Driving through traffic, you’re cut off by the car in front of you or you come across a drive driving too slowly in the fast lane. One snap movement in passing the car and a police officer is giving you an aggressive driving ticket. This is how too the Arizona aggressive driving law is triggered.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding how a person was charged, you should understand at the outset that it is a serious criminal charge. At Feldman & Royle, we represent clients charged with all types of criminal traffic offenses. We understand the seriousness of an aggressive driving charge, and we know how to provide you with the best chance of a dismissal, a reduction in the charge, or a not guilty verdict.
Definition of Aggressive Driving
Aggressive driving is defined in detail in A.R.S. § 28-695. The definition of aggressive driving does not mean that you necessarily acted aggressively, as that term is used in everyday speech. Instead, the statute is very clear about what needs to be proven in order to be convicted of aggressive driving.
A person commits aggressive driving if both of the following occur:
- While speeding or criminally speeding;
- You commit, you commit at least two of the following violations:
- Failure to obey the instructions of a traffic control device (stop light, etc.);
- Passing another vehicle on the right, by leaving the pavement or the traveled portion of the road;
- Making an unsafe lane change;
- Tailgating; and/or
- Failing to yield the right of way.
In essence, there are very specific conditions that need to be met for the prosecution to make their case. While aggressive driving penalties can be severe, it is important to remember that aggressive driving is very fact specific and one of the easier criminal traffic violations to defend.
Aggressive Driving Penalties
Unlike some minor traffic violations, aggressive driving is a crime and a class 1 misdemeanor under Arizona law. It bears a higher classification, and more severe penalties, than most traffic violations, including reckless driving, which is a class 2 misdemeanor. Aggressive Driving Penalties include:
- Fines and Fees;
- Traffic school;
- 8 points on your driver license (this is the same number of points as a DUI)
- A possible 30-day suspension of your driver’s license;
- The possibility of jail time, up to a maximum of six months;
- A criminal conviction on your record;
- Increased Insurance premiums.
For a second offense within 24 months the aggressive driving penalties increase. While a second offense is still a class 1 misdemeanor, in addition to the penalties for a first-time offender, the statute calls for a mandatory one-year suspension of your driving privileges.
Defenses to an Aggressive Driving Charge
Remember that, like other criminal cases, it is the prosecutor’s job to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. While every case is different, here are some of the defenses that may apply:
- Failure to satisfy the specifics of the statute. Simply because a police officer believes you were being aggressive on the road, and that you may have engaged in some questionable driving behavior, is not enough for a conviction. To be found guilty, there must be sufficient evident of speeding, plus two of the additional violations listed in the statue.
- Right to counsel. As a suspect in a criminal case, you are entitled to all the constitutional protections that apply, including the right to counsel. If, for example, you provided an admission but were not advised of your right to remain silent, the statement may be inadmissible in court.
- Inconsistent or exculpatory statements by the police. Statements made by the officer are admissible to show inconsistencies. If the police report is inconsistent with his later testimony or with statements described by witnesses, or if any of the statements contain exculpatory material, they can be used to your benefit, either at trial or in a pretrial motion.
In sum, while the charge is a serious one, the evidence offered by the prosecutor can be challenged. And the way to provide yourself with the best chance of a dismissal or other positive result in your case is to hire the right lawyer for your case.
Aggressive Driving vs Reckless Driving
While the two crimes are often confused, make no mistake about the difference in aggressive driving vs reckless driving.
Aggressive Driving (A.R.S. § 28-695)
- Class 1 Misdemeanor
- Punishable by up to 6 months in jail
- Punishable by up to $2500 fine
- 8 Points on your License
- 1 Year Revocation of Driver License for Second Offense
- Eligible for Bench Trial Only
Reckless Driving (A.R.S. § 28-693)
- Class 2 Misdemeanor
- Punishable by up to 4 months in jail
- Punishable by up to $750 fine
- 8 Points on your License
- Mandatory 20 Days in Jail for Second Offense
- Eligible for Bench or Jury Trial
While these are the statutory and legal differences in aggressive driving vs reckless driving, the major issue is that in order to be found guilty of aggressive driving a judge must find that while speeding you committed two of the enumerated offenses. If you were speeding but only committed one offense, or committed an offense not enumerated in the statute, you are not guilty. In turn, if you committed one offense while speeding but the other offense after you stopped speeding or you acted aggressively while driving but weren’t speeding, then you’re not guilty.
In essence, aggressive driving follows a formula of strict statutory interpretation using the facts of your case. Reckless driving, on the other hand, is far more vague and only requires that the prosecutor prove that you drove with “reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Aggressive Driving Lawyer
Facing a charge of this nature exposes you to significant penalties. At Feldman & Royle, we are experienced vehicular crimes lawyers. We understand the seriousness of the charge, and we know how best to mount a successful defense. Not trusting your case to an experienced aggressive driving lawyer may result a license suspension, a criminal record and increased insurance premiums. Call us to schedule a free consultation, and find out how our firm can help.