Reckless driving in Arizona occurs when a person operates a vehicle in a manner that exhibits a willful disregard for the safety of people or property. Indeed, this offense is a Class 1 or Class 2 Misdemeanor in Arizona, depending on whether it is a second or first offense, respectively. Specifically, Arizona Revised Statute 28-693 defines Reckless Driving. This offense is a charge that can come with some major consequences, including incarceration, fines, probation and driver’s license ramifications. Specifically, the more reckless a person’s behavior, the more harsh the consequences. Reckless driving behavior could cause dangerous felony charges calling for mandatory prison. Reckless Driving (and all vehicle offenses) is not a joke. Any person charged or under investigation for Reckless Driving, or any vehicular offense include DUI, should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.
It is important to note, Reckless Driving is not Aggressive Driving, defined under A.R.S. 28-695 and a Class 2 misdemeanor for a first-time offense. There are differences between Aggressive Driving and Reckless Driving. As stated, Reckless Driving occurs when a person operates a vehicle in a manner that exhibits a willful disregard for the safety of people or property. However, Aggressive Driving has a specific set of elements that must be present for the offense to occur. The elements of Aggressive Driving are not as subjective. There are specific elements. On the other hand, Reckless Driving calls for a “gray” area subjective interpretation of whether a person is operating a vehicle in “willful disregard.”
Reckless Driving Defined
Reckless driving in Arizona is a traffic violation occurring when a driver operates a vehicle in a manner that disregarding others or property. The State must prove this “reckless disregard” beyond a reasonable doubt. Arizona Revised Statute 13-105(10)(c) defines “recklessly”. In its most basic definition, “reckless” means that a person is aware of a risk, but consciously disregards it. Indeed, this must take place in a situation where a reasonable person would not disregard the risk.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a difficult burden, especially in a Reckless Driving offense. The reason is because the State must produce a witness or officer to provide specific detail on driving behavior. This testimony is subject to cross-examination, which should include the witness’ ability to perceive detail while operating a motor vehicle. However, the State may also produce videos obtained from other vehicle witnesses. Video evidence can make a case conclusive or provide opportunities for defense to establish reasonable doubt. This is another reason it is important to consult with and retain an experienced Reckless Driving attorney.
Examples of Reckless Driving
Some examples of Reckless Driving include driving at an excessive speed or in a manner that endangers others. This could be a person driving on a highway or freeway at 100 plus miles per hour. Although most of the time law enforcement charges Criminal Speed or Excessive Speed here. However, excessive speeds over 120 plus miles per hour, or more, could result in Reckless Driving charges. Another example occurs when a person drives at an excessive speed while weaving in and out of traffic. Or, a driver failing to obey traffic signals. Also, Reckless Driving may occur if a driver fails to yield the right of way, or engages in street racing. Simply put, Reckless Driving includes any conduct that endangers the safety of others (and property) on the road.
Again, the elements for committing Reckless Driving are not as specific as the elements in Aggressive Driving. As such, Reckless Driving may encompass any number of behaviors a law enforcement officer or witness could articulate. The State prosecutes vehicular crimes harshly. This is especially true in Arizona and driver’s must remember to always drive safe as consequences are harsh.
Consequences of Arizona Conviction
A Reckless Driving conviction is a misdemeanor, which carries significant penalties, including fines, license ramifications, and even potential jail time.
A first-offense Reckless Driving conviction in Arizona is a Class 2 misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for an Arizona Class 2 misdemeanor are:
- Up to four months in jail
- A fine of up to $750, plus surcharges and assessments
- Up to two years of probation
It is important to note the actual penalties for a Class 2 misdemeanor depend on each case. And, any prior criminal record the defendant may have. Additionally, a Class 2 misdemeanor Reckless Driving conviction carries long-term consequences. This includes difficulty obtaining employment or housing. In addition, loss of certain civil rights, damage to reputation, and higher vehicle insurance rates.
