New Jersey's Reckless and Careless Driving Laws and Penalties

Read about the reckless driving laws and consequences of a conviction in New Jersey.

In New Jersey, unsafe driving can lead to reckless or careless driving charges. This article explains how New Jersey defines these offenses and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.

What's Considered "Reckless Driving" in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, a person can be convicted of "reckless driving" for driving a vehicle "heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property." (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 39:4-96.)

Basically, New Jersey's reckless driving law is violated when a motorist operates a vehicle in a grossly improper manner, and in doing so, puts others (or property of others) at risk.

New Jersey's Reckless Driving Penalties

The consequences of a New Jersey reckless driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • First offense. For a first conviction, reckless driving carries up to 60 days in jail and/or $50 to $200 in fines.
  • Repeat offense. For a second or subsequent reckless driving offense, a motorist faces up to three months in jail and/or $100 to $500 in fines.

A reckless driving conviction will also add five demerit points to a motorist's driving record and likely lead to increased insurance rates. And in certain circumstances, a judge or the Motor Vehicles Commission can suspend a driver's license for a reckless driving violation.

What's Considered "Careless Driving" in New Jersey?

New Jersey has another offense called "careless driving." Careless driving—which is a "lesser included offense" of reckless driving—is defined as driving a vehicle "carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property."

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.

New Jersey's Careless Driving Penalties

Regardless of whether the driver has prior convictions, careless driving involves a maximum of 15 days in jail and/or $50 to $200 in fines. A careless driving conviction puts two points on the motorist's driving record.

New Jersey "Assault by Auto" Law and Penalties

A driver who injures another person while driving recklessly can be convicted of "assault by auto."

Assault by auto is a "disorderly persons offense" if the injuries were minor. Disorderly persons offenses are punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum of $500 in fines. If someone was seriously injured, assault by auto is a crime in the fourth degree. Crimes in the fourth degree carry up to 18 months in jail and a maximum of $10,000 in fines.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges ("Wet Reckless") in New Jersey

In some states, it's possible for a driver who's charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) 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."

In New Jersey, plea bargaining is generally prohibited in DUI cases. So plea bargaining for a reckless driving charge typically isn't an option.

Talk to a New Jersey Defense Attorney

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction in New Jersey can be serious, especially when the offense involves injuries. If you've been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, get in contact with an experienced criminal 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 Defense attorney
We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

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