your actions could cause when committing the crime.

Vehicular manslaughter, which is among the other two forms (voluntary and involuntary) of manslaughter, is a wobbler offense under Penal Code 192(c). Wobbler offenses may either be charged as felonies or misdemeanors depending on the facts of the case. As a felony, the penalties for vehicular manslaughter include up to $10,000 in fine payment or two to six years in state prison.

You may pay a fine not exceeding $10,000 for committing vehicular manslaughter for insurance purposes or financial gain according to Penal Code 192(c)(3). Other penalties for this crime include incarceration in a California state prison for four, six or ten years. The DMV may also revoke your driving privileges following a conviction for vehicular manslaughter. You will only gain the driving privileges back in at least three years after the DMV initiated the revocation.

Hit and Run

You can be charged with a crime of hit and run for fleeing an accident scene. Instead of fleeing the scene, you should stop your car and exchange identifying information with the victim or offer help. You must also contact a law enforcement officer to detail the events of the accident. A crime of hit and run is prosecuted as either a felony under VC 20001 or a misdemeanor under VC 20002.

In the event of property damage, you should locate and notify the property owner about the accident and exchange your identifying information. The identifying information may include your vehicle registration number, name, address, contact information, and driver's license information. You should also share the details of the accident with local authorities including the Department of the California Highway Patrol and the LAPD if the accident occurred in Los Angeles.

If someone died or sustained an injury in the accident, it qualifies as a felony hit and run. The accident may also qualify as a misdemeanor hit and run if it only resulted in the significant damage of property. You may be subject to a felony hit and run charge for fleeing an accident scene in which passengers of your car died or sustained injuries.

The penalties for a VC 20002 violation (misdemeanor hit and run) include restitution to the property owners and victims and an addition of two points on your DMV record. Others include jail time of up to six months and informal probation of not more than six months. A VC 20001 violation may attract penalties including fines ($1,000 to $10,000), restitution to the victims and two points on your DMV record. You will also serve six months, two years or three years incarcerated in state prison for this offense.

Evading an Officer

The crime of evading an officer may involve the willful act to flee from a law enforcement officer while being pursued. The alleged officer could be pursuing you on a bicycle, motorcycle or motor vehicle for this criminal charge to be valid. A prosecutor may base your charge on intent, which meaning having a clear intention to run away from the officer. The prosecution team also needs to show evidence of the police officer flagging you down appropriately.

Evading a police officer is a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a jail term of one year and a fine that is not more than $1,000. You may also serve summary probation or have your motor vehicle impounded for willfully committing this offense. A California judge may order for the suspension of your driver's license for a specified timeframe as part of your probation requirements. The crime of evading an officer counts as one criminal charge even if several officers pursued you.

Pursuant to Vehicle Code 2800.2, you may face severe penalties if the crime of Evading an Officer results in severe bodily injury to any individual. Upon conviction, you may serve three to seven years incarcerated in state prison or up to one year locked in county jail. You may also pay a fine of $2,000 to $10,000 for this offense. The imprisonment term may range from four to ten years if your attempt to elude a peace officer results in someone else's death.

Throwing Objects at Another Motor Vehicle

Pursuant to VC 23110(a), you can be guilty of this crime if you throw any substance at a car or an occupant of a car on a highway. A more severe form of this crime under VC 23110(b) involves throwing or projecting objects with malicious and willful intent to cause bodily injury. The term malicious indicates your intention to injure the car occupant while the term willful indicates that you acted on purpose.

A VC 23110(a) violation is considered a misdemeanor with penalties such as misdemeanor probation, jail time (up to 6 months) or fine payment (up to $1,000). Consequently, a VC 23110(b) violation is considered a felony. Possible penalties for this felony include fine payment (up to $10,000) or felony probation. You may also be sentenced for sixteen months, two years or three years in state prison for committing this felony.

Dumping or Spilling Hazardous Material on the Road

Vehicle Code 23112.5 considers it unlawful to spill, dump or cause the discharge of hazardous waste or hazardous material on any highway. The Department of the California Highway Patrol or any other agency with jurisdiction on that highway should be contacted as soon as this offense is committed. The California Highway Patrol will immediately notify the Office of Emergency Services regarding the discharge, spill or dump. Vehicles that spill less than 42 gallons of petroleum from their fuel tanks are not covered in this law.

Hazardous materials may include any chemical product or substance that is listed as radioactive by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They may also include substances deemed unsafe for the environment by any federal law or regulation. Hazardous waste, on the other hand, is waste with potential or substantial threats to the environment or public health. A VC 23112.5 violation may attract a mandatory fine not exceeding $2,000.

Illegal Dumping of Waste Matter on Public or Private Property

Pursuant to Vehicle Code 23112.7, illegal dumping refers to intentional or willful dropping, throwing, placing or depositing of waste matter on private or public property that has not been designated for waste disposal. This term does not refer to discarding small portions of waste related to consumer goods. Your motor vehicle will be impounded if it was used to commit this offense.

A California judge may order your vehicle to be impounded based on the nature and size of waste matter it helped dump. Other factors considered when making this judgment include the purpose of the illegal dumping activity and your criminal history. If you have previous convictions for illegal dumping on your criminal history, your car may be impounded for at least six months.

