Reckless driving is not just a civil traffic offense in Arizona, it is a crime that can carry a mandatory jail sentence and result in the suspension of your driver's license. Although a reckless driving conviction may be preferable to a DUI conviction in many cases, the Arizona MVD considers it an 8-point violation -- the same number of points as a DUI conviction! So what exactly is "reckless driving" in Arizona?
Arizona Reckless Driving ARS 28-693
The Arizona reckless driving law simply says that anyone who "drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving." As you can see, this is a bit ambiguous, or at least it's pretty subjective. Someone who is simply speeding, or even going too slowly, could arguably be recklessly disregarding the safety of other people or property. The same argument could be made of someone who is tailgating another driver. Yet we see these kinds of driving behaviors happen all around us on a daily basis while driving. In fact, on the streets of Tucson, speeding and tailgating may actually be the norm.
So what separates bad, but relatively normal driving from reckless driving? Unfortunately, there is no answer to this question. It's really up to the discretion of a police officer. This means that there is a decent chance that a reckless driving charge is excessive under the circumstances. Ultimately, if you assert your right to trial, a judge will decide (you don't get a jury trial for a reckless driving charge in Arizona).
Reckless Driving Penalties
A first-time reckless driving offense is a Class 2 Misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 4 months in jail. A second reckless driving conviction within two years is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and requires a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20 days! This is 20 times more than the mandatory minimum sentence for a regular, first-time DUI conviction!
Also, any reckless driving conviction is an 8-point violation with the MVD. This means that, assuming you have no other recent traffic violations, you will have to complete Traffic Survival School to get your driver's license back. If you've already completed a Traffic Survival School within the last two years, you get a 3-month suspension of your driver's license.
Reckless driving charges in Arizona are serious, not just because of the penalties outlined above, but also because they can result in a criminal record. Don't take these charges lightly. If you can, hire an attorney. You may be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges, or you may be able to convince the judge that you're not guilty.
* This blog is published by Tucson DUI and criminal defense lawyer Nathan D. Leonardo. Nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein does not constitute legal advice, but is for general information purposes only. If you have a legal question, you can contact us online or call (520) 314-4125.