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.

D. If a person who is convicted of a violation of this section has been previously convicted of a violation of this section, section 13-1102 or section 13-1103, subsection A, paragraph 1, in the driving of a vehicle, or section 28-708, 28-1381, 28-1382 or 28-1383 within a period of twenty-four months:

1. The person is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.

2. The person is not eligible for probation, pardon, suspension of sentence or release on any basis until the person has served not less than twenty days in jail.

3. The judge may require the surrender to a police officer of any driver license of the person and shall immediately forward the abstract of conviction to the department.

4. On receipt of the abstract of conviction, the department shall revoke the driving privilege of the person.

E. The dates of the commission of the offense are the determining factor in applying subsection D of this section. A second or subsequent violation for which a conviction occurs as provided in this section does not include a conviction for an offense arising out of the same series of acts.

F. On pronouncement of a jail sentence under this section, and after the court receives confirmation that the person is employed or is a student, the court may provide in the sentence that if the defendant is employed or is a student the defendant can continue employment or schooling for not more than twelve hours per day nor more than five days per week. The defendant shall spend the remaining days or parts of days in jail until the sentence is served and shall be allowed out of jail only long enough to complete the defendant's actual hours of employment or schooling.

In sum, the crime of Reckless Driving can carry some very onerous consequences including jail, fines, traffic school and a driver's license suspension.  However, unlike a DUI conviction, jail is merely discretionary.  Thus, a person convicted of Reckless Driving does not necessarily have to serve a term of jail.

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Pete Boyle - August 1, 2008 1:04 PM

In your section on reckless driving, there is a completeness issue to consider. I think it is a must-tell issue for the attorney to disclose to the client.

When a criminal defense attorney counsels a client about taking the plea bargain, down from any DUI to a guilty (or no contest)plea on reckless driving, the impact on the client's defense in any related civil case is statutory waiver of a liability defense in lawsuits for damages (including punitives) on claims of negligence and reckless driving. Here is the statute:

13-807. Civil actions by victims or other persons

A defendant convicted in a criminal proceeding is precluded from subsequently denying in any civil proceeding brought by the victim or this state against the criminal defendant the essential allegations of the criminal offense of which he was adjudged guilty, including judgments of guilt resulting from no contest pleas. An order of restitution in favor of a person does not preclude that person from bringing a separate civil action and proving in that action damages in excess of the amount of the restitution order.

Thus, if someone is charged with DUI after a motor vehicle accident, an extra concern attends the choice of a guilty or no contest plea to reckless driving.

There are many cases in which my client, as a civil defendant, has fairly good facts for a defense, especially to civil complaint of reckless driving, but cannot defend after entering the guilty plea to the crime of reckless driving. Reckless driving plus evidence of alcohol is sufficient to get a claim for punitive damages to the civil jury. Clients usually do not have liability insurance that covers punitive damages. Due to this problem, the effects of the criminal plea on the client's civil law rights should be explained.

I see this situation arise now and again, and usually the client was not advised of the loss of civil defense rights. I expect that in the criminal case context, the client would most often not care, but that is the client's choice and should be an informed one.
By the way, I expect that there is usually no civil matter pending when the criminal defense attorney is working on the case. To me, the client's civil defense rights are waived when he/she pleads guilty to reckless driving, and whether the concern is a current or future civil action, the client should be fully advised by the criminal defense attorney before deciding whether to accept the plea bargain.

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