Make no mistake: reckless driving is an extremely serious offense in New York. It carries with it severe penalties, and a conviction could indefinitely stain your driving record.
Reckless driving (VTL 1212) is considered to be one of the most intense tickets you can receive. After all, getting a ticket for reckless driving is unlike most other traffic tickets because it counts as a misdemeanor in NY.
Since reckless driving is considered a crime, a conviction will cause you to have a criminal record. This could make background checks in an already down economy yet another barrier to finding or keeping a job.
Also, depending on how reckless you were, you could go to jail for up to 30 days for a first offense, 90 days for a second offense, and 180 days for a third offense.
Aside from the criminal penalties, a reckless driving conviction will put 5 points on your driver’s license and you will incur a fine of up to $300.
Reckless driving will cause your auto insurance rate to go up tremendously. A recent study conducted by Insurance.com revealed that the average insurance hike amounted to an increase of 22% for a reckless driving ticket!
Remember, it is important to note that if you accumulate 11 points in 18 months, your driving privileges may be suspended. 5 points for reckless driving (i.e. violating VTL 1212) can cause you to reach the 11 point mark rather quickly.
Lastly, if you receive another ticket in conjunction with one for reckless driving in NY and a total of 6 or more points would go on your record, you will be required to pay a “Driver Assessment Fee” to the DMV. That amounts to $300 for 6 points and an additional $75 for every point above 6.
Official Text of the Reckless Driving Statute
New York Vehicle and Traffic Law 1212. Reckless driving.
Reckless driving shall mean driving or using any motor vehicle, motorcycle or any other vehicle propelled by any power other than muscular power or any appliance or accessory thereof in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway. Reckless driving is prohibited. Every person violating this provision shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
In essence, it is a violation of New York’s reckless driving law if you drive any kind of vehicle in a way that interferes with the free use of the road or unreasonably endangers other users.
Common Defenses to a Reckless Driving Ticket
Fighting a ticket for reckless driving in NY can be more challenging than a regular ticket. Since VTL 1212 is considered a criminal matter, many district attorneys do not allow plea bargaining by mail and require an appearance in court. More importantly, judges and district attorneys are less flexible when negotiating a criminal offense like reckless driving.
Furthermore, in 2011, the New York State senate passed a bill to strengthen penalties for reckless driving and to create a new crime of aggravated reckless driving. The bill focused on dangerous driving by those who were drunk or high and drivers traveling in the wrong direction. Aggravated reckless driving would be a Class E Felony.
Due to the severity of these penalties, it is absolutely vital to familiarize yourself with a few of the common defenses used to prevent a conviction for reckless driving from staining your record.
In order to be convicted of reckless driving, the prosecution must provide evidence showing more than mere negligence. Similarly, determining whether conduct rises to the level of “unreasonable interference” or “endangerment” requires the presence of “additional aggravating acts or circumstances beyond a single violation of a rule of the road.” (see People v. Goldblatt, 98 AD 3d 817).
Based on this, a good defense NY traffic ticket attorneys raise is that there were no additional “aggravating acts” beyond the bounds of a mere traffic violation. For example, if your attorney is able to prove that all you did was violate a speeding or lane change law without engaging in any erratic or out-of-the-ordinary conduct, you will likely be able to get the reckless driving charge dismissed or greatly lowered.
Additionally, a more obvious—though equally valid—defense against VTL 1212 is that you were in fact driving reasonably. This of course presumes that you were not drinking and driving, swerving along the entire road, and/or driving erratically. Nevertheless, a smart attorney will use the exact language of the statute to argue that you were not endangering anyone else on the road and/or you were driving reasonably given the circumstances you were in.
Lastly, police misconduct or a blatant abuse of power may also be a factor in your attorney’s defense. Although this will not usually sway a judge to dismiss your reckless driving charge (and is not always believed by the judge), this defense can seriously mitigate your punishment if solid proof is proffered.
Case Law Analysis
The case law in New York reveals a very interesting insight into convictions for VTL 1212. Usually, engaging in multiple traffic violations will amount to reckless driving (see People v Grogan, 260 NY 138).
Additionally, if those infractions would be considered dangerous to the average individual, a judge will likely find you guilty (see People v Lamphear, 35 AD2d 305).
For example, in People v. Bohacek, 95 AD 3d 1592, a woman’s car crossed over into the oncoming lane of traffic and collided with another vehicle. If the story ended there, we would have been dealing with a run-of-the-mill negligence case—not reckless driving.
However, the driver of the other vehicle was killed instantly, and a blood test revealed that the woman who swerved into the other lane was on drugs at the time. With these facts on the table, due to the combined unreasonableness of: 1) driving while on drugs, 2) swerving into oncoming traffic, and 3) being the cause of a fatal car crash, there is no doubt why the judge ruled that this amounted to reckless driving.
Likewise, just swerving in and out of lanes will not constitute reckless driving. However, if you hit a car while swerving, it usually will (see People v. Van De Cruze, 2012 NY Slip Op 51378).
The difference between getting slapped with a routine traffic ticket and one for reckless driving appears to be in the compounded nature of your conduct as well as how dangerous it ultimately was.
- For a free copy of Adam’s Reckless Driving E-book, click here.
- Want more answers? See our Reckless Driving Frequently Asked Questions.
Who Should You Contact?
If you have been issued a ticket for VTL 1212, reckless driving in New York, it is highly recommended that you contact a traffic attorney with a successful record of fighting serious traffic offenses. Call the Rosenblum Law Firm today at 888-883-5529.