Delaware Reckless and Careless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Delaware defines “reckless driving” as driving “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” The term “willful” refers to conduct that is intentional or purposeful. And “wanton” generally means the person understood but disregarded the consequences of the conduct.

(Del. Code Ann. tit. 21, § 4175(a) (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

The consequences of a reckless driving violation depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties of a conviction are:

  • First offense. A first reckless driving conviction carries ten to 30 days in jail and/or $100 to $300 in fines.
  • Repeat offense. For a second or subsequent reckless driving violation within a three-year period, the motorist is looking at 30 to 60 days in jail and/or $300 to $1,000 in fines.

A reckless driving conviction will also add six points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 14 or more points within a 24-month period leads to mandatory license suspension.

(Del. Code Ann. tit. 21, § 4175(b) (2017); Code Del. Regs. 2 2000 2208 (2017).)

Careless or Inattentive Driving

Delaware has another law that prohibits “careless or inattentive driving.” The law defines “careless driving” as operating a vehicle “in a careless or imprudent manner, or without due regard for road, weather and traffic conditions then existing.” And “inattentive driving” means failing to give “full time and attention” or “maintain proper lookout” while behind the wheel.

The difference between reckless and careless or inattentive driving might be subtle in some cases. Generally, reckless driving involves the operation of a vehicle that’s obviously dangerous, whereas more subtle instances of bad driving might be in the careless or inattentive driving category.

The possible penalties of a careless or inattentive driving violation are:

  • First offense. A first careless or inattentive driving conviction carries $25 to $75 in fines.
  • Repeat offense. For a second or subsequent careless or inattentive driving violation within a three-year period, the motorist is looking at $50 to $95 in fines.

A careless or inattentive driving conviction will also add two points to the motorist’s driving record. And additional penalties might apply if the offense involves injuries to another person.

(Del. Code Ann. tit. 21, § 4176 (2017); Code Del. Regs. 2 2000 2208 (2017).)

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

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


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 facts of every case are different. 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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