Vehicle Code 23105 VC – Reckless Driving Causing Serious Injury

Updated May

Vehicle Code 23105 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to drive recklessly and thereby cause an accident where a person is seriously injured. A serious injury includes such things as a loss of consciousness, a concussion, or a bone fracture.

The language of 23105 VC states that:

“(a) A person convicted of reckless driving…that proximately causes one or more of the injuries specified in subdivision (b) to a person other than the driver, [is guilty of a crime]

(b) This section applies to all of the following injuries:

  • A loss of consciousness.
  • A concussion.
  • A bone fracture.
  • A protracted loss or impairment of function of a bodily member or organ.
  • A wound requiring extensive suturing…”

Examples

  • putting on make-up while driving, hitting another car, and causing the other driver to break an arm.
  • causing a pedestrian to suffer a concussion after hitting him when doing doughnuts in an icy parking lot.
  • wounding a motorist after hitting his car when blowing a stop sign.

Defenses

A defendant can contest a charge under this statute with a legal defense. Common defenses include:

  • no reckless driving,
  • no “certain injury,” and/or
  • necessity.

Penalties

This offense is a wobbler under California law. A prosecutor can charge a wobbler as either:

At most, the crime is punishable by custody in county jail for up to three years.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

bicyclist unconscious on the ground after being struck by a car as an example of reckless driving per Vehicle Code 23105 VC
Vehicle Code 23105 VC makes it a crime to cause a serious injury to someone while driving recklessly.

1. What is a crime under this statute?

A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a person of a crime:

  1. the defendant drove a vehicle recklessly, and
  2. when doing so, he caused a certain or specific injury to another person.1

Questions arise under this statute on the meaning of:

  • reckless driving, and
  • a “certain injury.”

1.1. Reckless driving

For purposes of VC 23105, “reckless driving” is defined as:

  • intentionally driving with,
  • wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.2

A person acts with “wanton disregard for safety” when:

  1. he is aware that his actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm, and
  2. he intentionally ignores that risk.3

Note that a driver does not have to intend to cause an injury to be guilty of this crime.4

Example: Michelle is putting on make-up while driving to work. She realizes that she is risking an accident, but she is late and does it anyway. She eventually hits another car and the other driver suffers a brain injury.

Here, Michelle is guilty under VC 23105. She knew she was creating a risk when driving and applying make-up, but she ignored it and did so anyway. She also caused an accident in which a driver suffered “a certain injury” necessitating guilt.

1.2. Certain injury

This statute specifically says that a “certain injury” includes any of the following:

  • a loss of consciousness,
  • a concussion,
  • a bone fracture,
  • a protracted loss or impairment of function of a bodily member or organ,
  • a wound requiring extensive suturing,
  • a serious disfigurement,
  • a brain injury, and
  • paralysis.5

2. Are there defenses to 23105 VC?

A defendant can beat a charge under these laws with a good legal defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. no reckless driving,
  2. no certain injury, and/or
  3. necessity.

2.1. No reckless driving

A person is only guilty of this offense if he caused an injury while driving recklessly. Further, reckless driving has a specific meaning under these laws. This means it is a valid defense for an accused to show that he was not driving recklessly.

2.2. No certain injury

A driver violates this statute only if he:

  1. drives recklessly, and
  2. causes a specific injury listed in VC 23105b.

Therefore, it is always a defense for an accused to show that he did not cause one of these injuries.

2.3. Necessity

A necessity defense is when an accused:

  • tries to avoid guilt,
  • by showing that he had a good reason to commit an offense.

In the context of VC 23105, a defendant can show that he committed the crime since he had no other choice. Perhaps, for example, there was an emergency making him drive recklessly.

inmate being led to a jail cell
A conviction under VC 23105 can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. What are the penalties?

A violation of these laws is a wobbler. This means a prosecutor can charge the crime as either:

  • a misdemeanor, or
  • a felony.

If a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.6

If a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in jail for up to three years, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.7

4. Are there immigration consequences?

A conviction under this statute will not have any bad immigration consequences.

If convicted of a crime, sometimes a non-citizen can be:

An example is when a non-citizen gets convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

VC 23105 convictions, however, do not produce either result.

5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?

A person can get a 23105 VC conviction expunged.

This is true provided that the defendant successfully completes:

  • probation, or
  • his jail term (whichever was imposed).

6. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to reckless driving causing a specific serious injury. These are:

  1. reckless driving – VC 23103,
  2. reckless driving causing injury – VC 23104, and
  3. speed contests – VC 23109.

6.1. Reckless driving – VC 23103

Vehicle Code 23103 VC is the California statute that defines the offense of “reckless driving.” A person commits this crime if:

  1. the defendant drove a vehicle on a highway or in an off-street parking facility, and
  2. the defendant drove with wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

A person does not have to cause any injury to be convicted under this statute.

6.2. Reckless driving causing injury – VC 23104

Vehicle Code 23104 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. drive recklessly, and
  2. cause an injury to another person when doing so.

Note that, unlike VC 23105, this statute does not define “injury.” This means a defendant can be guilty of causing any injury while driving recklessly.

6.3. Speed contests – VC 23109

California Vehicle Code 23109 VC makes it a crime to willfully participate in a speed contest.

A “speed contest” is when a person:

  • races his vehicle,
  • against another car or against a clock or other timing device.

Unlike VC 23105, a person does not have to cause any injury to be guilty under this statute.

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For information on reckless driving laws in Nevada or Colorado, please see our articles on:


Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 23105a VC.

  2. CALCRIM No. 2200 - Reckless Driving. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).

  3. See same. See also People v. Schumacher (1961) 194 Cal.App.2d 335; People v. Young (1942) 20 Cal.2d 832; and, People v. Aznavoleh (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1181.

  4. See same.

  5. California Vehicle Code 23105b VC.

  6. California Vehicle Code 23105a VC.

  7. See same. See also California Penal Code 1170h.

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