Nebraska’s Reckless and Careless Driving Laws and Penalties
Read about Nebraska’s reckless and careless driving laws and the consequences of a conviction.
Nebraska has two types of “reckless driving”: standard reckless driving and “willful” reckless driving.” Standard reckless driving involves operating a vehicle with “an indifferent or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Willful reckless driving, on the other hand, is defined as driving in a manner that indicates a “willful”—meaning intentional—disregard for the safety of persons or property.
In reality, the dividing line between the two offenses isn’t all that clear. Both types of reckless driving involve awareness, on the part of the motorist, that the driving is dangerous. But the offenses categorized as “willful” might be the more egregious instances of reckless driving where the driver has a high level of culpability.
(Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 60-6,213, 60-6,214 (2017).)
Reckless Driving Penalties
The consequences of a Nebraska reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:
- First standard reckless driving offense. A first standard reckless driving offense is a class III misdemeanor. Convicted motorists face up to three months in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines.
- First willful reckless driving offense. A first willful reckless driving offense is a class III misdemeanor and carries up to three months in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines. Convicted motorists are also looking at a 30-day to one-year license suspension.
- Second offense. All second reckless driving offenses are class II misdemeanors. A conviction carries up to six months in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines. The judge must suspend the driver’s license for a period of 60 days to two years. If the vehicle is registered to the driver, the judge is also required to order impoundment for 60 days to one year.
- Third offense. All third reckless driving offenses are class I misdemeanors. A conviction carries up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines. The judge must suspend the driver’s license for one year.
A standard reckless driving conviction will add five points to the motorist’s driving record, and a willful reckless driving violation is six points. Accumulating 12 or more points within a two-year period can lead to license suspension.
(Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 28-106, 60-4,182, 60-4,183, 60-6,215, 60-6,216, 60-6,217, 60-6,218 (2017).)
Nebraska has another offense called “careless driving.” The offense is defined as driving “carelessly or without due caution so as to endanger a person or property.” With careless driving—in contrast to reckless driving—the motorist can be convicted without having had an awareness of the dangers posed by the driving. In other words, a motorist can violate the law by negligently driving in a way that endangers a person or property.
Careless driving penalties are less serious than those for reckless driving. Careless driving is a traffic infraction rather than a misdemeanor. The maximum fine for a first offense is $100. For a second offense within a one-year period, the fine can be as much as $200. And a driver who picks up a third offense within a year can be fined up to $300.
A careless driving conviction adds four points to the motorist’s driving record.
(Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 60-4,182, 60-6,212, 60-682, 60-689 (2017).)
Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)
In some states, 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.”
Nebraska law doesn’t prohibit plea bargaining in DUI cases. So, for someone who’s accused of driving under the influence in Nebraska, plea bargaining for a reckless driving charge is a possibility.
(Read more about plea bargaining in Nebraska DUI 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.