What is reckless driving in Arizona?
Today we’re talking about a serious traffic infraction called, reckless driving.
This is something that is very common in Arizona and it is quite serious so we’re gonna talk about the statute, some examples of where we see this most commonly charged and then what some of the best defenses are.
So let’s start at the top.
In Arizona reckless driving is defined by statute 28-693A. Plug this right into Google, you can take a look at it and this is what the statute says.
It’s very, very short, we use this to our advantage but let’s dive into it.
It says that a person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits reckless driving.
So let’s look at that again. Reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.
What does that mean? It’s up for a lot of interpretation and so we’re gonna explain how that can be used as the defense, but before we jump into that let’s take a quick look. We see this most commonly in these types of situations.
So, most frequently it’s very fast speeds.
So people will be charged with criminal speeding, or excessive speed and the police will also tack on a reckless driving charge.
Usually this is in certain jurisdictions where officers like to write it but in many cases it’ll be when somebody’s traveling in triple digits or very, very fast into the triple digits.
Things like 110 miles an hour or something like that.
Certain officers, and we keep a list of all these guys, certain of them like to charge reckless driving for those speeds, for triple digits, for any speed over 110.
They will tack on the reckless driving charge because according to them that speed is a reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property, for the well-being of these two items.
The other way that we see it is when there’s passengers in the car. So if somebody’s driving quickly, if somebody is swerving or doing something like that and they’ve got a young child in the car, they’ve got an elderly mother-in-law or just their, you know, their brother or their sister or significant other police will say that is a disregard, driving in that manner is a disregard for the safety of that other person and therefore that is a violation of the law, that constitutes reckless driving.
Another way that we see it is when somebody is driving and they’re committing multiple different civil violations.
So say for example, somebody’s driving, they are following too close, they have an unsafe lane change, they’re also speeding.
They’re doing a bunch of different things together so they’re kind of weaving in and out of traffic and they’re violating a bunch of different laws all of those may be civil on their own but when you combine them together that may constitute reckless driving.
An officer will say that type of driving is reckless. The final way that we see it is when people are really not abiding by any of the traffic rules.
They’re driving off road, they’re cutting over corners, they’re driving up on sidewalks or something along those lines.
The vehicle driving in a manner that’s not allowed under the law. If it’s not a road, if it’s not something that’s a sidewalk or if it’s a sidewalk or something where the vehicle’s actually gonna be damaging other property as its driving, that’s a reckless driving.
That’s reckless because it’s disregarding the safety, the well-being of that property. So those are the four main ways that we see it. Now let’s talk about what some of the defenses are.
So as I mentioned previously it’s not a very broad statute.
It’s actually very short, this is it. The rest of the statue is talking about penalties, what happens if you’ve been charged with the second offense reckless driving and there’s a lot of other certain items that you can look at if you’ve been charged with it but this is the law, this is what you have to violate in order to be convicted of this, or in order to be charged with reckless driving and it’s very, very short.
So the first main defense is just to point out the fact that this is extremely subjective.
What reckless disregard means to me may be very different in somebody else. So my mother, for example, would say almost everything I do in the car is pretty reckless, whereas my business partner yells at me for going anything basically at the speed limit or anything right around there ’cause he drives a little bit more quickly than I do.
So that’s what I’m saying, it’s very subjective. So what my mom says is reckless is gonna be different than what my business partner says is reckless which is gonna be very different than what I think is reckless. So it’s very subjective.
There’s gonna be a lot of different ways to interpret what is reckless disregard, what is disregarding the safety of people or property. That’s number one and we can use that to our advantage.
The next thing that is very important in a reckless driving charge is that if this case goes to trial and we have to answer the question of what constitutes recklessness that’s up to a jury to decide.
Unlike a lot of other civil or criminal traffic violations a reckless driving charge is jury eligible meaning you can get a jury of your peers to listen to the facts of the case and then issue a decision, render a verdict as to whether or not this constituted recklessness and quite frankly it’s not as easy as it may sound.
As easy as it may sound many people will sit on that jury and we’ve done trials for reckless driving where people will look at the actions or look at the allegations from police and say, this is not reckless, I’ve done that, okay?
That’s not reckless at all and so you can win cases, you can get not guilty verdicts by taking a case to trial because you get a jury of your peers who can take a look at the case. The other thing is that it’s very vague.
As I mentioned earlier this is very vague and jurors in general they don’t like vague laws because that can happen to anybody.
