Rhode Island's Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Reckless driving is a crime in Rhode Island. The offense is defined as driving "recklessly so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered." As used in the state, the word "recklessly" basically means the driver was aware of—or should have been aware of—but disregarded the dangerousness of the driving.

(31 R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 31-27-4 (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

The consequences of a Rhode Island reckless driving violation depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties for a conviction are:

  • First offense. A first reckless driving conviction is a misdemeanor and carries up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines.
  • Repeat offense. A second or subsequent reckless driving violation is a felony. Convicted motorists face up to five years in prison and/or a maximum $5,000 in fines.

For any reckless driving violation, a Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend the driver's license for up to a year. And for a third reckless driving conviction within a 12-month period, the DMV must revoke the driver's license.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges ("Wet Reckless")

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."

Rhode Island law doesn't prohibit plea bargaining in DUI cases. So, for someone who's accused of driving under the influence in Rhode Island, plea bargaining for a reckless driving charge is a possibility.


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.

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