Reckless Driving vs. DUI Charges: The Difference, and What It Means for You


2.2% of Illinois drivers report driving after drinking too much. This is above the national average, where only 1.9% of people reported operating a vehicle after throwing back a few too many drinks. As Chicago DUI lawyers, we recommend that you drive safely at all times. If you have had too much to drink, hand your keys to your friend or call a ride-sharing service.

We do understand that mistakes happen though. When you drink too much alcohol, your ability to think is not what it should be. If you drink and drive, you should understand the consequences.

DUI Charges in Illinois

If you have a blood-alcohol concentration that is .08% or higher, you are what some call “legally drunk”.  But although .08 is the “legal limit”, sometimes even those who blow below a .08% may still be charged and convicted of DUI if your behavior suggests that you are impaired. That’s because everybody’s metabolism is different. Drivers under the age of 21 and school bus drivers may not however, have any alcohol in their system if they want to drive.

Penalties for a DUI conviction depend on several different factors. Judges will consider:

  • The driver’s age
  • Whether the driver was transporting someone under the age of 16
  • The driver’s BAC level
  • Whether the driver has any previous DUI convictions

It may be a good idea to use the DUI sentence calculator to look at the consequences of your specific case.

Generally, the effect on your license from a DUI is far more severe than it is for reckless driving. Someone charged with even their first DUI conviction might see their license revoked for a year and suffer a suspension of their vehicle registration. Guilty parties may see up to a year in jail or more in some circumstances, or a fine of up to $2,500.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is a serious offense, but in general, it is considered to be a less serious charge than DUI, although it is also a Class A misdemeanor. According to the law, reckless driving is a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”. Although this may be considered somewhat vague, it is ultimately up to the courts to interpret what ‘willful and wanton disregard’ might be. This will generally depend on the particular judge or jury.

Reckless driving is not a felony. It is a Class A Misdemeanor with penalties including fines of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail. This puts it in a similar category as DUI, but in practice, judges are often not as harsh with reckless driving charges as they are with DUI. Lastly, reckless driving charges do not usually result in a suspension or revocation of your license.

What It Means for You

A driver can sometimes enter into a plea bargain to reduce a DUI to Reckless Driving as a lesser charge. When a driver does this successfully, it is sometimes known as a ‘wet reckless’, although due to changes in the law, a “wet reckless” no longer means as much as it once did in Illinois. A reckless driving charge may mean that the defendant does not have to go through the same alcohol/drug class as for a DUI case, but sometimes it still does. Both prosecutors and Judges in Illinois always consider your history when determining sentences and when possible, a DUI reduced to a reckless driving charge is always of some value.

If you have any questions, we are here to help. Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC has a team of lawyers that are reliable and ready to fight for you. When you are charged with DUI, you need an experienced lawyer at your side. We want to be your Chicago DUI lawyers. Call us today at (312) 644-0444.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : May 26, 2023