Second-Offense Conviction Within 24 Months
A second-offense Reckless Driving conviction within 24 months is a Class 1 misdemeanor. In Arizona, the maximum penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor are:
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine of up to $2500, plus surcharges and assessment
- Up to three years probation
Actual penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor are dependent upon the specific circumstances of the case. And, any prior criminal record the defendant may have besides the first-offense Reckless Driving conviction. It is not difficult to see how jail may be imposed for this type of offense. As will be discussed, there is a fine line between this offense and dangerous vehicular felonies.
In addition to the penalties imposed by the court, a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction can also have long-term consequences. This includes difficulty in obtaining employment or housing, loss of certain civil rights, and damage to reputation. Also, Reckless Driving carries significant driver’s license ramifications.
Arizona Driver’s License Ramifications for a Reckless Driving Conviction
A Reckless Driving Conviction carries a driver’s license points assessment against a driver’s license (8 points). Indeed, a Reckless Driving in Arizona requires the driver to complete Traffic Survival School (TSS). Additional driver’s license ramifications include possible insurance rate increases and a court-imposed 90-day driver’s license suspension. It is important to note there is not an “automatic” license reinstatement. Rather, a person must take action and pay a reinstatement fee.
Potential Reckless Driving Defenses
There are some potential reckless driving defenses. Indeed, a defendant may assert no reckless driving or mistaken identity. Specifically, these are defenses asserting no proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Another potential Reckless Driving defense is alleging an emergency, or necessity.
The “necessity defense” is a legal defense available in Arizona that may allow a defendant to avoid criminal liability. Simply put, the defendant argues there was no choice but to commit the offense and avoid a greater harm.
Under Arizona law, the necessity defense is available when the defendant’s conduct was:
- Necessary to avoid a significant and imminent harm to the defendant or others;
- Reasonable, in light of the potential harm;
- Not brought about by the defendant’s own recklessness or negligence; and
- No other effective means available to avoid situation.
Examples of necessity include a driver forced to speed in order to rush someone to the hospital or for some other emergency. However, the necessity defense is obviously not always available. Indeed, Reckless Driving defendants who believe they may have a valid necessity defense should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Reckless Driving is a Serious Offense
It is important to note Reckless Driving can lead to very serious consequences. Indeed, a person “recklessly” driving a motor vehicle is open to multiple dangerous felonies. These felonies include Manslaughter, Negligent Homicide, Aggravated Assault and Endangerment. These four crimes are dangerous offenses calling for mandatory prison upon trial conviction. Specifically, reckless driving includes anything from DUI through manslaughter. Indeed, impairment is not necessary to convict a person of reckless vehicular manslaughter or aggravated assault. Rather, a prosecutor could easily carry the burden for “recklessness” beyond a reasonable doubt using extreme speed or reckless weaving in traffic.
It is also important for people to note their liberty and freedom is not worth using a vehicle as a “dangerous instrument.” Every prosecutor’s office in the nation seeks harsh sentences on vehicular crimes. It’s not because a person is a criminal or even thought of that way. Rather, prosecutor’s offices take such harsh positions on these cases because good people making a mistake does not mean anything. These mistakes are costly to families, causing complete changes in life trajectories. This is why “lower-level” misdemeanor vehicle offenses are taken so seriously. And why education is necessary upon a conviction for any vehicle offense including DUI, Reckless Driving, and Aggressive Driving.
Huss Law Criminal Defense, DUI, & Reckless Driving Lawyer
Any person charged with Reckless Driving per A.R.S. 28-693 should consult with and retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. Indeed, Huss Law, PLLC founding attorney, Jeremy L. Huss, has been practicing criminal law in Arizona for over 20 years. Specifically, Mr. Huss was a long-time nearly 13-year prosecutor where he handled countless vehicular offenses. This experience also includes Reckless Driving, DUI, Aggravated DUI, and Vehicular Manslaughter and Aggravated Assault.
Mr. Huss has been lead trial counsel on several vehicular offenses as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. He knows what to investigate in these matters and has worked closely with state accident investigators and defense accident investigators. Moreover, Mr. Huss provided training to law enforcement in his capacity as a prosecutor. This included training for investigating DUIs and other vehicular offenses. He also provided training on Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure issues. Indeed, Mr. Huss offers free initial consultations. Call Huss Law Today!Categories:: Criminal Defense, DUI, General, Vehicle Crimes