Reckless Driving Penalty Increase Under New Nevada Law

In the 2023 legislative session, Nevada adopted a new law increasing potential penalties for a reckless driving conviction in the state. The statute, known as Rex’s Law, was adopted after a 13-year-old boy died in an accident caused by a reckless driver. The offense of reckless driving has always been a serious charge with significant consequences in Nevada, but the new law significantly increases the potential penalties for a reckless driving conviction.

Reckless Driving Penalties in Nevada

Under NRS 484B.653, operating a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property constitutes the offense of reckless driving, along with several other types of conduct. If reckless driving results in substantial bodily harm or death, the offense is a category B felony with significant potential penalties. In the absence of bodily harm or death, reckless driving is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and jail sentence up to six (6) months, with penalties increasing for subsequent misdemeanor convictions.

Prior to the 2023 enactment of SB 322, the statute known as Rex’s Law, a category B felony reckless driving conviction was punishable by a fine between $2,000 and $5,000 and a prison term of one to six years. Certain additional penalties applied for a violation in a pedestrian safety zone or temporary traffic zone.

The case that led to passage of the new law occurred in 2022, when 13-year-old Rex Patchett died after being struck by a driver going 97 miles an hour in a 35-mpm zone. The driver lost control of his car and hit Rex, who was riding a scooter in front of his school. The 22-year-old driver who struck Rex received the maximum six-year sentence, becoming eligible for parole after two years. As the result of the sentence, Rex’s father worked through the legislature in 2023 to increase potential penalties for similar reckless driving convictions. The change passed, was signed by the Governor, and went into effect on July 1, 2023.

The new provision increases the potential penalty for a category B felony reckless driving charge (one involving substantial bodily harm or death) to a maximum ten-year prison term (rather than the previous six-year maximum), if the violation involves either (1) a vehicle going 50 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit or (2) commission in an area designated as a pedestrian safety zone or school crossing zone.

Defending Against Reckless Driving Charges

NRS 484B.653 defines reckless driving to include several different types of driver conduct, including driving a vehicle on a highway or premises to which the public has access in any of the following manners:

  1. In willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property
  2. In an unauthorized speed contest
  3. In an unauthorized trick driving display

Regardless of the nature of a charge, potential penalties for any reckless driving conviction are significant and are now even more serious for a category B felony charge when circumstances meet specific criteria. If you’re charged with reckless driving, you should retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend against the charge.

The most common reckless driving charge involves willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. This type of charge is highly subjective, because the prosecutor must demonstrate that the circumstances meet the standard of “willful or wanton disregard.” This standard provides substantial opportunities for a criminal defense attorney to undermine the conclusion and challenge whether the evidence meets the required standard “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Defenses in a specific case depend entirely on the facts and circumstances. If you face a reckless driving charge, you should talk with an experienced defense attorney before you make a decision about how to proceed. Your attorney can explain the available strategies for defending against the case and the options you have available for proceeding in the criminal justice system. Getting help from a skillful defense attorney is the best way to minimize the consequences and impact of a reckless driving charge.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney

Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten represents residents and out-of-state visitors on reckless driving, aggressive driving, and other serious traffic violations, such as DUI and DUID. He handles matters in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County, including Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City, Mesquite, Searchlight, Moapa Valley, and Goodsprings, as well as in some rural Nevada counties.

If your driving incident results in other criminal charges, such as assault, battery, or vehicular homicide, The Gersten Law Firm can help with those matters too. Regardless of what criminal charges you face, we welcome you to contact us to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.