In Montana, “reckless driving” is a crime. The offense is defined as driving “in willful or 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.
(Mont. Code Ann. §§ 61-8-301, 61-8-711 (2017).)
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Montana. The possible penalties of a conviction are:
A reckless driving conviction will add five points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 15 or more points within a 36-month period can lead to license suspension.
Montana has another law that prohibits “careless driving.” The law requires all motorists to drive “in a careful and prudent manner that does not unduly or unreasonably endanger the life, limb, property, or other rights of a person.”
The difference between reckless and careless driving might be subtle in some cases. But generally, the distinction has to do with the driver’s level of culpability. Unlike with reckless driving—which requires proof that the driver intentionally or knowingly did something risky behind the wheel—a motorist can be convicted of careless driving without realizing the dangerousness of the driving.
Careless driving is a misdemeanor, but the consequences are less serious than those for reckless driving. The possible penalties for a careless driving conviction are:
A careless driving conviction adds four points to the motorist’s driving record.
In some states, 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.”
Montana law doesn’t prohibit plea bargaining in DUI cases. So, for someone who’s accused of driving under the influence in Montana, plea bargaining for a reckless driving charge is a possibility.
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.
The facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with reckless or careless 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.