Hawaii's Reckless and Inattentive Driving Laws and Penalties

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

In Hawaii, a person can be convicted of “reckless driving” for operating a vehicle “recklessly in disregard of the safety of persons or property.” Generally, a person acts “recklessly” when he or she is aware that the conduct involves a substantial risk but decides to do it anyway.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 291-2 (2017); State v. Moleta, 112 Haw. 233 (2006).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

A motorist who’s convicted of reckless driving is looking at up to 30 days in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 291-2 (2017).)

Inattention to Driving

Hawaii has another, less serious violation called “inattention to driving.” The offense is defined as causing a collision, damage to property, or injury to a person while driving “negligently.” Generally, a person acts “negligently” when he or she should be—but isn’t—aware that the conduct involves a substantial risk.

The consequences of an inattentive driving violation are less severe than those for reckless driving. A motorist who’s convicted of inattentive driving faces up to 30 days in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines. The driver is also subject to a $100 surcharge.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 291-12 (2017).)

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In Hawaii, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with driving under the influence, also called “operating a vehicle under the influence an intoxicant” (OVUII), 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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