What is an Arizona Reckless Driving Charge?

Reckless driving is one of the more serious misdemeanor offenses in Arizona.  The crime can be either a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor.  When charged as a first time offense, as a class two misdemeanor, the statute has a maximum penalty of four months in jail and $750.00 fine.  Moreover, there are some additional consequences to a person's driver's license.  Reckless Driving is considered a serious moving violation and places 8 points on a person's driver's license.  This in turn, requires the person to complete Traffic Survival School. 

The crime of Reckless Driving is codified in section 28-693 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.  The statute states: 

A. A person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

B. A person convicted of reckless driving is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.

C. In addition, the judge may require the surrender to a police officer of any driver license of the convicted person, shall report the conviction to the department and may order the driving privileges of the person to be suspended for a period of not more than ninety days. On receipt of the abstract of conviction and order, the department shall suspend the driving privilege of the person for the period of time ordered by the judge.

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When Does a Person Get a Hearing Regarding a License Suspension

In the context of a DUI case, there are two common scenarios when a motorist will receive an order of suspension for their driver's license:

  1. After they refuse to take a chemical test pursuant to A.R.S. 28-1321(D)(2); and
  2. After a test result of .08 or greater pursuant to A.R.S. 28-1385(A).

The Motor Vehicle Division of the Department of Transportation permits a person a hearing prior to the suspension.  The hearing request can be made by mail, facsimile or email.  The request for the hearing must be received by the department within 15 days after the notice.  A timely request stays the suspension until at least the time of the hearing.

The hearing is a civil proceeding.  The burden of proof for the government is only a preponderance of evidence, as opposed to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt.  The Arizona Rules of Evidence do not apply to the hearing.  For example "reliable hearsay" evidence is admissible during the hearing.


Special Laws For Commercial Drivers Charged with DUI

Drivers operating a vehicle with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) have different standards than other drivers. The reason is because of the safety issues associated with operating larger vehicles such as trucks, tractor-trailers and buses.

The Arizona DUI laws are much more restrictive for people with commercial drivers licenses (CDL). While most Arizona drivers will be in violation of the law if their blood alcohol concentration is .08 or greater, commercial driver have a much tougher standard. For drivers with a CDL, the legal limit is merely a blood alcohol concentration of .04 or greater.  Section 28-1381(A)(4) of the Arizona Revised Statutes provides:

It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state under any of the following circumstances:

If the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle that requires a person to obtain a commercial driver license as defined in section 28-3001 and the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more.

Moreover, a commercial driver may also face a disqualification of their license. Thus, a commercial driver’s livelihood may be put at risk.

The DUI Accident Where There Are No Injuries - Endangerment

I see the following scenario commonly in my practice.  My client is responsible for causing a low impact accident.  No one from either automobile was injured.  However my client had consumed alcohol, and a blood test confirmed he was over Arizona's legal limit of .08.  What charges may he be facing?

Obviously he is facing a misdemeanor DUI.  And more troubling, he may also be facing an Endangerment charge.  Under section 13-1201 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, a person commits Endangerment by:

  • Recklessly endangering another person with a substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury.
  • Endangerment involving a substantial risk of imminent death is a class 6 felony. In all other cases, it is a class 1 misdemeanor.

Moreover, since a car was involved (a dangerous instrument under Arizona law) my client may be facing a mandatory prison term.  This can happen if it is proven that he placed the other driver in a substantial risk of imminent death.  While most low impact accidents do not expose a person to such a risk, prosecutors often charge these cases with the attitude of "just leave the decision to the jury".  Meanwhile the client has now been exposed to a serious risk, of a long period of prison, because the State has not taken the time to properly and correctly evaluate the case.  These cases cannot be taken lightly.  Every effort must be made to show the true nature of the impact.  That is, there was no risk of "imminent death."  This may require the use of both an accident reconstructionist and bio-mechanical engineer.  In any event, these types of  cases must be proactively handled as soon as possible.


New Extreme DUI Penalties

The are several types of DUI offenses in Arizona.  An extreme DUI is based on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of the person accused of DUI.  Specifically, if the person has a BAC above a .150 they will be charged with extreme DUI under § 28-1382 of the Arizona Revised Statutes

Some of the penalties for being convicted of an Extreme DUI charge include:

  • Incarceration (a term of jail)
  • Fines
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
  • Driver License Suspension
  • Substance Abuse Screening and any recommended treatment

The minimum jail term has been 30 days with up to 20 days suspended if the person complied with the recommended treatment resulting from the mandatory drug and alcohol screening.  Simply out, the judge could reduce your sentence to 10 days.  However, the Arizona Extreme DUI laws are changing in the near future.  The legislature has amened the extreme DUI statute removing the ability of judges to do the following:

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