Is Reckless Driving Really a Crime?

Is Reckless Driving Really a Crime?

The answer is, yes. It’s a class two misdemeanor, which can carry penalties up to 4 months in jail and a $750 fine (although fines can dramatically increase after statutory surcharges). In addition to this, a conviction of Reckless driving can have negative consequences regarding your driver’s license. Arizona is a state that has criminalized a lot of activity. Reckless driving is no exception to that, and a second offense of reckless driving can carry very serious penalties that would surprise most people.

What is “Reckless Driving” anyway?

Although I know it’s not the answer you probably want to hear, Reckless Driving can be a lot of things. It’s often referred to as the “catch all” traffic violation by lawyers and law enforcement. The language of the law itself is vague and ambiguous. A.R.S. 28-693 defines reckless driving as “A person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” See, pretty open ended…

What can I expect if I’m charged for a first offense of Reckless Driving?

I already told you about the maximum penalties for Reckless Driving; but are the maximum penalties a realistic outcome? Most defense attorneys will not point this out on their websites, but the answer is most probably not. Most of the time, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the Reckless Driving charge, a first-time offense is going to carry a hefty fine, possibly a day of jail and 8 points assessed to your driver’s license. The 8 points usually carries a 3-month license suspension; however, you can avoid that suspension if you are eligible to attend traffic survival school.

All that said, Reckless Driving is still a crime, and a conviction of Reckless Driving will forever stain your criminal record. When clients of mine are charged with Reckless Driving, my goal is generally to get rid of the criminal aspect of the charge as to avoid the hit to their record.

What can I expect if I’m charged with a second offense Reckless Driving?

A second offense of Reckless Driving can carry dramatically worse penalties. For example, if a person has been convicted of a prior major motor violation and is charged with Reckless Driving within 2-years, the person must serve a minimum of 20-days in jail. For many folks, 20 days in jail can be life changing and, in many cases, devastating to their employment. While the Reckless Driving statute does allow for release from jail for purposes of school or employment, the release is dependent on the jail’s policies. This is problematic given that most (if not all) jails in Arizona are no longer participating in a “work release” program.

Beyond that, a person in this situation is looking at a 12-month suspension of their driver’s license. This suspension can be mitigated in some circumstances. As you can see, a second offense Reckless Driving carries significantly harsher penalties and anyone facing these criminal charges should consult with an Arizona criminal defense attorney at the earliest stage of proceedings as possible.

Do I need to hire an attorney if I’m charged with Reckless Driving?

Yes. At a minimum, call and discuss your case with an attorney. Most criminal defense attorneys (myself included) will talk to you about your specific case for free.  Although Reckless Driving is merely a misdemeanor charge, it is a criminal charge that will remain on your record forever (unless eligible of expungement). A criminal defense attorney experienced in dealing with Reckless Driving charges should work toward building an outright defense to the charge and using the leverage to negotiate with the government for significantly lesser charges.

As an attorney, I am not only familiar with the Reckless Driving law, but I also actually wrote part of it. I was able to eliminate the former requirement that a person’s driver’s license be revoked for a second offense and built in a suspension instead that allowed a person to drive on a restricted driver’s license instead. If you have questions about Arizona’s Reckless Driving law, you can message me here, or reach me via call or text 24/7 at (480) 363-0090.

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About the Author – Criminal Defense Lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona

Steven Scharboneau is an Arizona attorney practicing criminal defense law and is also a lobbyist with deep roots in the Phoenix Metro area. While he primarily practices in the area of Arizona criminal law, he also practices in other areas where the opportunity to represent the accused presents itself. Beyond the courtroom, Steven advocates for Arizonans impacted by the criminal justice system by working to change Arizona’s criminal laws. Protecting the rights of others from government intrusion is Steven’s passion in life.

This blog is intended to offer explanations of criminal laws and discuss general and basic legal concepts in Arizona. If you have questions or comments specific to a blog entry, feel free to contact me. Nothing on this site is to be construed as legal advice nor to establish an attorney client relationship. If  you would like  more information regarding  your specific situation, you can contact me 24/7 at (480) 363-0090 or through the Contact Me page on this site.