Reckless driving is more than momentary negligence or a simple driving mistake. It is driving that willfully disregards the safety of others. If you’re charged with reckless driving in New York City or on Long Island, you will need the help of a Nassau County traffic attorney.

As traffic has mostly disappeared from the streets of New York City and Long Island during the COVID-19 pandemic, some drivers have taken advantage of the relatively empty streets to drive recklessly. Traffic may be down, but traffic citations are up.

New York City Councilman Justin Brannan, who represents southwest Brooklyn, told the New York Times that the sounds of racing cars and motorcycles on the Belt Parkway in Bay Ridge “have become a scary lullaby.”

What Constitutes Reckless Driving in New York?

According to state law, motorists in New York can be convicted of reckless driving for driving a vehicle “in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.”

What this means is that law enforcement officers in New York can charge you with reckless driving if you drive in a manner that unreasonably interferes with the use of the road or if you drive in a manner that endangers the safety of others on the road.

If you are tailgating, speeding, failing to yield rights-of-way or use turn signals, intoxicated by drugs, drunk, texting, running traffic signals or stop signs, or driving dangerously in any other way, your driving could be considered “reckless” if an additional aggravating factor is present.

How Serious is a Reckless Driving Charge?

Reckless driving isn’t a mere infraction that gets you a traffic ticket. It’s a criminal offense in New York – a serious misdemeanor. If you are convicted of reckless driving in this state, you’ll have a criminal record. Exactly how does New York penalize reckless driving convictions?

  1.  A first conviction for reckless driving is punishable with a fine of $100 to $300 and up to thirty days in jail.
  2.  A second reckless driving conviction within 18 months of the first conviction may be penalized with a fine of $100 to $525 and up to ninety days in jail.
  3.  A third conviction for reckless driving within 18 months of the first conviction may be penalized with a fine of $100 to $1,125 and up to 180 days in jail.
  4.  In addition to the fine, a reckless driving conviction in New York also means that the offender will pay a state surcharge of $88 or $93, depending on the jurisdiction.
  5.  A commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder may lose his or her privilege to drive commercial vehicles as an additional penalty for a reckless driving conviction.
  6.  A reckless driving conviction also adds five demerit points to a motorist’s driving record. If a driver accumulates eleven or more points in an 18-month period, that motorist’s license will be suspended.

How Do Demerit Points Work?

If you compile six or more demerit points in an 18-month period, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles assesses a civil penalty called a Driver Responsibility Assessment. This fee is in addition to any fines or surcharges that you pay for a reckless driving or other traffic conviction.

Apart from all of these penalties, judges in New York have the discretion to suspend a motorist’s driving privileges if the judge reasonably believes that, based on his or her record and actions, the driver deserves a license suspension. Reckless driving can be the basis for such a decision.

New York drivers should understand that any reckless driving conviction will almost certainly mean paying higher automobile insurance rates.

In some states, drivers who are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) are sometimes offered a plea bargain that allows them to plead guilty to reckless driving or a charge called “wet reckless.” In New York, however, plea bargains usually are not offered in DWI cases.

How Will a Defense Lawyer Help You?

Don’t, however, try to represent yourself – the law is complicated, and anything you say may be used against you – and don’t simply accept the demerit points and pay the fine. Fight the charge.

As mentioned above, reckless driving is a criminal offense in the State of New York, so you must be represented by an attorney who will advocate aggressively and effectively on your behalf.

To win a conviction in a reckless driving case, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused reckless driver was purposely endangering the property and/or lives of others.

Depending on your driving record and the details of a reckless driving charge, a good defense attorney may be able to negotiate for a reduced charge with a milder sentence or even have the case dismissed.

How Can a Reckless Driving Charge Be Dismissed?

If your lawyer can demonstrate that all you really did was make a poor judgment while driving – but with no malice or ill intent – it’s possible that you will be offered an acceptable plea bargain, and it’s even possible that the charge may be dismissed.

Especially at this time, with crowded emergency rooms and overworked healthcare professionals, it’s more important than ever to avoid traffic accidents and the reckless driving that leads to those accidents.

However, if you made a bad judgment while driving, or if you’ve been wrongfully charged with reckless driving, you’ll need to be represented by the right Nassau County traffic attorney. Even during a pandemic, if you’re charged with a crime, having a good attorney’s help is your right.