Reckless Driving in New York | VTL 1212

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.

Have a question about Reckless Driving? Call 888-883-5529 to speak to an attorney now or post a comment at the bottom of this page and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Background Information

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 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.

CLICK HERE - Official Text of NY's Reckless Driving Statute

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.


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.

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  • 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.!!!!

    (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

    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.