​D.C. Policeman, William West, had been particularly troubled by an accident on his patrol seriously injuring a woman with her 6 year-old child.  The very next day, he pulled over Grant's buggy observing it travelling at "a furious pace."  "Mister President," said P.O. West, "I want to tell you that you were violating the law by driving at reckless speed. . . ."  Having been explained the recent occurrences and duly reprimanded, Grant apologized and promised it wouldn't happen again.  In less than 24 hours - it did!

Police Office West again personally caught the Commander-in-Chief driving at an excessive speed over the same stretch of D.C. roadway.  "Do you think, officer, that I was violating the speed laws?" asked Grant.  

"I certainly do, Mr. President," replied PO West.  After reminding Grant of his broken vow not to speed made just a day earlier, he added, "I am very sorry Mr. President, to have to do it, for you are the nation's chief executive, but my duty is plain, sir: I shall have to place you under arrest!"  Admirably, Grant replied "Do your duty, my good man."

QUERY:  which U.S. President was arrested for driving at "reckless speed"?


Under the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, reckless driving is a serious misdemeanor traffic violation; arguably second only to the several alcohol and drug related offenses.

Since alcohol and erratic driving often go hand-in-hand, it is not uncommon for a reckless driving arrest to be accompanied by a DWI charge.

President Grant might have been an excellent client if he were alive today.  

At West Point, Grant's horseback skills impressed his peers and instructors alike - considered the most proficient in the Academy.  Wild steeds didn't intimidate the 18th president.  In fact, according to his son, he "preferred to ride the most unmanageable mount . . ."  Although masterful, nobody would mistake him for the world's safest driver - allegedly the instigator and winner of a high speed coach race through New York's Central Park.  

In D.C., a slew of accidents during Grant's tenure forced the capital's authorities to crack down on speeders and reckless drivers of fast horses.  

​Interestingly, and fortunately for the defense, intoxication, absent more, does not establish reckless driving. One can certainly engage in reckless driving without being intoxicated and, conversely, one can drive while intoxicated without engaging in reckless driving.

Specifically, "reckless driving" charges issue under  VTL 1212 when an officer has reasonable cause to believe that a motorist drives or uses any vehicle in a manner which “unreasonably interferes” with the free and proper use of a public highway, road, street, or avenue, or unreasonably endangers users of a public highway, road, street, or avenue.  The mental state required for the People to prove their case is that the defendant was aware of a risk and unjustifiably disregarded it.   As in all criminal cases, the People burden of proof is as to each and every element of the offense charged “beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

The statute does not provide specific definitions of  “unreasonably interferes” or “unreasonably endangered.”  Those terms have variously defined by the courts and greatly depend upon the facts presented in each case.  Some examples of reckless driving charges might include – excessive speed, causing an accident, allegations of racing, weaving in and out of traffic lanes, etc.  

 DWI, Drugs & Alcohol Defense Attorney

Today in New York, the penalties for reckless driving are relatively mild in comparison to those with a DWI conviction, but they are still serious.  In New York State, the maximum penalty for reckless driving is thirty days jail (not, one year as with most misdemeanors) and a five hundred dollars fine, plus five points on the motorist’s DMV abstract or driving record.  

A reckless driving conviction in New York will likely lead to increased insurance premiums and a possible license suspension.  There is no mandatory suspension or revocation of one’s driving privilege for a conviction; however, it can be the basis of a permissive suspension or revocation.  It is worth noting for our youthful drivers that there is a mandatory suspension, if the crime is committed during the six month probationary period which follows licensing.

Significantly, since reckless driving in New York is not a mere traffic infraction, it is actually an unclassified misdemeanor under the NYS VTL.  That means, if convicted by either a plea of guilty of after trial, a motorist guilty of reckless driving will not only have higher insurance premiums and five points added to the motorist’s driving record, they will also have a permanent criminal record! 

The Law Office of Rex Pietrobono represents clients for reckless driving throughout Westchester County and surrounding areas including Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, Orange and Rockland.  To learn more information about how we can help you please contact our office at (914) 666-8137 to speak directly with Mr. Pietrobono at no charge.