With less people on the road and being cooped up at home, you may understandably have the need for speed. You may have a job classified as an essential worker and are enjoying the empty roads for your commute. You may need to temporarily leave your house and going the speed limit is the least of your concerns in a time like this.
You heard how the courts are closed and everyone is home and may think this applies to officers as well. But who do you think is also considered an essential worker? You guessed it. Traffic Patrol Officers. And these officers are not taking the situation lightly. In fact, during this pandemic, what might ordinarily be a speeding ticket will now put you in a situation where you are facing criminal charges.
According to the news, officers from all agencies in Pima County are being told to forgo giving out minor speeding tickets. As quoted “Officers won’t be pulling people over for speeding unless it’s excessive, reckless or the officer suspects the driver is impaired.”
So what does this mean for you? It means if an officer wants to cite you speeding he must issue a criminal charge. That is exactly what is happening. You may not be taken to jail but will now face criminal misdemeanor charges once the courts open. A likely situation is you will be prosecuted for reckless driving instead of speeding. This will give the prosecutor one year to file a charge against you instead of the short window of 60 days for a speeding ticket.
Reckless driving has far greater consequences on your livelihood than speeding. Instead of 3 points being added to your driving record, it will be 8. Instead of being eligible for a defensive driving school to dismiss the ticket, you will be required to attend an 8 hour in person traffic survival class to save your license and avoid a suspension. The points will remain and there will likely be long term insurance consequences. Not to mention you will be facing a class 1 misdemeanor and the stigma of a criminal record.
So what can be done? The good news is despite the increase in reckless driving citations the defenses remain the same. According to ARS 28-693, Reckless Driving requires a reckless disregard for the safety or property of another. This is a heavy burden for the prosecutor to meet under normal circumstances. It is especially problematic if your situation involves circumstances that might have been a speeding ticket any other time. The other good news is unlike the case with a speeding ticket you have the right to a jury on this issue.
It is important to have an attorney experienced in traffic law to assist you in resolving your case favorably. I will remind prosecutors that you will be demanding your right to a jury if the charges are not properly reduced. The citing officer should be extensively interviewed and questioned regarding his previous policies on issuing citations before the pandemic as well as the circumstances involving the individual case. With a strong defense, that reckless ticket, if not dismissed, can be reduced back to what it should have been all along—a simple speeding ticket which can be dismissed through a defensive driving course.
It is my goal to ensure that no one is punished more harshly during this pandemic and I will adamantly fight to get your criminal charges dismissed.