Texas's Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Most people know that "reckless driving" is a criminal offense. However, what exactly counts as reckless driving? And what are the penalties if you're charged and convicted of reckless driving?

This article explains how Texas law defines reckless driving and the possible consequences—including fines and jail time—of a reckless driving conviction.

What Is Considered Reckless Driving in Texas?

Texas law defines reckless driving as driving a vehicle with "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." The term "willful or wanton disregard" refers to the deliberate, conscious indifference to the safety of others.

In other words, you can be convicted of reckless driving in Texas if you knowingly operate a vehicle in a way that places others or the property of others in harm's way.

What Are Some Examples of Reckless Driving?

Above, you have the legal definition of reckless driving. But it might also help to have some examples of conduct that might qualify as reckless driving. Every case is different, but here are a few scenarios where a driver could possibly be charged with a reckless driving offense:

  • speeding in an area that has lots of pedestrian traffic
  • driving ridiculously fast (such as driving 100 miles per hour where the speed limit is 45 miles per hour)
  • driving around curves at speeds fast enough to cause your tires to screech and loss traction (fishtailing)
  • accelerating so fast that your tires spin and smoke (peeling out, spinning donuts, and the like).

There are countless other situations where a driver might face reckless driving charges. However, these examples are probably some of the most common reasons officers cite people for reckless driving.

Can Unsafe Driving on Private Property Result in Reckless Driving Charges in Texas?

A person doesn't have to be on a public roadway to be convicted of reckless driving. The statute also applies to some private properties—such as shopping center parking lots—that are open to the general public.

Fines and Jail Time for Reckless Driving Convictions in Texas

In Texas, reckless driving is a misdemeanor and carries:

  • a maximum fine of $200, and/or
  • up to 30 days in jail.

In other words, a reckless driving conviction can result in fines, jail time, or both.

Can Reckless Driving Lead to Other Criminal Charges in Texas?

Although reckless driving is a misdemeanor, an offense that involves certain aggravating factors could lead to more serious charges.

For example, a reckless driving offense that results in the death of another person could lead to vehicular manslaughter or homicide charges. And reckless driving offenses involving injuries could result in the driver facing assault charges.

Reckless Driving and DUI/DWI Charges ("Wet Reckless")

If you're charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, "plea bargaining" for a lesser charge is a possibility. The term "wet reckless" refers to a plea bargain where a DWI is reduced to a reckless driving charge. Although reckless driving is a misdemeanor criminal offense, it's not as serious as and carries less severe penalties than a DWI charge.

Talk to a Texas Defense Attorney

The consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Texas are serious, and the facts of every case are different. If you've been charged with reckless driving, get in touch with an experienced Texas lawyer. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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