South Dakota's Reckless and Careless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

In South Dakota, “reckless driving” is a crime. The offense is defined as driving:

  • “carelessly and heedlessly in disregard of the rights or safety of others,” or
  • “without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property.”

(S.D. Codified Laws § 32-24-1 (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

Reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor in South Dakota. A conviction carries up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $2,000 in fines. For a second or subsequent reckless driving violation within a year, the motorist additionally faces a 30-day to one-year-and-30-day license revocation.

A reckless driving conviction will add eight points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 15 or more points within a one-year period or 22 points within a two-year period can lead to license suspension.

South Dakota has a less serious crime called “careless driving.” The offense is defined as driving “carelessly and without due caution, at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger any person or property, not amounting to reckless driving.”

The difference between reckless and careless driving is subtle. Generally, reckless driving involves the operation of a vehicle that’s obviously dangerous, whereas more subtle instances of bad driving might be in the careless driving category.

Careless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor. Convicted motorists are looking at up to 30 days in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In South Dakota, 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.”


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 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.

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