Driving a Car While Operating a Mobile Phone

Vehicle Code 23123.5 prohibits motorists from holding and operating mobile phones while driving a motor vehicle. The device can be a handheld electronic wireless communications device or wireless telephone. You will only be allowed to use it when driving if it is specifically configured and designed for hands-free and voice-operated operation. Manufacturer-installed systems embedded in cars are not covered under VC 23123.5.

A VC 23123.5 violation is an infraction with penalties including a $20 base fine for first offenders and a $50 fine charged on each subsequent offense. Emergency service professionals cannot be punished under this law for using mobile phones while driving authorized emergency cars. Under VC 23123.5(f), electronic wireless communication devices may include a laptop computer, a handheld device or a broadband personal communication gadget with Internet access.

Drivers of transit vehicles or school buses are prohibited from using a wireless telephone while driving under Vehicle Code 23125. This law does not apply to drivers making an emergency call to a fire department, health care provider or law enforcement agency. A violation of any provision of VC 23125 is considered a serious traffic violation.

Unauthorized Transportation of Animals

Only vehicles with an enclosed space or side and tail racks measuring 46 inches long and above are authorized to transport animals on a highway. The car should be set up in a way that the ferried animal is cross tethered and protected by a cage from being discharged, falling or thrown outside. If you are carrying an animal at the back of a vehicle that does not meet this criterion, you may be charged for violating Vehicle Code 23117. VC 23117 does not apply to the transportation of a dog associated with farming or ranching or the transportation of livestock.

Consuming Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle

Pursuant to Vehicle Code 23221, it is unlawful to consume any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle being driven along a public road. Both drivers and passengers are prohibited from taking alcohol in a vehicle. A police officer may arrest you for this offense if you are found carrying containers of alcoholic beverages with their seals open. You will also be arrested for having alcoholic beverages on party cups or thermos flasks in your car.

Prosecutors must prove that you were consumed or intended to take an alcoholic beverage while you were in a moving vehicle. The crime of consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle is an infraction. Since infractions attract less severe penalties, you will be asked to pay a maximum base fine of $250. Minors (people below the age of 21) may pay a $1,000 fine or face six months in jail for this offense.

Besides paying the base fine, you may get additional points on your DMV driving record. Any increase in these points may result in an increase in your car insurance rates. Instead of having the points added on your record, you may enroll in a driving school. You risk having your driver's' license suspended for multiple VC 23221 offenses.

Driving on a Suspended or Revoked Driver’s License

A suspension on your driver's license may restrict you from using your driving privileges for a specified period until you fulfill various conditions. With a definite suspension, you will know when to gain your driving privileges, unlike an indefinite suspension. Your driving privileges may be suspended following a reckless driving conviction, a DUI conviction or habitual traffic violation. Other causes for the suspension include evading a peace officer, negligent driving or driving while physically or mentally impaired.

Operating a motor vehicle with your driving privileges suspended is unlawful pursuant to Vehicle Code 14601. If the reasons for your DL suspension were intoxicated driving or reckless driving, the penalties for driving on a suspended DL include jail time (up to 6 months) and fine of $300 to $1,000. You will face the same penalties regardless of what caused the suspension under VC 14601.1. The penalties also apply to drivers with licenses suspended for a DUI conviction (VC 14601.2) and habitual traffic violation (VC 14601.3).

One of the crucial elements prosecutors use to prove the crime of driving on a suspended license is knowledge. The prosecution team will charge you for knowing about the suspension status of your driver's license. They may prove knowledge by referring to the notice sent by the DMV to you regarding the suspension. The court will also assume that you knew about the revocation or suspension if a judge informed you about it or a police officer gave you a notice for the same.

Since the suspension on a driver's license expires after a specified period, you will be allowed to drive once you take various measures for reinstating your driving privileges. The specific requirements and steps for having your license reinstated by the DMV vary depending on the reasons for the revocation or suspension. You can gain your driving privileges once you meet them and prove to a California court that you met your probation requirements in full.

Driving Without a License

Vehicle Code 12500(a) considers the act of driving without a driver's license as unlawful. This law also applies to out-of-state or drivers or foreigners found operating a motor vehicle in California without a license. Commercial vehicles, trailers, truck tractors, buses, school buses, motor scooters, passenger vehicles, and motorcycles qualify as motor vehicles. VC 12500(a) makes it mandatory for any resident of California to have a state-issued DL while driving in any public parking space or on any public road.

A crime of driving without a license can either be an infraction or a misdemeanor. As an infraction, the crime is punishable by a fine of up to $250. When charged as a misdemeanor, the charge attracts a fine, not more than $1,000 and a maximum county jail sentence of six months. You may also have your vehicle impounded for thirty days for a prior driving offense conviction or serve three years of informal probation.

The DMV can allow you to drive in California with an out-of-state license provided you are at least 18 years of age. The driver's license must have been issued by a relevant licensing body in the state in which you reside. The license should also be valid for the particular motor vehicle you are operating in the State of California.

Find a Driving Offense Attorney Near Me

The best way to navigate the criminal justice system in California is through a lawyer's help. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we help you to understand the various legal options surrounding your case and represent you in court. With many years of experience serving the Los Angeles area, we specialize in different types of criminal offenses including driving offenses. Ask for a free evaluation of your case by calling 310-564-2605 today.

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