The crime of “Reckless Driving”, which is defined in A.R.S. § 28-693, is either a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor offense in Arizona depending on if it is a first-time or repeat offense. 

If it’s your first offense for reckless driving in Arizona, it’s a class 2 misdemeanor.  If it’s your second offense for reckless driving (or an offense like DUI) in 2 years, then it’s a class 1 misdemeanor.

What is Reckless Driving in Arizona?

reckless driving in arizona

Breaking it down, reckless driving requires that you drive recklessly and that your reckless driving impacts the safety of people or property.  It is a subjective offense that requires a witness or officer to be specific in explaining what about the driving was “reckless.”  Recklessness requires: (1) you know about and ignore a serious risk to people or property; and (2) the risk is one that a reasonable person would not ignore.

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IMPORTANT: Reckless driving is a serious traffic offense in that the penalties can become harsher if you incur additional charges. Knowing how to handle a reckless driving charge can be the difference between no jail and mandatory jail, increased fines, and license suspension or revocation. We strongly encourage consulting with an experienced and skilled Arizona criminal defense attorney.

A.R.S. § 28-693 Defined

Arizona’s Reckless Driving statute, A.R.S. § 28-693, states:

“A person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”  A first-time offense is a class 2 misdemeanor.

However, “if a person who is convicted of a violation of this section has been previously convicted of a violation of this section,” or of section 13-1102, 13-1103(A)(1), or section 28-708, 28-1381, 28-1382 or 28-1383 “within a period of twenty-four months,” it is a class 1 misdemeanor.

What is “reckless disregard”?

A.R.S. § 13-105(10)(c) defines “recklessly” as “with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists.  The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard of such risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.  A person who creates such a risk but who is unaware of such risk solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts recklessly with respect to such risk.”

In other words, given a situation, if you know about a risk that could happen in that situation and you ignore it and continue your conduct, you are considered to act recklessly if a “reasonable person” would not ignore the risk in the situation and would not continue with the conduct.

Example: Defendant has a restriction on her driver’s license requiring that she wear glasses when she drives.  Defendant is nearsighted, farsighted and has serious astigmatism so that she has difficulty seeing objects clearly without her glasses.  She knows that without her glasses she cannot read the road signs and cannot adequately negotiate the space between cars.  One morning, she is late for an important work meeting and rushes out of the house without grabbing her glasses.  Because she is late and she remembers she has a spare pair of glasses at her office, she decides to make the drive to work even though she knows she will have a hard time seeing.  Defendant must drive 30 minutes to get to her office—along busy highways and side streets.  Because she cannot see well and is in a hurry, she misjudges how far another car is from her when changing lanes and sideswipes them.  Defendant acted recklessly because she knew she could cause an accident while driving without her glasses but disregarded the risk because she was in a hurry.  A reasonable person would have retrieved the glasses before attempting to make a long commute.  Defendant could be charged with Reckless Driving.        

Penalties for Reckless Driving under ARS 28-693

The penalties for a first-time Reckless Driving conviction (class 2 misdemeanor) can include:

  • Up to 4 months in jail
  • A fine up to $750 with a surcharge
  • Up to 2 years of probation
  • Other: Points assessed against your driver’s license (8 points) and a requirement to complete Traffic Survival School (TSS), possible insurance rate increases, and possible court-ordered 90-day license suspension.

The penalties for a second-time Reckless Driving conviction within 2 years of a Reckless Driving conviction or another eligible offense (class 1 misdemeanor) can include:

  • Mandatory 20 days in jail with the potential of up to 6 months in jail
  • A fine up to $2,500 with a surcharge
  • Up to 2 years of probation
  • Other: Points assessed against your driver’s license (8 points) and a requirement to complete Traffic Survival School (TSS), possible insurance rate increases, and possible court-ordered license revocation.

Defenses to Reckless Driving

Lack of Evidence – There are several ways to show that the state’s evidence of recklessness is deficient.  For instance, if there was no person or property put at risk by the driving, there is no violation of the statute.  If the officer who stopped you or other witnesses are no longer available, or if your driving behavior did not rise to the level of reckless, the state likely cannot prove you drove recklessly “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

No Criminal Intent – The Reckless Driving statute has the mental requirement that you acted recklessly.  Recklessness is subjective and can be refuted in many ways.  For instance, frequent lane changing and following other vehicles too closely is a judgment call based on the viewer.  And speed alone is typically not enough to show recklessness, particularly if no people or property are put at risk.  Also, if there was a medical or other kind of emergency that required you to drive in a risky manner to protect someone else or yourself, it may be a possible defense.   

Constitutional violations – If your rights were violated by police in any way, there may not be a constitutional reason to stop your vehicle or cite you.  For instance, if you did not make any kind of driving error, but the officer stopped you and cited you for reckless driving, this may be a defense.  We may be able to use evidence like AVL data, dash cam footage, or a witness to challenge the stop to prove your innocence. 

How Salwin Law Group Can Help You Fight a Reckless Driving Charge

If you’ve been charged with Reckless Driving under A.R.S. § 28-693, it’s important that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.  Stewart Salwin will fight to get your charge lowered or dismissed.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former felony prosecutor, and he knows how the prosecution thinks and what will convince them to get you a favorable resolution.  We offer a free initial consultation. 

Give us a call at (480) 702-1789, and let us develop a defense strategy with you today.