How Much Probation Time Can I Receive for a Reckless Driving Charge in Florida?
Many Florida criminal cases, particularly those involving misdemeanors, are resolved through a negotiated plea bargain. In exchange for entering a plea of “guilty” or “no contest,” the State Attorney often agrees to a reduced charge and a sentencing recommendation. Ultimately, the trial judge has the final say in whether to approve the plea bargain. This includes pronouncing a sentence in accordance with the law.
Appeals Court: Defendant May Try and Withdraw “No Contest” Plea
It is important to emphasize, however, that a plea bargain does not permit the court to go beyond what the law allows. A recent decision from the Florida Sixth District Court of Appeal, Smith v. State, provides a case in point. In this case, the State Attorney initially charged the defendant with a DUI. The parties negotiated a plea agreement, under which the defendant entered a “no contest” plea to the reduced charge of reckless driving.
The trial court sentenced the defendant to 12 months probation for the reckless driving charge. The defendant appealed, however, arguing that was an illegal sentence under the statute. The Sixth District agreed.
As the appellate court explained, a first offense for reckless driving in Florida carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. This means reckless driving is a misdemeanor, which is defined as any offense where the maximum penalty is less than one year in jail. But when the court decides to sentence a defendant convicted of a misdemeanor to a term of probation, that term cannot exceed 6 months.
Here, the trial court sentenced the defendant to one year of probation. The trial judge’s rationale was that since there was evidence the defendant’s reckless driving involved the use of alcohol or drugs, the law authorized the court to require the defendant complete a substance abuse program as part of his sentence. But as the Sixth District noted, this part of the law said nothing about probation.
That said, the appeals court said there were circumstances where one year of probation could be imposed in a reckless driving case. Had the trial court found the defendant’s use of alcohol was a “significant factor” in his reckless driving under a different statute, the law permitted a probation sentence of up to 1 year. The Sixth District observed there might have been some confusion as to which statute applied to this case. Nevertheless, the trial court failed to make the necessary finding that alcohol was a “significant factor.” In addition, the Court said that it could not grant the defendant’s request to correct his sentence directly. Instead, he would have to move to withdraw his “no contest” plea before the trial court.
Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today
Even if you are prepared to accept responsibility for alleged criminal behavior, you will still benefit from the advice and representation of an experienced Orlando DUI defense attorney. Call the Joshi Law Firm, P.A., today at (407) 661-1009 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.