Maryland’s Reckless and Negligent Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Reckless driving is a crime in Maryland. The offense is defined as driving “in wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property” or in a manner that indicates such a disregard. 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. 

(Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 21-901.1(a) (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

In Maryland, reckless driving is a misdemeanor. The “schedule” fine amount for a violation is $510. Motorists who opt to pay their ticket without going to court must pay the schedule fine. In court, a judge can either reduce the fine or increase it up to $1,000. (Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 27-101 (2017).)

A reckless driving conviction will also add six points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating eight or more points within a two-year period will lead to license suspension. (Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 16-402, 16-404 (2017).)

Negligent Driving

Maryland has another offense called “negligent driving.” Negligent driving—which is a “lesser included offense” of reckless driving—is defined as driving a vehicle “in a careless or imprudent manner that endangers any property or the life or person of any individual.” (Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 21-901(b) (2017).)

The difference between reckless and negligent driving is a matter of degree, and the dividing line isn’t always clear. Basically, reckless driving involves the 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. Like reckless driving, negligent driving is a misdemeanor. But the schedule fine for negligent driving is only $140, and the maximum fine a judge can impose in court is $500. A negligent driving conviction puts three points on the driver’s record. (Md. Code Ann., Transp. §§ 16-402, 16-404, 27-101 (2017).)

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In Maryland, 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.”

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 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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