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Behavior that is so careless that it is considered an extreme departure from the care a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances. As a mens rea (mental state) in the criminal law context, reckless action is distinguished from negligent action in that the actor consciously disregards a substantial and unjustified risk, as opposed to merely being unreasonable. For example, in State v. Olson, a 1990 South Dakota Supreme Court decision, the court did not find a tractor driver who turned left at 5-15 mph and hit another car reckless because the prosecution could not prove that he was aware that there was an oncoming car.

[Last updated in November of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]