Minnesota’s Reckless and Careless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Reckless driving is a crime in Minnesota. Generally, a person can be convicted of the offense for driving:

  • while aware of but consciously disregarding a “substantial and unjustifiable risk that the driving may result in harm to another or another’s property,” or
  • in a street race.

(Minn. Stat. Ann. § 169.13(1) (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

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

  • Standard reckless driving. Generally, reckless driving is a misdemeanor. Convicted motorists face up to 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.
  • Reckless driving involving serious injuries. A reckless driving offender who causes “serious bodily injury" to another person can be convicted of a gross misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to one year in jail and/or $3,000 in fines.

Though it’s not mandatory, a reckless driving conviction can lead to a license suspension of up to one year.

(Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169.13(1), 171.16, 171.18, 609.02, 609.0341 (2017).)

Careless Driving

Minnesota has another offense called “careless driving.” The offense is defined as operating or stopping a vehicle “carelessly or heedlessly in disregard of the rights of others, or in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any property or any person.”

The consequences of a careless driving conviction are the same as those for a standard reckless driving violation (see above).

(Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169.13(2), 171.16, 171.18, 609.02, 609.0341 (2017).)

Reckless Driving and DWI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In Minnesota, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with driving while impaired (DWI) to “plea bargain” for a lesser charge. When a DWI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”

(Read more about plea bargaining in Minnesota DWI cases.)

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 or careless 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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