Car recklessly driving
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By Michael Arbeit
Founding Attorney

Reckless driving is a serious offense in New York, carrying severe penalties that can impact your driving record, insurance rates, and even your freedom. By exploring the nuances of reckless driving cases, we aim to empower individuals with knowledge and insights that can help them make informed decisions when facing such charges. If you find yourself accused of reckless driving, seek the guidance of the skilled criminal defense attorney, Michael A. Arbeit, PC is crucial to protect your rights.

Defining Reckless Driving in New York 

Reckless driving is a serious offense in New York, defined by the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) Section 1212. It refers to operating a vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Reckless driving encompasses a wide range of dangerous behaviors that go beyond mere negligence or inattentiveness behind the wheel. It involves a conscious choice to engage in reckless conduct that puts lives at risk.

To establish a charge of reckless driving, prosecutors must prove that the driver exhibited specific actions indicating a reckless mindset. These actions may include excessive speeding, aggressive maneuvering, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating, running red lights or stop signs, passing on the shoulder, or engaging in street racing. Moreover, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can also result in a reckless driving charge.

Understanding the specific elements that constitute reckless driving is essential when facing such charges. It allows individuals to grasp the gravity of the offense and develop a strategic defense. By seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, individuals accused of reckless driving can navigate the legal intricacies, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and build a robust defense tailored to their unique circumstances.

Navigating a reckless driving charge requires a thorough understanding of the law, its interpretation, and the nuances involved. With the expertise of a skilled attorney like Michael A. Arbeit, you can navigate the complexities of reckless driving cases and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Consequences of Reckless Driving 

Cars speeding on a bridge in New York

Reckless driving is not taken lightly in New York, as it poses a significant threat to public safety. Convictions for reckless driving can lead to severe consequences that extend beyond the immediate penalties. Understanding the potential ramifications is crucial for individuals facing reckless driving charges. Let’s explore the wide-ranging consequences of reckless driving in more detail:

  1. Legal Penalties:

In New York, reckless driving is classified as a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, the legal penalties can be substantial. For a first offense of reckless driving, individuals may face a potential jail sentence of up to 30 days, while a second offense may result in up to 90 days of imprisonment. If it is a third offense, the maximum jail time increases to 180 days. Reckless driving convictions can also lead to the revocation of driving privileges. In terms of fines, a first offense can carry a maximum fine of $300, while a second offense can result in fines of up to $525. For a third offense, fines can escalate to a maximum of $1,125.

  1. Driver’s License Consequences:

Reckless driving convictions carry significant implications for your driving privileges. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) imposes mandatory penalties, including the addition of five points to your driving record. Accumulating points can lead to increased insurance premiums and potentially jeopardize your ability to maintain auto insurance coverage. Moreover, having a reckless driving conviction on your record may result in the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, depending on the severity of the offense and any prior violations.

  1. Insurance Implications:

Reckless driving convictions often trigger a significant spike in insurance premiums. Insurance companies view reckless driving as a red flag, associating it with a higher risk of accidents and claims. This increase in premiums can have long-term financial consequences, resulting in substantial additional expenses over time.

  1. Criminal Record:

Reckless driving convictions can leave a permanent mark on your criminal record. This record can have far-reaching implications beyond the immediate consequences of the offense. A criminal record can negatively impact employment opportunities, professional licenses, educational pursuits, housing applications, and other aspects of your life.

  1. Personal and Social Consequences:

Reckless driving incidents can also lead to personal and social consequences. The guilt, remorse, and stress associated with the offense can take a toll on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, the negative perception of being convicted may strain personal relationships and damage one’s reputation within the community.

Navigating the legal landscape and the potential consequences of reckless driving charges can be daunting. Seeking the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney like Michael A. Arbeit is essential to protect your rights, minimize the consequences, and explore potential defense strategies. 

Building a Defense Strategy

Criminal defense lawyer in a courtroom

When facing reckless driving charges, developing a strong defense strategy is vital. A skilled criminal defense attorney can assess the circumstances of your case, analyze the evidence presented by the prosecution, and identify potential weaknesses. Possible defense strategies may include challenging the accuracy of evidence, questioning the legality of the traffic stop, or presenting alternative explanations for the observed driving behavior. Your attorney will work closely with you to gather relevant evidence, interview witnesses, and construct a compelling defense aimed at minimizing or dismissing the charges.


Can you report someone for reckless driving in New York?

Yes, you can report someone for reckless driving in New York. If you witness a driver engaging in dangerous behaviors that put others at risk, you have the option to report the incident to law enforcement.

How do you report dangerous driving in New York?

To do so, pull over to a safe location and call 911 or the local police non-emergency number to report the reckless driving incident. Provide as much information as possible, such as the vehicle’s make, model, color, license plate number (if visible), and a description of the dangerous behaviors observed.

While reporting reckless driving is important for ensuring road safety, it’s essential to prioritize your own safety when doing so. Do not attempt to confront the driver or engage in any behavior that could escalate the situation. Leave the enforcement to the police, who are trained to handle such incidents and take appropriate action.

What is the most common punishment for reckless driving?

The most common punishment for reckless driving in New York typically includes a combination of fines and points added to the driver’s record. Upon conviction, individuals may face fines ranging from $100 to $300 for a first offense, and the fines may increase for subsequent offenses. Additionally, reckless driving convictions in New York result in the addition of 5 points to the driver’s record. Accumulating 11 or more points within 18 months may lead to a driver responsibility assessment and potential driver’s license suspension. While jail time is possible for severe cases of reckless driving, fines and points on the driving record are more common penalties imposed by the court.

At what speed is it a felony?

In New York, driving recklessly at any speed can be considered a misdemeanor offense, not a felony. Reckless driving is defined as operating a vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, exhibiting a conscious choice to engage in dangerous behaviors that put lives at risk. It is important to note that reckless driving is classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony, in New York State. However, while reckless driving itself is not a felony, it is still a serious offense with significant penalties, including potential jail time, fines, and points on the driver’s record. Felonies in New York typically involve more severe crimes and offenses that result in greater legal consequences.

In New York, driving at a speed of 30 mph or more above the posted speed limit is considered a felony offense. This is known as “Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle in the First Degree(VTL 511.20). If a driver is caught driving at this excessive speed, they can be charged with a Class E felony. Felony charges in New York carry more severe penalties than misdemeanors or violations, including potential imprisonment, significant fines, and other consequences. It is crucial to obey speed limits and drive responsibly to avoid such serious legal implications and ensure the safety of everyone on the road.

Exploring Mitigation Options

In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or penalties. Your attorney can advocate on your behalf, emphasizing mitigating factors such as a clean driving record, completion of defensive driving courses, or evidence of remorse and corrective actions taken. Pursuing alternative sentencing options, such as probation or community service, may also be explored. Your attorney’s experience and knowledge of the local legal system will prove invaluable in navigating these negotiation processes.

Reckless driving charges in New York can have severe consequences, making it essential to understand the legal implications and seek professional guidance. By comprehending the potential penalties involved, and the available defense strategies, individuals can make informed decisions and take proactive steps to protect their rights. If you’re facing reckless driving charges, contact our traffic infraction and criminal defense attorney, Michael Arbeit.

About the Author
Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. is devoted to all Criminal Defense and  Traffic related matters.  Michael practices primarily in the Criminal and County (Supreme) Courts in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County, Kings County, New York County and the Bronx County.  Michael is also licensed to practice law in the Federal Courts of the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) and the Southern District of New York (SDNY).