Wisconsin’s Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties
Read about Wisconsin’s reckless driving laws and the consequences of a conviction.
Wisconsin’s “reckless driving” law states that “no person may endanger the safety of any person or property by the negligent operation of a vehicle.” As used in the statute, the term “negligent” basically means the person should have known the driving posed a substantial risk of harm to a person or property.
(Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 346.62, 939.25 (2017).)
Reckless Driving Penalties
The consequences of a Wisconsin reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:
- First offense. A first reckless driving conviction carries $25 to $200 in fines.
- Repeat offense. For a second or subsequent reckless driving conviction within a four-year period, the driver faces up to a year in jail and/or $50 to $500 in fines.
- Offenses involving minor injuries. Reckless driving offenders who cause minor injury to another person are looking at $300 to $2,000 in fines and the possibility of 30 days to a year in jail.
- Offenses involving serious injuries. A reckless driving offender who causes “great bodily harm” to another person can be convicted of a class I felony. A conviction carries up to three-and-a-half years in prison and/or a maximum $10,000 in fines. The motorist’s driver’s license will also be suspended for up to a year.
A reckless driving conviction adds six demerit points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 12 or more points within a 12-month period leads to license suspension.
(Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 343.30, 343.31, 346.65, 939.50 (2017).)
Reckless Driving and OWI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)
In some states, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI), also called “driving under the influence” (DUI), to “plea bargain” for a lesser charge. When an OWI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”
Wisconsin law doesn’t prohibit plea bargaining in OWI cases. So, for someone who’s accused of drunk driving in Wisconsin, convincing a prosecutor to reduce the charge to reckless driving might be possible.
(Read more about plea bargaining in Wisconsin OWI 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 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.