If an officer thinks that something was reckless but somebody else does not think it’s reckless how do you define that? What does that law actually mean? What is a reckless disregard?
Well, it’s very difficult to define that and many people, jurors, don’t like that. People wanna know what constitutes a violation of the law.
Like in a DUI case if you’re over a limit you know what that number is, alright? In an assault case you know what action is prohibited under the law.
You can’t punch somebody in the face, we know that, but what is a reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property?
We don’t really know what that is. It’s not very clear, it’s not very defined and so if your case is a jury eligible offense, meaning this does go to a jury trial, your case is eligible, it’s very vague.
Jurors don’t like that.
The final thing that we can look to in many of these cases especially in the cases where there’s passengers is what do the witnesses say?
What do the other people in the car say?
Did they feel like the driver was driving recklessly?
Did they feel like their husband or their wife or their mother or their father was driving in a manner that actually put them and their property in a state of being harmed? Or was it a reckless disregard for their safety or their well-being?
In most cases the witnesses, the passengers, other people who are around when this happened will say no, it wasn’t reckless. I felt perfectly safe.
And so you can take all of these factors and you can use that to your advantage.
A lot of courts, a lot of prosecutors, a lot of judges, they don’t wanna take these cases all the way up to a jury trial. You can imagine it’s a very, very long process and you get a lot of kind of wiggle room.
There’s a lot of variants as to whether or not a jury is gonna find you guilty of that. So, this is where the defenses are built and we can use a lot of this to our advantage and say look, we understand that our client was charged with a crime.
We obviously don’t wanna plead guilty to this offense this is a class two misdemeanor and has eight points that would go on your record, it’s very serious and so if we can negotiate this down into something else we might be okay with that depending upon what your goals are and so we can say we’re gonna use all of this. We’re going to use all of these threats.
The threat to a jury trial as leverage to say let’s all make this go away, let’s reach an outcome that everybody in the room is happy with and we can just close this case out and move on.
And so if you’ve been charged with reckless driving it’s important to remember this is a serious offense.
Eight points, it’s a class two misdemeanor, it goes on your record and it can cause a license suspension. If you get a second offense you can get jail time, mandatory jail time.
If you’re in a bad jurisdiction with a bad judge they may ask for jail time depending upon your speed and depending on the allegations here. So it’s important to understand what you’re being charged with.
These are just some of the defenses that we use regularly. You can imagine there are many, many more and they’re all specific to your case so give our office a call.
If you’re watching this video you may have been charged with this.
Come into our office, sit down, we offer free case evaluation.
We’ll put together a plan that you can use to make sure that this is not going on your record and you can move on and move forward with your life. Thanks for watching.
Reckless Driving in Arizona is a Class 2 misdemeanor (ARS 28-693A), meaning that it is a jailable offense carrying heavy penalties, points, jail time, and potentially up to 2 years probation.
How do you get reckless driving charges in Arizona?
The reckless driving statute is very ambiguous, and can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.
The law says that a person is guilty of reckless driving if a person drives a vehicle "in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property."
The question then becomes, what is considered the reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property?
Essentially, this becomes a judgment call for the police officer or the prosecutor who stops a driver.
Generally, they are looking for vehicles that are:
- Travelling at very high rates of speed
- Vehicles speeding in bad road conditions (weather, construction, in school zones, etc.)
- Vehicles with passengers in the car (especially young children)
- Vehicles swerving in and out of traffic
- Vehicles that are following too close or making other unsafe maneuvers
- Practically, any other reason that the officer believes is "reckless"
What are the penalties for reckless driving?
Technically, under the law, a conviction for criminal speeding is technically punishable by:
- up to 4 months of jail
- a fine of up to $750 plus surcharges
- up to 2 years of probation
- potential 90 day license suspension and mandatory surrendering of driver's license
Practically speaking, other consequences can be even more severe, including:
- adding 8 points to your license, the same number of points as a DUI
- receiving a criminal record
- disqualification from job opportunities
- severe impacts on immigration status ("reckless" is important in immigration law)
- non-renewal of Visa or temporary work status
- severe impacts on insurance rates
- driver's license suspension and other MVD consequences in Arizona and your home state
- disqualification of commercial driver's license status (CDL)
- loss of professional licenses
- loss of security clearances
- loss of government advancement opportunities due to insurance costs
- reputation damage-having to check the box "criminal conviction" on any application materials
Reckless driving charges in severe in Arizona. The type of crime is one step below a DUI and should be taken very seriously as every step of the case.
