New York’s Reckless Driving Laws

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

In New York, a person can be convicted of “reckless driving” for driving a vehicle “in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.” (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1212 (2016).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, reckless driving is a misdemeanor in New York, and the possible penalties are:

  • First offense. For a first reckless driving conviction, a motorist faces up to 30 days in jail and/or $100 to $300 in fines.
  • Second offense. For a second reckless driving conviction within an 18-month period, a motorist faces up to 90 days in jail and/or $100 to $525 in fines.
  • Third offense. For a third reckless driving conviction within an 18-month period, a motorist faces up to 180 days in jail and/or $100 to $1,125 in fines.

A reckless driving conviction will also add five points to a motorist’s driving record and likely lead to insurance rate increases. (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1801(1) (2016).)

Reckless Driving and DUI 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 DUI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”

In New York, most plea bargaining is prohibited in DWI cases. So it’s typically not possible to reduce a DWI to a reckless driving charge.

(Read more about plea bargaining in DWI cases.)


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 New York can be serious. 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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