Reckless Driving

New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law §1212 is the statute prohibiting Reckless Driving in New York State. The text of VTL §1212 is as follows:

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.

Reckless Driving summonses are not common in most parts of New York State but are issued frequently in New York City. If you receive a Reckless Driving summons, you have been charged with a crime and you should never plead guilty to the charge. In New York City, Reckless Driving charges have become something of a catch-all, a ticket the officer will write when he can't quite put a finger on what exactly you did wrong. This should not be. A conviction for Reckless Driving would give you a criminal record as well as 5 points on your license, a fine of at least $300, and a potential jail sentence of up to 30 days.

The misuse of the Reckless Driving statute in New York City, while improper, is not all bad for drivers. Consider two hypothetical NYC drivers. Driver A rolls through a stop sign and gets a summons for violating VTL §1172. (Disobey a Stop Sign) He receives a yellow summons returnable to the Traffic Violations Bureau in New York City. He pleads not guilty and gets a hearing date in the mail. At that hearing, Driver A will not have the chance to plea bargain. He will either win, in which case he will get no points and no fine, or he will lose, in which case he will likely be assessed a fine of $150 plus an $88 surcharge for a first offense and will have three points assessed against his driving record. Now consider Driver B. He rolls through the very same stop sign while pedestrians are nearby. The officer, due to the presence of the pedestrians, writes Driver B a Reckless Driving summons returnable to Criminal Court. At court, Driver B's lawyer can first review the summons for facial sufficiency. Frequently, an experienced lawyer can point out to the Judge that the summons is not facially sufficient and the Judge will dismiss the summons without any trial. Second, once the summons is deemed facially sufficient, the lawyer still has an opportunity to negotiate a plea bargain. Typically, Reckless Driving is reduced to either Public Health Law §229 or to Penal Law §240.20 (Disorderly Conduct). Either one of these pleas results in no points and no criminal record, although I believe that the Public Health Law plea is the better of the two since it entails no factual admissions.

Even though a Reckless Driving charge is much worse than a Stop Sign ticket, as seen above a person who receives a pink summons for Reckless Driving often winds up in a better position than the individual who receives a yellow summons for a traffic violation, simply due to the fact that Criminal Court provides for plea bargaining and TVB does not.

If you have received a pink summons for Reckless Driving, call me at 917-450-7078 for a free consultation.

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