A violation of a VTL 1212 reckless driving ticket is a very serious charge with many costs. Outside New York City, reckless driving tickets are not routinely issued in New York. However, in the 5 boroughs, they are dispensed like candy.
VTL § 1212 defines reckless driving 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.” (emphasis added)
The interpretation of “unreasonably interferes” and “unreasonably endangers” according to the NYPD is quite broad. Often, NYPD officers will issue such tickets for committing a simple traffic violation, and NYC judges will find them sufficiently-issued despite the lack of some aggravating factor.
For instance, we see motorists who inadvertently go the wrong way up a one-way street get written up for reckless driving (despite being able to safely back up and correct themselves without an accident or near accident). While this conduct may not actually be “reckless”, we often see reckless driving tickets issued for such a maneuver.
In such case, the motorist’s should fight the reckless driving charge at trial or negotiate a plea bargain (pleading guilty is not a viable option in my opinion). However, the stakes are generally too high to risk taking such a case to trial.
So what are the stakes? The literal answer to the question of what is the cost of a reckless driving ticket is that it is between $100 to $300 for a first offense (with the maximum increasing substantially for additional offenses within 18 months). The fine, of course, does not include the $70 additional New York State surcharge imposed on all moving violations and possible other court costs.
However, there are many other “costs” of an NY reckless driving ticket. Indeed, the single worst “costs” of a reckless driving conviction are possible jail time and the creation of a criminal record. Reckless driving is not only a moving violation but also a criminal (misdemeanor) offense. A reckless driver can be imprisoned for up to 30 days for a first offense, up to 90 days for a second offense and up to 180 for a third offense. The likelihood of jail time increases if there are aggravating factors like an accident or alcohol-involvement. Jail and a permanent criminal record are obviously very serious penalties.
Further, a reckless driving ticket carries a total of 5 points. This is a lot of points to get for a single ticket. Remember, you can be suspended for just 11 points. Additionally, if a conviction results in your license having 6 or more points, you will also have to pay the Driver Assessment Fee. This fee is $300 for 6 points and $75 for every point above six.
Finally, a reckless driving conviction will likely result in your auto insurance rates being increased. This is considered a “big” ticket and provides a basis to allow your insurance company to raise your rates (even if you have an otherwise clean record).
The good news is that reckless driving tickets in New York City are not heard at the Traffic Violations Bureau. Unlike the TVB, a favorable outcome via a plea bargain can often be negotiated to avoid a criminal record, lessen points and keep your auto insurance from being raised. Dismissal of these tickets is also possible when there is a defect in the original ticket filed with the court.
Our firm has fought 100s of reckless driving tickets in New York and has a favorably resolved the vast majority of them.
So what do you do if you get one?
The first thing is to be polite to the officer. Rudeness has bought many a motorist extra tickets. Indeed, technically the officer could “run you through” the system which would mean, at least, 24 hours locked up while you wait for your case to be called.
The next thing you do is to note the court date toward the bottom of the ticket. This is the date on which you must appear to enter a plea. On that date, you always should plead not guilty. It is at this time that you or your traffic lawyer can inspect the original ticket for defects. In New York City, the back of the ticket must set forth what was reckless about your driving conduct. A mere conclusion is insufficient. If you are unsure, I would still ask the court for a dismissal on the grounds that it is defective. You have nothing to lose.
If you cannot get it dismissed, then the court will often propose a plea bargain which involves no points and just a fine. If you are offered such a deal, take it! This will avoid a trial as well as a possible jail sentence, a criminal record and an insurance hike. Usually, the fine is between $150 and $300 with such a plea bargain.
Below is a list of courts in New York City which handle reckless driving tickets (also known as pink tickets).
Manhattan (New York) Criminal Court
New York, NY 10013
New York Midtown Community Court
314 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
Queens Criminal Court
120-55 Queens Blvd
Kew Gardens, NY 11375
Bronx Criminal Court
215 East 161st Street
Bronx, NY 10451
Kings (Brooklyn) Criminal Court
120 Schermerhorn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Kings (Brooklyn) Community Court
88-94 Visitation Place
Red Hook, NY 11201
Richmond (Staten Island) Criminal Court
26 Central Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10301