Arizona reports convictions to these charges to the Department of Public Safety, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department, and your home state if it is outside of Arizona.
Despite these significant penalties, there are options, defenses and a robust strategy we have developed to assist you through this charge.
How many points is reckless driving?
Reckless Driving in Arizona is an 8 point violation. Arizona licensing operates on a system that adds points, rather than subtracts them. When you reach 8 points or above, you will have problems with the Arizona motor vehicle department. Here is where reckless driving falls on the scale in Arizona:
In Arizona, when a person reaches 8 points on their license, or is convicted of a reckless driving offense, the Motor Vehicle Department will require that person to take a program called Traffic Survival School.
This is an 8 hour course that you must do in person (if you live out of state you must complete an analogous program).
This is a class that is also required for people convicted of DUI.
Failure to complete this class will result in a license suspension.
This requirement is also listed as a separate line item on your motor vehicle record, which is another red flag for insurance companies.
The Judge of the court may also require the surrender of a driver's license for 90 days.
If this happens, the motor vehicle department of Arizona will automatically issue that suspension, which will also transfer out of state.
For more information on points in Arizona, how to check how many points you currently have, and what we do to help people in those situations, please visit this page: License Suspensions & Points in Arizona.
I just received a reckless driving ticket, what are my options?
Being stopped by the police or getting written a ticket is not a fun experience.
Officers are often rude and the encounter is often heated and tense.
When you are charged with reckless driving, you have a few options, as you do in all criminal cases:
- Plead guilty as charged
- Represent yourself throughout the process
- Hire an attorney to represent you
Regardless of which option you choose, you (or your lawyer) cannot miss your first court date.
Two important pieces of information that you must remember: (1) the name of the court and (2) your next court date.
Here is an example of where this information is located:
It is important that you do not forget this information. Either you, or your attorney if you choose to hire one, will need to appear in Court to attend this court date.
Failing to appear at this court date will result in a license suspension and a warrant being issued for your arrest.
What is the court process for reckless driving tickets?
It is important to remember that because this is a criminal violation, the court process is the same as with any other crime.
The process can be surprisingly long and confusing for those that are not familiar with the criminal system.
The chart below details the general process in a reckless driving case.
Please keep in mind this chart is for illustrative purposes only and case developments are unique to every case.
This first court date on your citation is called an Arraignment.
It is a very basic, preliminary hearing that is generally only held in these types of cases for people who do not have lawyers.
At this hearing, your rights are explained as well as the maximum penalties you face under Arizona, as explained above.
Just because the maximum penalty is 30 days in jail does not mean that this is what the actual result will be at the disposition of the case. However, the Judge at this hearing has to make sure you understand the nature of the charge against you.
At this hearing, if you choose to plead guilty, you may do so.
If you do, you will have a criminal conviction, 8 points on your license, and a blemish that follows you throughout life. Most people choose not to do this.
Instead, you may enter a plea of not guilty. This is what we do, as your lawyer, from the beginning of the case. We contact the court to let them know that you have retained our office and we enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf.
After entering the plea of not guilty, the court will vacate the arraignment in your case and reschedule a new court date in about 30 days.
This is where the meat of your defense begins.
A pre-trial conference is the first, second and sometimes third court date scheduled after your arraignment.
It is a standard informal meeting between our office and the prosecutor.
Normally, plea offers and other conversations occur at these meetings.
We often talk about disclosure issues, problems with reports or evidence, and mitigation information.
The majority of the work completed in your defense occurs in between these settings.
These are scheduled so the court can stay apprised of developments or issues as they occur.
In between court dates and pre-trial conferences, our office and the prosecutor's office exchange what is known as "discovery."
In reckless driving cases, this can often include:
- Certification cards
- Training certificates
- Calibration records
- Dash cam video
- Audio recording
- Body camera footage
- GPS Data
- AVL or "automatic vehicle location" data
- Traffic pattern studies
- Maintenance logs
- Work orders
- Disciplinary history
- Witness statements
- CAD data (computer aided dispatch records)
At times, this evidence is not available or does not exist.
We can use that to our advantage.
Other times, we have to fight to obtain this information as law enforcement agencies or prosecutor officers refuses to provide them to aid in your defense.
How do you defend or beat a reckless driving ticket?
Many people often think that because this is a "speeding ticket" that they do not need a lawyer without realizing some important aspects of the law.
Because reckless driving is a misdemeanor, the rules of criminal procedure, constitutional law and due process all apply as in any other criminal case.
