Iowa's Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Reckless driving is a crime in Iowa. The offense is defined as driving in a manner that indicates a “willful or a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” 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.

(Iowa Code Ann. § 321.277 (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

Reckless driving is typically a simple misdemeanor in Iowa. Generally, a conviction carries up to 30 days in jail and/or $25 to $625 in fines. If a motorist is convicted of a second reckless driving offense, there’s also a five-to-30-day license suspension.

Motorists who cause the death of another person while driving recklessly can be convicted of “homicide by vehicle,” a class C felony. Convicted drivers face up to ten years in prison, $1,000 to $10,000 in fines, and a one-year license suspension.

Reckless Driving and OWI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In some states, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) 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.”

Iowa law doesn’t prohibit plea bargaining in OWI cases. So, for someone who’s accused of drunk driving in Iowa, convincing a prosecutor to reduce the charge to reckless driving might be possible.


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.

Talk to a Lawyer

Start here to find criminal defense lawyers near you.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you

Talk to a Defense attorney

We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you