Maryland's Reckless and Negligent Driving Laws and Penalties

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

In Maryland, there are two similar traffic offenses called "reckless driving" and "negligent driving." This article covers how Maryland law defines these two offenses and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.

Maryland's Reckless Driving Law

Reckless driving is defined as driving "in wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property" or in a manner that indicates such a disregard. 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.

Maryland's Negligent Driving Law

Negligent driving—which is a "lesser included offense" of reckless driving—is defined as driving a vehicle "in a careless or imprudent manner that endangers any property or the life or person of any individual."

Difference Between Reckless and Negligent Driving

The difference between reckless and negligent driving is a matter of degree, and the dividing line isn't always clear. Basically, reckless driving involves the operation of a vehicle that's obviously dangerous, whereas more subtle instances of bad driving might be in the negligent driving category.

Maryland's Reckless and Negligent Driving Penalties

Reckless and negligent driving are both misdemeanors in Maryland. However, reckless driving carries more severe penalties than negligent driving.

Reckless Driving Penalties in Maryland

Fines. The "schedule" fine amount for a reckless driving violation is $510. Motorists who opt to pay their ticket without going to court must pay the schedule fine. In court, a judge can either reduce the fine or increase it up to $1,000.

Points. A reckless driving conviction will also add six demerit points to the motorist's driving record. Accumulating eight or more points within a two-year period will lead to license suspension.

Negligent Driving Penalties in Maryland

Fines. The scheduled fine for negligent driving is only $140, and the maximum fine a judge can impose in court is $500.

Points. A negligent driving conviction puts three points on the driver's record.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges ("Wet Reckless")

In Maryland, 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."

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