North Carolina Reckless Driving Laws

The state of North Carolina addresses reckless driving as a criminal offense, which also incurs administrative penalties in the form of points on a driver's license, as well as the potential of automatic license suspension by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV).

Reckless Driving in North Carolina

According to North Carolina General Statues, 20-140, reckless driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a manner that displays carelessness with willful or wanton disregard for others or their property. Acts violating North Carolina's reckless driving laws include any operation of a motor vehicle that fails to involve due caution while at a speed jeopardizing the safety of others or their property. Specifically, in terms of speed, reckless driving encompasses speeding offenses cited as more than 15 mph over a posted speed limit in a zone less than 55 mph, or speeds in excess of 10 mph over posted speed limit in a 55 mph or over zone.

Reckless Driving Penalties in North Carolina



Criminal Penalties

Points Applied to License

Other Administrative Penalties

Reckless Driving

Class 2 Misdemeanor

Incarceration of not more than 60 days, with fines not to exceed $1,000


License suspension possible up to 12 months, reinstatement fees and surcharge costs

Impact on Your Driver's License

The impact on a given driver's license will vary from case to case, but in practice, drivers convicted of single count, first offense of reckless driving do face automatic license suspension. How long a suspension will last, as well as whether a driver is entitled to hardship licensing during the suspension period, will be at the discretion of the courts. Having legal counsel involved is essential. The addition of four points on a given driver's license may also create a situation where point-based suspensions may be applicable.

Dealing with a Reckless Driving Charge in North Carolina

Given the speeding implications codified into North Carolina's reckless driving laws, drivers often stand a reasonable chance at engaging in a plea agreement that reduces the charges faced into a non-criminal traffic offense, usually at a high rate of speed. While this conviction will incur fines, points on a license and may carry the potential of suspension, it does not create a criminal conviction, nor does it carry the potential of incarceration.

As far as licensing issues are concerned, drivers are subject to the discretion of the criminal courts and their outcome of the case. However, as part of a plea agreement with the courts, drivers may be eligible to complete a driver improvement clinic, or if point-based suspensions loom, a driver is entitled to completed a driver improvement clinic once every five years to reduce three points from their license, but must have pre-approval from NCDOT prior to doing so. Another consideration is that NCDOT does permit restricted licenses on a case-specific basis, for certain drivers during suspension periods.

When to Get a Lawyer

A lawyer should be involved from the outset of a reckless driving charge in North Carolina. The highly specific nature of the possible penalties, including both criminal penalties and the influence of the reckless charge on a driver's license, requires that dedicated legal counsel is involved in your case from the outset. For more insight into North Carolina's reckless driving laws, including how your specific reckless driving case is likely to proceed, consult with a North Carolina reckless driving lawyer.

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