Posts Tagged ‘driving’

Just Speeding or Reckless Driving?

February 5, 2010

Earlier this week, I was stuck in a traffic back-up on I-10 for more than an hour because of an accident that was blocking the left lane.  From my perspective, it looked like a one-car crash that was probably caused by speeding in rainy conditions.  I try to use situations like that as “teachable moments” for my kids—I always tell them that you won’t get where you’re going on time if you have an accident!

The situation brought to mind a recent Florida case on vehicular homicide, which means killing someone by driving a car in a reckless manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm.  Vehicular homicide by definition requires proof of reckless driving, which is also a criminal charge in Florida (not “just a ticket”).  Reckless driving is driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, and it’s punishable by up to 90 days for a first offense or 6 months for a second offense.

Generally speaking, speeding alone is not enough to constitute reckless driving, but Florida courts have held that it can be enough in certain situations, depending on how far above the speed limit you were going.

In the vehicular homicide case that came out recently, a South Florida man driving a Corvette crashed into another car at an intersection, killing the other driver.  The investigating officer estimated that the Corvette was going much faster than the 40 mph speed limit, and there were no pre-impact tire marks to indicate that the car had slowed down before the crash.

The officer got a search warrant for the black box in the Corvette.  The box showed that the Corvette was going 103 mph five seconds before the crash and 98 mph one second before. The defense attorney filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have enough probable cause for the search warrant. The appeals court held that there was enough probable cause because speeding alone could support the vehicular manslaughter charge.

This case is a good example of how traffic offenses can turn into serious criminal charges in an instant.