Washington D.C.'s Reckless Driving Laws and Penalties

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

Washington D.C. defines “reckless driving” as driving:

  • “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for 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 a person or property.”

Basically, a person can be convicted of reckless driving for operating a vehicle in a manner that puts people or property in danger.

And D.C. has a more serious offense called “aggravated reckless driving.” A motorist commits aggravated reckless driving if, while driving recklessly, he or she does one or more of the following:

  • exceeds the speed limit by at least 30 miles per hour
  • causes bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another person, or
  • causes property danger in excess of $1,000.

(D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2201.04 (2018).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

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

  • First reckless driving. For a first reckless driving violation, the motorist is looking at up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines.
  • Second reckless driving. Anyone who’s convicted of a second reckless driving offense within a two-year period faces up to 180 days in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines.
  • Third or subsequent reckless driving. A third or subsequent reckless driving conviction within a two-year period carries up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $2,500 in fines.
  • First aggravated reckless driving. For a first aggravated reckless driving conviction, the motorist is facing up to 180 days in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines.
  • Second or subsequent aggravated reckless driving. A second or subsequent aggravated reckless driving conviction within a two-year period carries up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $2,500 in fines.

A reckless driving conviction will add six demerit points to a motorist’s driving record, and an aggravated reckless driving violation is 12 points. Accumulating eight or more points within two years can lead to license suspension.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In D.C., 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 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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