How To Deal With a Careless Driving Ticket in Minnesota

Find out what sets careless driving apart from reckless driving in Minnesota, and how to handle a careless driving ticket.
Written by Mary Alice Morris
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Although the act of careless driving, by Minnesota’s legal definition, is less severe than
reckless driving
, both offenses are treated as nearly identical. They’re both misdemeanors that could land you in jail for up to 90 days and leave you stuck paying $1,000 in fines. 
The careless driving offense in Minnesota is a little different than other traffic violations, like speeding or improper passing, because it’s a misdemeanor offense. If you’re charged with careless driving in Minnesota, it could have some serious implications on your job, your criminal record, and your
car insurance
Check out this guide to find out what constitutes careless driving, and what you can do to find
cheap car insurance
, even if you’ve had a careless driving charge.
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms
Find insurance savings

What is considered careless driving in Minnesota? 

In Minnesota, careless driving and reckless driving have different legal definitions but are subject to the same potential sentences upon conviction. However, a charge of reckless driving with an injury is a much more serious crime with more extensive consequences. 
Before we cover that, though, let’s break down the differences between careless driving and reckless driving without an injury in Minnesota:
  • Careless driving (
    M.S. 169.13
    ) consists of driving or stopping a vehicle on a street in a manner that “carelessly or heedlessly disregards'' other people or property, that endangers them, or that potentially endangers them. This includes the driver and passengers in the offending vehicle. 
  • Reckless driving (
    M.S. 169.13
    ) is consciously or purposefully operating a vehicle in a manner that puts people or property at a substantial or potentially substantial risk of danger or harm. Minnesota’s law indicates that reckless driving is a clear “deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe”. Like careless driving, the people at risk due to reckless driving can include those inside the offending vehicle, including the driver.
Both of these violations are a step above speeding in terms of legal consequences, but they’re not as serious as a
Minnesota DUI
. In fact, sometimes defense attorneys will work to get a DUI charge reduced to reckless or careless driving. 

Careless driving vs. reckless driving with an injury driving in Minnesota

Reckless driving with an injury happens when a driver commits reckless driving that causes a death or bodily harm to another person. In those cases, the driver would be charged with a gross misdemeanor, which is more serious than a standard misdemeanor. 
Reckless driving with an injury is punishable by up to one year in jail and as much as $3,000 in fines

Careless driving vs. DUI in Minnesota

Careless driving is also a lesser charge than a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. Depending on the severity of the DUI-related offense, it could be classified as a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony
The lesser DUI charge, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, includes maximum penalties that are similar to careless driving. You could get up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. The most severe DUI charge in Minnesota is a felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and as much as $14,000 in fines

Penalties for careless driving in Minnesota

The maximum penalty for careless driving in Minnesota is up to 90 days in jail and as much as $1,000 in fines. However, the maximum is rarely applied, especially for first-time offenders. 
But that doesn’t mean a careless driving charge isn’t serious. In addition to legal fees, fines, and possible jail time, you could see
your car insurance rates go up

Can you lose your license for careless driving in Minnesota?

While you won’t automatically lose your license for a single careless driving offense in Minnesota, if you keep up the bad driving habits you could end up with a
suspended license
. Minnesota doesn’t use
driver’s license points
as some other states do. But the public safety commissioner’s office has the discretion to suspend a driver’s license if the driver repeatedly breaks traffic laws.
“My past tickets were making it hard to find affordable insurance. With
, I went from paying $450/month to $273/month. They took care of everything—such a relief!” —Josephine R.
Let Jerry find your price in only 45 seconds
No spam · No long forms · No fees
Find insurance savings


A prosecutor might be willing to reduce or even dismiss your careless driving charge in Minnesota, but your odds are better if you hire a defense attorney.
Not exactly. The two offenses have slightly different definitions, with reckless driving being more severe. 
However, both are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines, with the exception of reckless driving that results in an injury or death. That has stiffer maximum penalties, including $3,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.
Are you overpaying for car insurance?
Compare quotes and find out in 45 seconds.
Try Jerry

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings