Reckless Driving in New York

Last Updated: 7/6/18 | Reviewed By: Adam H. Rosenblum Esq.

What Are the Penalties for Reckless Driving in New York?

Depending on how dangerous the actions are, a driver charged with reckless driving 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 a driver’s license and result in a fine of up to $300 for a first offense.

The full list of potential consequences are:

Criminal record: Reckless driving is more than a moving violation—it is a misdemeanor offense. A conviction means having a permanent criminal record. This could be a barrier to finding or keeping a job, and could affect other aspects of one’s life, including access to housing, acceptance to colleges, and financial aid. It could even affect one’s immigration status.

Jail time: The risk of going to jail over a reckless driving ticket is higher than with most moving violations. Drivers who are convicted of reckless driving could spend up to 30 days in jail for a first offense, 90 days in jail for a second offense, and 180 days in jail for a third offense.  

driving in a reckless manner Fines: Someone convicted of reckless driving in New York will pay a fine of $100 to $300 for a first offense. A second offense in 18 months will cost $100 to $525. A third conviction can result in a fine of $100 to $1,125.

Surcharges: In addition to the fine, a reckless driving ticket includes a state surcharge of $88 or $93, depending on where it was issued.

Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee (DRA): Drivers convicted of six or more points worth of violations within an 18-month period will be hit with a fine known as the Driver Responsibility Assessment fee (DRA). This is separate from the surcharges and fines associated with the ticket and is paid directly to the DMV. A DRA costs $300 plus an additional $75 for each point after six. Since reckless driving is worth five points, it only takes one additional moving violation to end up paying a DRA.

Points: The New York DMV will assess 5 points for each reckless driving conviction.

Auto insurance premium increases: Most moving violations will impact a drivers’ premiums. Some studies have found that a reckless driving conviction can cause a rate increase of 76 percent! Since reckless driving is a criminal offense, the ticket can also increase premiums for one’s life insurance and homeowner’s insurance.

Risk of license suspension: Reckless driving carries a serious risk of a license suspension. Any NY judge can suspend a person’s driving privileges if they feel the person deserves it based on their actions. Driving recklessly could be such a basis. In addition, drivers who are assessed 11 points or more will have their license suspended by the DMV. This can happen to any driver who has already been or later is convicted of two three-point offenses (e.g. red light tickets) or one six-point ticket (e.g. speeding 21 mph over the limit) in addition to the 5 point reckless driving ticket.

Offense Within 18 Months Max Fine + Surcharge & DRA Total Points Potential Jail Sentence
First $188 – $393 5 30 Days
Second $788 – $1,218 10 90 Days
Third $1,163 – $2,193 15 180 Days
Learn how we can reduce speeding ticket fines and points
Call us for a free consult: 888-883-5529

What is Considered Reckless Driving in New York?

A driver can be convicted of reckless driving in New York for driving a vehicle in a way that “unreasonably interferes” with the use of the public highway, or which “unreasonably endangers” other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians. Police have wide latitude regarding what can be considered reckless driving. For a charge to be upheld in court the prosecutor must demonstrate that the driver was acting in a way that showed disregard for the safety of others in a way that a rational person would not have done. 

Examples of behavior that can result in a reckless driving conviction would include:

  • Driving off the road while going at an excessive speed and making no effort to slow down in the presence of pedestrians (see People v. Goldblatt, 98 A.D.3d 817).
  • Running through a police barricade (see People v. Patterson, 23 Misc.2d 182).
  • Driving onto an exit ramp and then making a U-turn across three lanes of traffic before colliding into another vehicle (see People v. McGrantham, 12 N.Y.3d 892).
  • Crossing the centerline into the path of an oncoming traffic at a high rate of speed and crashed into another vehicle (see People v. Armlin, 6 N.Y.2d 231).
  • Ingesting drugs or alcohol before getting behind the wheel and subsequently committing one or more traffic violations or causing an accident (see People v. Bohacek, 95 A.D.3d 1592).

Hiring an Attorney to Fight a NY Reckless Driving Ticket

Reckless driving (VTL 1212) is considered to be one of the most serious tickets a person can receive. Reckless driving is unlike most other traffic tickets because it counts as a misdemeanor (crime) in New York. That means, unlike speeding tickets, a reckless driving carries the risk of a jail sentence. This, plus the high fines and point value of the ticket and the potential for significant auto insurance increases makes it imperative that a person hire a qualified NY traffic ticket attorney to fight a reckless driving charge. A skilled attorney can assess the evidence of the case surrounding the reckless driving charge and develop a defense strategy that can potentially get the charge reduced to a more common traffic ticket (such as speeding or improper turn).

Common Defenses to NY Reckless Driving Tickets

Fighting a ticket for reckless driving in NY can be more challenging than a regular ticket. Since VTL 1212 is considered a criminal matter, it will usually require an appearance in court. More importantly, judges and district attorneys are less flexible when negotiating a criminal offense like reckless driving.

Due to the severity of these penalties, it is absolutely vital to familiarize oneself with a few of the common defenses used to prevent a conviction for reckless driving from staining one’s driving 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 the defense attorney is able to prove that all the driver did was violate a speeding or lane change law without engaging in any erratic or out-of-the-ordinary conduct, the driver 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 the driver was in fact driving reasonably. This of course presumes that the driver was 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 the driver was not endangering anyone else on the road and/or he/she was driving reasonably given the circumstances.

Lastly, police misconduct or a blatant abuse of power may also be a factor in an attorney’s defense. Although this will not usually sway a judge to dismiss a reckless driving charge (and is not always believed by the judge), this defense can seriously mitigate the 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 the driver 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, he 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 the driver hits 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 the conduct as well as how dangerous it ultimately was. Download a free copy of our Reckless Driving ebook.

Out-of-State Drivers

Many drivers mistakenly believe that being licensed in a state other than New York means they can ignore NY traffic tickets. The fact is New York and most other states sharing information about each other’s drivers. As such, a charge of reckless driving issued in New York can and will follow an out-of-state driver home. More importantly, because reckless driving is a criminal offense, not only will one’s driving record be tarnished but the driver will also have a criminal record that will show up in any kind of basic background check, regardless of where the person lives.

Common Questions

  • How fast is considered reckless driving in New York?

    There is no formal speed that is considered to be reckless per se. However, excess speed in combination with any number of other factors can be grounds for a reckless driving charge. Generally speaking, an officer will issue a ticket for reckless driving if a driver is acting in a way that is considered unreasonable and either endangers others or prohibits use of the roadway.

  • Is reckless driving a felony in New York?

    No. Reckless driving is classified as a misdemeanor in New York. While less serious than a felony, a misdemeanor conviction can still result in jail time, heavy fines, and a permanent criminal record.

  • How long does a reckless driving conviction stay on one’s license?
    1. A reckless driving conviction will stay on a New York driving record for three years. However, the misdemeanor conviction will remain on one’s criminal record forever.
  • What is a “wet reckless” charge?

    The term “wet reckless” is not usually used in New York. Other states use the term to mean a plea bargain under which a DWI is reduced to a reckless driving charge. New York, however, has tight limits on plea bargains for DWI cases. In fact, it is not uncommon for drivers to be charged with both DWI and reckless driving—or aggravated reckless driving—depending on the circumstances.

  • How long does a reckless driving conviction stay on one’s license?

    A reckless driving conviction will stay on a New York driving record for three years. However, the misdemeanor conviction will remain on one’s criminal record forever.

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22 Comments

  • Percival J. Prince
    August 2, 2017

    I was driving on Bedford ave between president and Carroll street the tragic was stopped bumper to bumper in the direction I was going. I was one car away from the intersection of before and president st. There was no on coming traffic so I pulled out and made a left since I was going on president street to my mothers house. That’s when I was given a reckless driving ticket

    • RLF Attorneys
      August 4, 2017

      Percival – Please be advised that reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense, which can not be expunged in NY. I strongly suggest that you contest this violation to prevent this incident from impacting your record.

  • Rahshawn Gilmore
    June 4, 2017

    Two different tickets on two different occasions.

    1st reckless driving Bronx. Officers blocked traffic mistake his commands went around for a brief 10 yards back into the land. Made the first right. Looked back guess who with ticket hand ready.

    2nd queens vehicle in front began to slow down I’m passed him got back In lane. Laser pin point lights on. 76 in a 40. 6mph makes the difference between me being unemployed. TLC

    • RLF Attorneys
      June 12, 2017

      Rahshawn – Reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense that, if found guilty, will permantly stay on your record. The 76/40 – an 8 point ticket, carries substantial fines, assessment fees, and insurance implications. Due to the potential consequences of these tickets, I strongly suggest you contact us to discuss your options.

  • Jason
    March 14, 2017

    I got pulled over for reckless driving 1212 vtl
    I was on a highway in the Bronx NY and exited through a highway ramp due to major traffic on the highway.

    • RLF Attorneys
      March 14, 2017

      Jason – due to the serious consequences of this misdemeanor violation, I strongly suggest you contact us to discuss further. You may reach us at 888-883-5529.

  • michael Retek
    November 3, 2016

    What to do?

    I was driving my son to the airport, a cop pulls me over, “the reason I stopped you is because you have illegal tint on the windows”, I told him this is how I got the car and am sure the dealer wouldn’t do it too dark, he said this was not done by the manufacturer (and is positive thatnif he would color test it, it would fail) and since I was operating the vehicle w illegal tint..he has to issue a summons.
    He went back to his car, meanwhile my wife went out towards his car, they started shouting get back into your car…which she did, and this officer came to my window and started yelling at my wife, so she told him, I just wanted to tell you that we are on our way to the airport, so he should please be mindful of that. .. he walks away and tells us sarcastically, yes, now I will really be mindful.

    Anyway, he came back with a summons folded with the lic, reg, ins. And says, I did not give you a moving violation, just a tint summons, so you can just send in payment or go to court if you really want to fight it.
    I thanked him politely and drove off (as I was already late for the flight ).

    At the next red light I look at the ticket and it IS A MOVING VIOLATION FOR RECKLESS DRIVING.!!!!

    WHAT TO DO?
    (besides getting a dash cam ).

    83rd pct.

    • RLF Attorneys
      November 6, 2016

      Due to the serious and criminal nature of this violation, I strongly suggest you contact us immediately. NY does not have any avenues for expungements of criminal offenses.

  • fahim
    July 7, 2016

    i got a ticket from criminal court and its said reckless driving.
    by mistake i entered in one way street but right way i relized and i turn around officer saw me and issue me this ticket

    • Adam Rosenblum
      July 8, 2016

      In order to futher assist you – we need the name of the specific court. Generally speaking, however, reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense that carries significant penalties, along with a criminal record.

  • fang liu
    June 1, 2016

    Hi,there
    I’ve got a traffic incident on May 28.
    Need some help here

    • Adam Rosenblum
      June 2, 2016

      We need more information in order to provide you with any assistance.

  • KEN G?
    May 9, 2016

    My son who just turned 18 was pulled over for speeding, 96 in a 55 zone, which I find hard to believe. Anyway the officer demanded my son tell him who his friend was that he was racing. We had just left a family function and he was driving home alone and was not racing anyone, just wanted to get home and explained this to the officer and told him that he didn’t realize he was going that fast. By the time I got to him the officer gave him 3 tickets, speeding, changing lanes without signaling and reckless driving. I’m worried that the reckless driving misdemeanor is going to hurt him now with going to college and getting jobs in the future. Is there a way to plea bargain down these charges? He’s very upset and thinks he’s going to do jail time. He’s a good kid who wasn’t paying attention. I’m just glad he’s okay, I’m just worried about his future.

    • Adam Rosenblum
      June 9, 2016

      Ken – there is a way to plead bargain these charges. Because of the serious nature of these offenses, I strongly suggest you contact us to discuss further. You may reach us for a free consultation at 888-883-5529.

