Careless driving can be defined as when someone does not take reasonable care or precautions for their actions while operating a motor vehicle. The consequences of such a charge can lead to costly fines, suspension of one’s license, or additional civil penalties. If you’ve been cited for careless driving, understanding how the law defines it, understanding your rights, and obtaining legal representation are essential to getting the best possible outcome for your case.

Careless Driving

How Does The Law Define Careless Driving in Florida?

In Florida, careless driving is considered a civil traffic offense. This means that it may not carry criminal penalties but can result in four points on the offender's driver’s license and a fine of up to $500. Careless driving covers a wide range of offenses related to the operation of a vehicle – and is often called a “catch-all” citation, due to it covering a broad spectrum of driver negligence.

What Does The Exact Law State?

The careless driving statute, 316.1925 defines it as the following: “Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such a manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section.”

It then goes on to say that any person who violates the careless driving statute, will be cited for a moving violation and is punishable by either:

  • Four points on their driver’s license. 
  • A fine of up to $500.
  • Additional civil penalties such as a suspension of one’s license or may lead to an increase in your insurance rates.

In severe cases, careless driving may be considered a first-degree misdemeanor with potential jail time, if there is property damage.

What Situations Can Warrant a Careless Driving Charge in Florida?

A careless driving charge in Florida is specifically given to drivers who are not being attentive and acting with due care while operating their vehicles.

  • If you’re caught operating your vehicle while distracted - talking on the phone, adjusting the GPS, or texting - you may be given a careless driving charge or a distracted driving charge.
  • Careless driving charges can be given when the driver is traveling at speeds that are unsafe for the current environment, like speeding in a school zone or residential area, or in car accident cases like fender-benders and rear-ending.
  • It may be given in failure-to-yield accidents, where the driver failed to yield when exiting an intersection or entering a roadway from a parking lot.

Because it is considered a “catch-all” citation, the careless driving charge may also be given when a law enforcement officer must make an educated judgment on whether the drivers' actions should result in a ticket or civil penalty due to their deviation from safe and legal driving behavior.

How Does Careless Driving in Florida Differ From Aggressive Careless Driving?

While both careless driving and aggressive careless driving are moving violations in Florida, there are some key distinctions between the two. As we stated above, careless driving involves not following basic safety rules while behind the wheel, whereas aggressive careless driving is an elevated charge, and is often given for the following acts:

  • Failure to yield the right of way.
  • Choosing to exceed the posted speed limit.
  • Choosing to change lanes in an unsafe manner or improperly changing lanes.
  • Violating traffic control and signal devices (traffic light stops).
  • Tailgating another vehicle - i.e. following too closely behind for the current environment.

If you are caught committing any of the above simultaneously or in succession, you will likely be charged with aggressive careless driving as per Statute 316.1923.

A Reckless Driving Charge In Florida: A Major Moving Violation

In Florida, reckless driving is considered a criminal offense that occurs when a person deliberately endangers property or people while operating a motor vehicle. Examples of such actions include speeding more than 20 mph above the speed limit with disregard to safety concerns, fleeing law enforcement, drag racing on public roads, weaving in and out of traffic at excessive speeds, making sudden turns without paying attention to their surroundings, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • A first offense is punishable by up to 90 days of jail time and a $500 fine.
  • A second offense can result in 6-months of jail time, and up to a $1,000 fine.

If you cause an accident that does damage to another person or property, this could result in a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 1-year of jail time, and up to $1,000 in fines.

If you are in an accident while driving recklessly, and you cause bodily injury or death to another, you can be convicted of a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 5 years of jail time, and a $5,000 fine. You may also face a lawsuit and be held responsible for damages incurred as a result of the accident, including medical expenses and/or funeral costs.

Going to Court for Careless Driving in Florida

If you find yourself facing a careless driving charge in Florida, you may need to go to court to address the situation. Going to court for careless driving is a significant step, and it's crucial to be prepared. Here's a to-do list to help you navigate the process effectively:

  1. Consult with an Attorney: Before anything else, consider seeking legal representation. Find an experienced traffic attorney who can guide you through the legal process, evaluate your case, and advise you on the best course of action.
  2. Understand the Court Process: Familiarize yourself with the court process in your jurisdiction. Know the date, time, and location of your court appearance, as specified on your citation.
  3. Gather Evidence and Information: Work closely with your attorney to gather evidence related to your case. This may include witness statements, accident reports, photographs, or any other documentation that can support your defense. Be thorough and provide your attorney with all the necessary information.
  4. Dress and Act Appropriately: On your court date, dress in a professional and respectful manner. Show up on time, as punctuality is crucial in court proceedings. Be courteous and respectful to all court personnel, including the judge, clerks, and opposing parties.
  5. Develop Your Defense Strategy: Collaborate with your attorney to develop a strong defense strategy. Discuss the specifics of your case, including any mitigating circumstances that may help your cause. Your attorney will present your defense before the judge.
  6. Be Honest and Transparent: Throughout the process, be open and honest with your attorney. They need all the facts to build an effective defense. Hiding information can be detrimental to your case.
  7. Listen to Your Attorney: Trust your attorney's guidance and expertise. They know the intricacies of Florida traffic laws and legal procedures. .
  8. Consider Negotiations: In some cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduced charge or alternative resolution. Be open to these discussions if they could lead to a more favorable outcome.
  9. Be Prepared for Possible Outcomes: Understand that the court's decision can vary. Be prepared for the possibility of fines, points on your driver's license, or other consequences if you are found guilty. Your attorney will work to minimize these outcomes.
  10. Maintain a Calm Demeanor: Finally, maintain a calm and composed demeanor in court. Nervousness or frustration can be counterproductive. Let your attorney represent your interests, and trust the legal process to work.

By following this to-do list, you can navigate the process of going to court for careless driving in Florida more effectively and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.

Have You Been Charged With Careless Driving in Florida? Take Action Now.

Careless driving is a serious offense that can result in hefty fines and points on your license. The experienced attorneys at Frank Eidson, P.A. understand the complexities of Florida traffic laws and can help you fight your careless driving charge. Whether it's negotiating for reduced charges or having the case dismissed entirely, our team will work to ensure that you get the best possible outcome for your case. Don't risk the consequences of a conviction - move quickly by giving us a call at 407-245-2887 for a free case review, and let us put our decades of experience to work for you!


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