Missouri’s Careless and Imprudent (Reckless) Driving Laws and Penalties

Read about Missouri’s careless and imprudent driving laws and the consequences of a conviction.

Unlike most other states, Missouri doesn’t have a law that prohibits “reckless” driving. The closest analog is Missouri’s careless and imprudent driving law. That law requires motorists to:

  • drive in a “careful and prudent manner”
  • drive at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the person or property of another, and
  • "exercise the highest degree of care."

(Mo. Ann. Stat. § 304.012 (2017).)

Careless and Imprudent Driving Penalties

The consequences of a careless and imprudent driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • Careless and imprudent driving. Generally, careless and imprudent driving is a class B misdemeanor. Convicted motorists face up to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines.
  • Careless and imprudent driving involving an accident. Careless and imprudent driving offenses that involve an accident (collision) are class A misdemeanors. A conviction carries up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,000 in fines.

A careless and imprudent driving violation will also add four points to the motorist’s driving record. (Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 302.302, 304.012 (2017).)

Careless and Imprudent Driving and DWI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In some states, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with driving while intoxicated (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.”

Missouri law doesn’t restrict plea bargaining in DWI cases. So it’s possible—though maybe unlikely—for a person who’s charged with driving while intoxicated to plea bargain for a careless and imprudent driving charge.


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 Missouri can be serious, especially when the offense involved an accident. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, get in contact with an experienced criminal 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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