  • Peter Ng
    February 14, 2016

    I received a moving violation ticket for reckless driving in lower Manhattan. I was simply making a U turn thinking I was allowed where it happened ( Delancey and Christie Street), and along the whole stretch of Delencey street there were many traffic signs posted telling you where you can, and can not make certain turns. Since I didn’t see any No U turn signs, I thought my action were legal. I was in the left lane with the light green. I waited for the on coming traffic to clear before proceed with my turn. The whole time my action didn’t cut any other motorist off, I didn’t cause any traffic to stop, and I didn’t make any erratic movement. I think the police officer gave me a “reckless driving” ticket because I pleaded with her by telling her that I was allow to make the U turn at that intersection because there was not signs telling me I can’t (I guess I am wrong now that I research the law a little better). Initially, I ask the officer what was my offense and she told me I was making a U turn. Please also note that I spoke with the officer with a calm and respectful tone.

    • Adam Rosenblum
      February 14, 2016

      Hello Peter, receiving a ticket for reckless driving is very severe. This is a 5 point ticket with a maximum fine of $300. However, reckless driving is considered a crime in New York. You may face up 30 days in jail and this will never get removed from your record. You will also face a very high increase in your insurance rates. Our suggestion to you is pleading not guilty and obtaining counsel. You can contact our office to find out how we would be able to assist in having your offense reduced. We can be reached at 888-883-5529 for a free consultation.

  • David
    December 24, 2015

    A few weeks ago, I was driving in Washington Heights and received a ticket for reckless driving. The scenario was that I was driving southbound on audobon avenue (one lane for each direction), when the car in front of me seemed to be preparing to double park, so I slowly started moving around the vehicle. Suddenly the car sped up leaving me stuck on the northbound side of the road as traffic began to approach. The first car in the line was a cop. I didn’t think anything of it, but as I was crossing the intersection of West 186th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, the cop car came barrelling down 186th street and subsequently pulled me over. The cop claimed I almost hit him. The vehicle I was driving was a gift, given to me and my wife from my wifes uncle. and we had just switched insurance, and it was taking me a while to find the new insurance card. Instead he took the old insurance card and my license. He came back with a ticket for reckless driving stating I needed to be in court by 1-14-16. What do I do?

    • Adam Rosenblum
      January 11, 2016

      David – reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense that carries substantial fines and penalties. I strongly suggest you contact us to discuss in further detail.

  • kevin taylor
    July 9, 2015

    Last night an officer charge me with two tickets. The first was speeding ticket for going 90mph in 55mph zone( outside ny city, harrison on the hutchson highway) then he issue a second ticket for reckless driving because i was going more than 30mph above the speed limit. my issue is tht the second ticket was unreasonable and i should not have got it in the first place, as u said i wasn’t swerving or changing lanes or endangering any other road user. I was hoping to get this ticket dismiss or reduce. this is my first time going to court for a traffic violation. can u help me

    • Adam Rosenblum
      July 28, 2015

      Kevin – We will be more than happy to help you fight this 13 point ticket. You may contact us for a free consultation.

  • Brandon Patterson
    June 4, 2015

    I was driving east bound on Farragut road with my wife when the cop car turned left onto Farragut road and so did I, the cop car was driving slow on the right side of the road when the officer driving that patrol car put his left hand out the window and signaled me to go around him, as soon as i went around the cop car i beeped my horn to thank him and then he pulled me over. There was no on coming traffic at that time. When the officer came to my window and asked for my paper work I asked him why he pulled me over and he just asked me to give him my papers and I repeated myself again and gave him my nyc transit ID and said that he did not need that. When the officer came back with the ticket I asked him again and told him that I was a city employee as well and why was he giving me this ticket when he waived me over. the officer stated that he did not car and that i went around him and crossed the yellow line. the officer refused to talk to me order me to take my paper work and when I took too long the officer threw my documents at me. I tried talking to the officer after he issued my ticket I tried to get out of my vehicle after he issued my ticket and the officer order me to stay in my car as im yelling why would i go around you. I saw some other officers in an undercover car and I asked if i could explain to them what happened and the officer that pulled me over told them he had the situation. I still was yelling how the officer waived me to go around him and that myself and my wife are city employees and I only did what the officer signaled me to do, needless to say the other officers in the under cover car just kept driving while I asked for there help. My wife recorded the officers talking to me after they issued me the ticket……
    Help me please

    • Adam Rosenblum
      June 4, 2015

      In order to assist you, I need to know what you are being charged with, and what court has jurisdiction over your case.