In New York, a "reckless driving" summons under VTL 1212 can be given when an officer has reasonable cause to believe that a driver "unreasonably" interferes with the free and proper use of a public highway, or "unreasonably" endangers users of a public highway. Since reckless driving is an unclassified misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of thirty days in jail, the tickets are returnable to New York City Criminal court and are issued as a pink summons.
For years, NYC cops have been writing reckless driving tickets instead of tickets for specific traffic infractions such as improper lane change, failure to obey a traffic control device, etc.. Probably because the reckless driving statute under VTL 1212 is vague and can encompass numerous and various driver rules violations. There are some who believe that NYPD officers charge it because it is a misdemeanor and is good for the precinct statistics. There are some who believe that it has become the "catchall offense for every traffic violation.
Unfortunately, aside from the fact that it is a crime, there is a stigma attached to the term "reckless driving"as people often associate it with very dangerous driving. Just read the article in the daily news by Alan Dershowitz There has also been a new slogan enacted by New York city entitled "reckless driving Kills" Also, if you would like to read more on how reckless driving is being thrust into the limelight of New York City click here.
VTL 1212, New York's reckless driving statue with its draconian punishments was intended to be used to get bad and dangerous drivers off the road. But after looking at hundreds of reckless driving tickets issued in NYC, I know that they are often handed out for very low-level traffic violations including making a right turn on a red light, coming to a rolling stop, failing to signal a lane change,
But regardless of the reason for its issuance, the maximum penalty for reckless driving is 30 days jail and a 500 dollar fine plus five points. A reckless driving conviction in New York could lead to higher insurance rates and a possible license suspension. More importantly, reckless driving in New York is not a traffic infraction, it is an unclassified misdemeanor under the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law. This means that a person convicted of reckless driving will not only have higher insurance premiums and 5 points against their license, they will also have a permanent criminal record.
But the good news is that lawyers who regularly practice in the criminal court summons parts in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens criminal courts should be able to either get your reckless driving summons dismissed or at least get it reduced down to a non-criminal violation of some obscure NYC administrative law violation with a small fine and no points on your driver's license. Call me at 212 786-2999 to discuss.
Depending on the allegations as they are set forth on the original copy of the reckless driving summons, (the white copy that is filed with the Court) experienced reckless driving lawyers should be able to get the VTL 1212 reckless driving charge dismissed or reduced to a no-points violation at the initial court appearance. The dismissal can can occur when the allegations of reckless driving are legally insufficient to allege a reckless driving charge and the Defendant's lawyer is able to persuasively convey that insufficiency to the judge.
A ticket for reckless driving should be dismissed as insufficient unless it alleges at least two separate moving violations, or at least one violation along with an allegation of some specific and unreasonably dangerous driving action. For example, speeding through a stop sign while pedestrians are trying to cross is sufficient to allege reckless driving. So is going the wrong way on a one way street at a high rate of speed. But the white copy of the summons, something that your lawyer will be able to obtain from the court after the citation is processed should allege something more than the violation of one minor traffic infraction in order to sustain a reckless driving charge. Recently, I had a reckless driving charge dismissed because it merely alleged going through a red light. Call me at 212-786-2999 to discuss reviewing your reckless driving citation.
If the charge merely alleges a traffic violation, the officer should have just issued the driver a yellow ticket returnable to the New York State Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB). In those instances, the charge should not be for reckless driving but for whatever moving violation is specified in the summons. For example "failure to obey a traffic control device," "improper lane change, speeding. etc..
There are several written judicial opinions which support an interpretation of the law that a reckless driving charge requires more than an allegation of one minor traffic violation. but before getting to the cases, let's summarize what the reckless driving statute actually says:
in pertinent part, proscribes the following conduct:
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.
The Penal Law defines reckless conduct as follows:
A person acts recklessly with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists.
The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. [PL §15.05(3)].
Mere allegegations that a Defendant “disobeyed a red light.” or a stop sign, or some other single traffic violation should be insufficient to support the charge since those minor traffic violations do not constitute gross deviations from conduct that reasonable people observe. After all, everyone makes mistakes while driving from time to time. But those mistakes should not make someone a criminal. This was explained in People v. Dipoumbi , 23 Misc. 3d 1127A (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 2009) where the court held that an allegation that a defendant ran a stop sign was insufficient to allege reckless driving, holding that a ticket for reckless driving that merely alleged that the person went through a stop sign was insufficient, stating that:
“The facts alleged in the accusatory instrument neither show that the defendant interfered with the free and proper use of the public highway nor that he unreasonably endangered the use of the public highway. Failure to stop at a stop sign is a violation of VTL §1172(a), a traffic infraction (VTL §1800[a]”
The Court, in Dipoumbi cited People v. Garo, 208 Misc. 496, 498-499 (N.Y. County Ct. 1955) which also held that reckless driving takes more than a single traffic violation, reasoning that:
"Failure to observe a stop sign on a city street is an infraction regulated by a city ordinance. It may occur as a result of a momentary failure to concentrate, a momentary distraction or a visual omission. The mere passing of a single stop sign, in itself cannot be said to establish a disregard of the consequences of the act. If the defendant in addition to passing a stop sign, had entered the intersection at an excessive and illegal rate of speed, it might be determined that his conduct was reckless in entering an intersection in such a manner, without stopping. There might be other circumstances, under which a defendant's failure to observe a stop sign with some additional proof, might constitute culpable negligence."
Those cases prove that there exists some cases that a lawyer can show the judge to help get a charge of reckless driving dismissed under certain circumstances.
Oftentimes, the allegations of reckless driving in the summons do not even allege a single traffic violation and merely make conclusory allegations of recklessness. Such tickets should also be dismissable on insufficiency grounds. For example, the summons might simply state that the driver drove in a manner that unreasonably endangered other drivers. A summons written like that is insufficient because it fails to specify what the driver did that made the driving unreasonable. It is a "conclusory" summons and it should be dismissed.
Talk to your lawyer before you go to Court on your reckless driving charge and make sure that your lawyer has obtained page two of the ticket with the allegations before the court date. That way your lawyer will be better prepared to make a good dismissal motion if the grounds for one exist.
Call me (Robert Briere) at 212-786-2999 if you want to discuss your reckless driving ticket. If you prefer to send me an email about your reckless driving ticket, fill out the form to the left. I will try to get back to you right away.
Minimize the damage from your reckless driving summons by hiring a lawyer who can get the summons dismissed or reduced to a no-points violation.
Did you receive a pink ticket charging you with reckless driving and telling you to appear in Criminal court at either 346 Broadway, 314 West 54th Street, the bronx or in Queens? Perhaps all you did to receive the reckless driving summons was change lanes without signaling, turn right on a red, or roll thru a stop sign and you cannot believe that the cop charged you with reckless driving which is a misdemeanor (a crime). You might be wondering why the cop didn't give you a yellow ticket for a specific traffic infraction to appear at traffic violations bureau.