Reckless Driving vs. DUI: What’s the Difference?

In Michigan, there is a slew of possible criminal charges for not abiding by the rules of the road and driving recklessly, whether you’re under the influence of drugs/alcohol or not. However, there is a distinct difference between being charged with reckless driving and being charged with a DUI.

What is reckless driving?

Under state law (MCL 257.626), reckless driving is defined as:

“….operating a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

More often than not, reckless driving is given when an individual is driving erratically while sober. However, an experienced DUI attorney has the ability to reduce a DUI charge to reckless driving depending on the case’s circumstances. While this happens very infrequently, it’s always advantageous to present it as an option to the prosecutor.

What are the consequences for reckless driving?

Consequences vary between standard reckless driving, reckless driving involving serious injuries and reckless driving involving death. However, the consequences for standard reckless driving are as follows:

Will I receive any jail time?

Most likely. If this is a misdemeanor/traffic offense, you can serve up to 93 days in jail.

Will I have to pay any fines?

The maximum amount for a misdemeanor reckless driving fine is $500.

Is this a misdemeanor or felony?

This depends on many factors including speed, intent, jurisdiction and more.

How long does a reckless driving charge stay on your record?

While six points will be added to your driving record, a reckless driving charge will stay on your criminal record for a lifetime.

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Will my car be impounded?

The car is usually not impounded unless the driver is charged with another offense.

Will my license be revoked?

Your license will be suspended for 90 days.

What is careless driving?

Michigan has another offense called “careless driving”, which is defined as:

“A person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public including an area designated for the parking of vehicles in a careless or negligent manner likely to endanger any person or property, but without wantonness or recklessness.”

This charge describes carelessness while driving, but without an intent to cause harm. While a civil infraction, your record will not be tarnished if found responsible for careless driving. However, there is a small fine and 3 points will be added to your driving record.

Talk to an attorney

While not as severe as a DUI charge, the consequences of a reckless driving conviction in Michigan can be serious and hinder your day-to-day life. If you’ve been arrested or charged with reckless driving, contact our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys. We can not only explain the facts of the case as it applies to the law, but fight for your license and your future.