South Carolina's Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Reckless driving is a crime in South Carolina. The offense is defined as driving in a way that shows “a 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.

(S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2920 (2018).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in South Carolina. The penalties for a conviction are:

  • First offense. Motorists convicted of a first reckless driving offense face up to 30 days in jail or $25 to $200 in fines.
  • Repeat offense. In addition to the first-offense penalties (see above), anyone convicted of a second or subsequent reckless driving offense within a five-year period is looking at a three-month license suspension.

A reckless driving conviction will also add six demerit points to a motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 12 or more points can lead to license suspension.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In South Carolina, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with driving under the influence (DUI), also called “operating under the influence” (OUI), 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.”


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.

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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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