What Is Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving is a criminal traffic charge in Arizona that can involve some serious consequences. Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) 28-693(A) defines reckless driving as follows:
"A person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of person or property is guilty of reckless driving."
This statue appears somewhat vague, as many of them are, and leaves a lot of discretion to the cops writing the tickets. Basically, if a cop subjectively believes that you are driving with "reckless disregard" for the safety of people or property around you, then you will be cited for reckless driving. For example, if a cop sees you change lanes in a manner he or she does not like, then that cop might swerve across 4 lanes of traffic without a blinker while speeding to pull you over for your "reckless" lane change. That seems fair right?
Fortunately, the cop does not decide whether or not you should be convicted of reckless driving. That is up to a judge, and the prosecutor must prove to the judge that you were driving recklessly.
What are the consequences of being convicted of reckless driving?
If you are convicted of reckless driving, you are guilty of committing a class 2 misdemeanor (A.R.S. 28-693(B)). Because this is a class 2 misdemeanor, you are facing a $750 fine plus surcharges of $630, up to 4 months in jail, and probation. The judge may also order that your driving privileges be suspended for up to 90 days. (A.R.S. 28-693(C)). Plus, you will get 8 points on your license and have to attend traffic survival school.
If you have been convicted in the previous 24 months of negligent homicide with a car, manslaughter with a car, racing, DUI, extreme DUI, or aggravated DUI, a reckless driving conviction becomes a class 1 misdemeanor (A.R.S. 28-693(D)(1). This means you will serve a minimum of 20 days in jail with the possibility of up to 6 months in jail, the fine increases to $2,500 plus $2,100 in surcharges, and you may have to surrender your driver's license.
There is one upside to a reckless driving conviction over other criminal traffic convictions. Specifically, you an apply to the court to have your conviction set aside. Most criminal traffic violations, like criminal speeding, cannot be set aside, but reckless driving is an exception. It is at the court's discretion to set aside a criminal conviction, however most courts are pretty accommodating with such requests. When a conviction is set aside, it means you no longer have a criminal conviction.
Defenses against reckless driving
Possible defenses could include whether or not the cop was able to actually observe what you did, the police officer's training and ability to assess what he or she saw, or maybe there were no people or property near you to "recklessly disregard."
We often see a reckless driving conviction tied to another criminal traffic violation, such as criminal speeding. The reckless driving charge is added when the police believe you performed a criminal traffic violation around other people or property. For example, maybe you had a passenger in your car while you were criminally speeding. That could result in a reckless driving charge. Or maybe you were speeding past another vehicle - that too could result in a reckless driving charge. You may be able to challenge the underlying violation that led to the reckless driving charge.
Of course, each case is different and your defenses will depend on your particular fact pattern.
No lawyer can promise you a particular outcome, but the chances of obtaining a non-criminal resolution in your reckless driving case will significantly improve with the assistance of an experienced Arizona attorney.