Tennessee’s Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

A Tennessee motorist can be convicted of “reckless driving” for:

  • driving in “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”
  • doing a wheelie on a motorcycle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of person or property, or
  • driving into a flooded area that is clearly marked with a warning sign or barricade.

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.

(Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-205 (2017); Burgess v. State, 212 Tenn. 315 (1963).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

In Tennessee, reckless driving is a class B misdemeanor. Convicted drivers are looking at up to six months in jail and a maximum $580 in fines. And any motorist who racks up two reckless driving convictions within a one-year period faces a 12-month license suspension.

A reckless driving conviction will also add six points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 12 or more points in a year can lead to a license suspension of six to 12 months.

(Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111, 55-10-205, 55-50-501(a)(6), 68-55-302 (2017).) 

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In Tennessee, 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.”

(Read more about plea bargaining in Tennessee 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 consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Tennessee can be serious. 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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