What does reckless mean under Arizona law? What is the legal definition of reckless? What does the State have to prove for Reckless Driving? These are questions I often encounter.

Here is the actual definition of “Recklessly” under Arizona law:

“Recklessly” means, with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists.


The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard of such risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. A person who creates such a risk but who is unaware of such risk solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts recklessly with respect to such risk.


I want to briefly discuss a few of the key phrases and what I typically argue they require. aware of and consciously disregards
This means that the State must first establish a risk, and then prove that you knew about that risk and then knowingly disregarded the risk.

substantial and unjustifiable
It can’t just be any risk. It has to be a substantial one. Also, if you can argue there was a justifiable reason to engage in the conduct the State is alleging is reckless than you have a defense.

that result will occur or that the circumstance exists
It can’t be a risk that can’t occur or isn’t a risk at the time. For example it may be reckless to shoot a gun in a public park, but not reckless to shoot it in the desert. In the park it is very likely someone may unintentionally be hit by a ricochet or bullet that travels farther than intended due to the high density of people, whereas in the desert no one is around to be put at risk.

gross deviation
The fact that the legislature chose the word ‘gross’ should always be emphazed. Just because many people wouldn’t engage in the conduct is not enough. The conduct must grossly deviate from what a reasonable person would do.

reasonable person
What constitutes reasonable or a reasonable person is subject to a lot of interpretation and can be a important area of argument.