Colorado's Reckless and Careless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

In Colorado, unsafe driving can lead to reckless or careless driving charges. This article explains how these two offenses are defined and the penalties you'll be looking at for a conviction.

What's Considered "Reckless Driving" in Colorado?

A motorist can be convicted of reckless driving for driving a motor vehicle, bike, or scooter with "a wanton or a willful disregard for the safety of persons or property." The statute uses the term "willful" to refer to conduct that's intentional or purposeful. And a "wanton" disregard basically means the person understood the conduct was risky but chose to do it anyway. (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1401.)

Colorado's Reckless Driving Penalties

Reckless driving is a class 2 traffic misdemeanor in Colorado. The consequences of a reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But the possible penalties are described below.

Fines and Jail Time for 1st Reckless Driving Conviction in Colorado

Motorists convicted of a first reckless driving offense face ten to 90 days in jail and/or $150 to $300 in fines.

Fines and Jail Time for 2nd or Subsequent Reckless Driving Conviction in Colorado

For a second or subsequent reckless driving conviction, the motorist is looking at ten days to six months jail time and/or $50 to $1,000 in fines.

Traffic Violation Points for Colorado Reckless Driving Offenses

A reckless driving conviction will also add eight "points" to the motorist's driving record and could lead to insurance rate increases and license suspension, depending on how many points the driver already has.

What's Considered "Careless Driving" in Colorado?

Colorado has another offense called "careless driving." Careless driving—which is a "lesser included offense" of reckless driving—is defined as driving a vehicle "in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances." (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1402.)

The difference between careless and reckless driving is a matter of degree, and the dividing line isn't always clear. But generally, "reckless driving" involves operation that's obviously dangerous whereas "careless driving" is closer to negligence.

Colorado's Careless Driving Penalties

Generally, a careless driving conviction is a class 2 traffic misdemeanor. The penalties are the same as those for a first reckless driving conviction, except a careless driving conviction adds only four points to the motorist's driving record. No points are assessed for offenses involving the careless operation of a bicycle or electrically assisted bicycle.

Careless driving offenses that involve injuries or death to another person are class 1 traffic misdemeanors. Convicted motorists face ten days to one year in jail and/or $300 to $1,000 in fines.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges ("Wet Reckless") in Colorado

In Colorado, 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."

Talk to a Colorado Defense Attorney

The consequences of a reckless or careless driving conviction in Colorado 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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