Alaska’s Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties

Read about Alaska’s reckless driving laws and the consequences of a conviction.

Reckless driving is a crime in Alaska. A person can be convicted of the offense for driving “in a manner that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to a person or to property.” As used in the statute, a “substantial and unjustifiable” risk is one that amounts to a “gross deviation” from what a reasonable driver would do in the same circumstances.

(Alaska Stat. Ann. § 28.35.400(a) (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Alaska. A conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines. Convicted motorists also face license suspension. There’s a minimum 30-days suspension for a first offense. Longer suspensions apply to drivers who have a prior reckless driving conviction that occurred within the past ten years. These repeat offenders are looking at least a one-year suspension for a second conviction and a minimum three-year suspension on a third.

A reckless driving conviction will also add ten points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 12 or more points within 12 months or 18 or more points within 24 months will lead to license suspension.

(Alaska Stat. Ann. § 28.15.181, 28.35.400(b) (2017).)

Negligent Driving

Alaska has another offense called “negligent driving,” which is a “lesser included offense” of reckless driving. Negligent driving is defined as driving “in a manner that creates an unjustifiable risk of harm to a person or to property and who, as a result of the creation of the risk, actually endangers a person or property.”

The difference between reckless and negligent driving is a matter of degree, and the dividing line isn’t always clear. Basically, reckless driving involves operation of a vehicle that’s obviously dangerous, whereas more subtle instances of bad driving might be in the negligent driving category.

The penalties for negligent driving are less severe than those for reckless driving. Negligent driving is an infraction and not considered a “crime.” Convicted motorists face up to $300 in fines, and the conviction will add six points to the person’s driving record.

(Alaska Stat. Ann. § 28.35.410(a) (2017).)

Reckless Driving and OUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In some states, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with operating under the influence (OUI) to “plea bargain” for a lesser charge. When an OUI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”

Alaska law doesn’t prohibit plea bargaining in OUI cases. So, for someone who’s charged with operating under the influence, convincing a prosecutor to reduce the charge to reckless driving is a possibility.

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Generally speaking, sentencing law is complex and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including the severity of the damage at issue, credits for good in-custody behavior, and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Alaska can be serious. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, get in contact with an experienced defense attorney. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation.

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