A reckless driving case progresses alongside cases of assault, domestic violation, DUI and other crimes and the same rules apply.
Your case will be assigned to a prosecutor who will represent the officer who wrote the ticket and whose job is to convict you.
Although this may be scary and worrisome at first, it gives our efforts to defend you specific advantages not available in civil cases.
Our defense is separated down to two main avenues, legal and personal:
There are two main areas that our office investigates in reckless driving matters; legal and mitigation.
We conduct a thorough legal review of your case to ensure the state has enough evidence to meet their burden.
As criminal cases progress, we engage in a thorough discovery review of all materials that the state has, or should have, in your file.
It is important to remember the the police report and the words from the officer who cited you are not by them self actual evidence.
The officer is a witness, and witnesses are almost always mistaken, biased, error prone or flat out wrong.
Many times, the state simply does not have enough evidence to support a conviction.
The "defining recklessness" defense and why this matters
At the outset of this page, we discussed the vague concept of "recklessness" and what that means.
In these types of cases, this is a very important concept because it provides us with important tools as defense lawyers.
The first goal is to identify factors, conditions, circumstances and environmental components specific to your case that are not reckless.
These factors are important to identify, nourish, and formally share with the prosecuting agency to show that they have a weak case and cannot prove recklessness.
Often times, this process can increase negotiation and help lead towards a reduced charge and a resolution of the case.
One of the key bargaining chips that you have and that we utilize as defense attorneys in reckless driving cases is our right to a trial by jury.
Although this certainly sounds scary, and most people do not want to go to trial, this is a major tool that we use to get results in these cases.
Juries tend not to understand what constitutes "recklessness" and they do not like such a broad, vague law.
Many times, most people in the jury will have done something the prosecutor would try to spin as reckless, and they certainly would not have wanted to have been charged with a crime for that act.
Similarly, juries can be widely varied, and this can lead to huge differences in how people interpret "reckless."
A simple example is looking at a mother's definition of what is reckless versus her 22 year old son.
Both of these types of people could end up in the same jury panel.
In many traffic related cases, there is no right to a jury trial. But for reckless driving, there is.
By exercising our right to a jury trial, we hold certain defense and negotiating points that simply do not exist in many other types of criminal traffic cases.
What about mitigation and if this is my first criminal offense?
Most people who contact our office to help them through a reckless driving case have never been in trouble before or have no criminal record.
Even if you have, this does not mean that your case is automatically lost or that the prosecutor will presume the worst.
The point is, if there are 10 people who have been charged with reckless driving, how do we make you stand out from the crowd today?
We work with you to gather information about you, your life, and your unique circumstances.
As your case progresses, we help guide you to gather information that we believe will be helpful in your case.
We want to humanize your situation, and show that you are much more than a name and a case number.
We present this information to the prosecutor, to the court, and at times the officer involved.
This allows us to work on negotiating a resolution that serves the interests of all involved.
What about a second reckless driving conviction?
Penalties for second offense reckless driving convictions can increase significantly if they occur within 24 months of each other.
The second offense is classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor, instead of a Class 2.
There is a mandatory 20 days in jail penalty.
The motor vehicle department issues a mandatory revocation of the driver's license.
If you are facing a second offense reckless driving charge, the need for a proper defense increase exponentially.
What are some of the likely outcomes in my reckless driving case?
This is a very common and normal question to ask.
We have represented people like you all over Arizona in almost every court, at every speed, in every situation.
Each court, prosecutor, speed, location, officer, mitigation and special circumstances will impact your outcome.
We have successfully resolved cases through:
- Not guilty verdicts at trial
- Pre-trial motions to dismiss granted
- Voluntary dismissal from prosecutor/state
- Motion to suppress / exclude granted and voluntary dismissal
- Dismissal with Defensive Driving School
- Dismissal with LifeSkills
- Dismissal with Wise Choice Alternatives
- Negotiated reductions to civil offense
- Negotiated to community service
- Negotiated to non-moving violations
- Negotiated to deferred prosecution
The big question is: what about my case?
Contact our office for a completely free case evaluation where we will review your case with you and discuss your best options moving forward.
A proper defense will be specific to you, the circumstances around your violation, and the circumstances of your life. This is why it is important to have a thorough legal defense from an experienced team.
I received a reckless driving ticket and I need help.
That is why we are here. Call our office at 480-500-8762 or submit your question and case information using the form on this page. Our team offers free, no obligation case evaluations and we hope to answer your questions soon. Contact our team today!